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Where do PSIM systems fit into disaster recovery?

Organizations that use multiple security platforms can look to PSIM systems to be better prepared for an incident. Read on for more about how they work.

Physical security information management is an integrated and automated security technology that can become a valuable component in virtually any organization's disaster recovery plan.

Physical security information management (PSIM) software integrates multiple unconnected security applications, such as networks, motion sensors and building systems. PSIM can automate workflows and processes during disaster recovery. It can also give users full control over essential security systems through a unified user along with other benefits.

Critical visibility

PSIM systems pull together information from different security systems to provide an operational overview of what's currently happening, said Drew Deatherage, a physical security systems expert. Deatherage is the co-founder and vice president of technology and consulting firm Crux Technology and Security Solutions in Fort Worth, Texas.

"The problem today isn't a lack of data; it's that we have so much data that it's difficult to identify trends quickly," he said. "Machines can crunch data rapidly and turn it into useful information for the emergency response team."

A PSIM system also improves both recovery time objectives and recovery time actuals. "It takes much less time to recover a single PSIM platform than it does to recover five or six siloed platforms," said Eileen Wieber, senior director of corporate security at data recovery services provider Sungard Availability Services based in Wayne, Pa. "Time is money, and every moment matters when trying to recover business operations to minimize the impacts, such as operational, financial and even reputational damage."

Situational awareness

PSIM can also enhance situational awareness. "Situational awareness becomes particularly vital when you're dealing in a disaster scenario," said Roy Parks, senior manager in security risk management at Kroll LLC, a New York-based company. "Once physical security has outgrown what one person can monitor, understand and interpret, then a PSIM becomes increasingly necessary and, at some point, almost required."

The challenge of controlling security systems increases significantly in a disaster. "Dealing with the specifics of a crisis while at the same time continuing to monitor the rest of the security system becomes more of a challenge," said Alan Brill, senior managing director at Kroll. "Is the crisis real, or an action designed to distract from a more serious intrusion? Are you seeing the entire scope of a disaster or focused on only a part of the problem?"

Leading PSIM vendors include Johnson Controls, Everbridge, Bold Group and Titan Vision.

Proceed with caution

Organizations that are interested in PSIM should recognize that deploying the technology demands more than simply executing a contract and installing the necessary hardware and software interfaces.

"That will get you to an operational system," Parks said. "[But] understand that there's a commitment inherent in a PSIM to expend the resources needed to implement and use it effectively to get your money's worth for your investment."

Before deploying a PSIM it's necessary to conduct an accurate inventory of all existing security systems, as well as any planned security technology acquisitions. "Be careful to take a broad view of systems," Brill added. "Some [systems] that may seem to be primarily cyber in nature may also have implications for physical security."

Compatibility and cost considerations

Until recently, high cost has limited most PSIM deployments to large enterprise customers, such as airports and ports, as well as Fortune 100 companies, Deatherage said. Today, due to lower upfront costs, maintenance and integration expenses have become the top concerns. "The expense of implementing could accumulate depending on how many differing systems you're trying to merge," Wieber said. "The more integrations, the higher the cost."

Compatibility is another potential sticking point. "There's always a possibility that all of your disparate systems may not be compatible with the platform, and there may be some disparate systems that [must] remain as standalone systems," Wieber said.

Brill said that Kroll views PSIM as a force multiplier. "It gives you more capabilities with fewer people and more analysis," he said. "It enables you to have better information on which to make decisions when moments count."

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