Effective Deployment: Network infrastructure update

Physical security technology infrastructure is critical to successful specification. While infrastructures have not changed drastically over the years, existing standards have been revised and improved, connectivity and reliability have been bolstered, and the distances a system can cover have lengthened. 


The migration to Internet protocol (IP) products drives ongoing interest in network infrastructures. While it has always been critical to consider the nuances of installing with coaxial, Ethernet, category or fiber optic cabling, it has become even more important to consider each device, how it operates holistically on the network, the best type of infrastructure for the technology and how to prepare customers for the future when additional systems or processes are added to their specifications.


With the continued emergence of the Internet of Things (loT) and more sensors and devices riding on the network, data security becomes increasingly relevant. Methods such as two-factor authentication—meaning a password in addition to biometrics or some other safeguard to gain access—are commonplace. Transport layer security (TLS) encrypted field hardware arises from a handshake protocol, which requires user authentication before any data is exchanged, or—in the instance of access control—before a user can gain access to the network-based system.


Another inherent safeguard is a secure sockets layer (SSL) connection. SSL is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. SSL ensures all data passed between the server and browsers remain uncompromised. Cybersecurity plays a role in determining the right infrastructure for the application, based on the fact that sensitive data from security technologies is communicated over the network. 


Connectivity keys


There are numerous infrastructure options and considerations beyond the actual material, such as building-specific parameters, including the quantity of telecommunications rooms; quantity of floors or buildings; number of work spaces; and whether plenum or nonplenum cable must be used according to fire and life safety codes. Bob Eskew, chief executive officer and founder of Automated Systems Design (ASD) Inc., Alpharetta, Ga., said the No. 1 marketing misconception promulgated by major manufacturers and distributors is to cable for the future, because you can’t know what’s coming.


“This is, in fact, not true, but most people making structured cabling decisions don’t manage the actual network,” he said.


Eskew said coaxial cable should only be used for security installations when it is already in place and a new infrastructure is either physically impossible or cost-prohibitive. Coaxial cable should not be deployed for new installations.


When it comes to fiber, optical cabling can be used effectively for access control and video.


[SB]“It’s appropriate to use when distance is an issue, for example, [a case where] fiber optic cable is used when standard distances for copper cabling have been exceeded,” Eskew said. “It’s also used when connections between buildings are required. Copper cables require lightning protection when entering and exiting a building’s cone of protection. Fiber optic cable is not conductive and, therefore, [does] require lightning protection.” 


According to the Fiber Optic Association, Fallbrook, Calif., “a properly designed and installed structured cabling system provides a cabling infrastructure that delivers predictable performance as well as has the flexibility to accommodate moves, adds and changes; maximizes system availability; provides redundancy; and future proofs the usability of the cabling system.”


Video infrastructures


The proliferation of IP cameras and video means implementing the proper infrastructure is important for users to fully leverage the advantages of network-based surveillance. According to a new report from IHS Research, Englewood, Colo., 245 million professionally installed video surveillance cameras were active and operational globally in 2014.


As with any type of infrastructure, the initial planning stages are crucial, said Steve Gorski, vice president of Security Solutions, Wesco, Carol Stream, Ill. 


“It starts in the design stage, identifying where and what type of cameras are needed [and] determining what is currently deployed—both from a camera and existing network perspective,” he said. “In some cases, it may make good fiscal sense to incorporate some of the recent spend on the migration of analog cameras into the new IP video system. This can be done by using encoders to convert the analog signal to IP. In other cases, portions of the existing network can be used in the camera installation.”


It is also important for the cabling plan to be robust enough to handle what is being deployed and then some.


“As cameras continue to get better with higher image quality, more bandwidth is needed,” Gorski said. “Start with a network plan that will take care of today’s needs with an eye on tomorrow’s technology.”


Here are two examples of when coaxial cabling is used in IP video network installations: when it is part of the existing cabling architecture and the budget doesn’t allow for Ethernet cable to be installed in its place, and when the distance from the nearest switch to the camera is more than 100 meters and fiber or power over Ethernet (PoE) extenders are not an option.


“Advantages come in the cost reduction of re-cabling versus the cost of using media converters when upgrading from CCTV to IP cameras,” Gorski said. “A prime example of this is when existing coaxial runs to a light post in a parking lot. To replace the coaxial cabling could be cost prohibitive if the asphalt needs to be dug up to install the Ethernet category or fiber.”


He said the use of a conversion product, such as Highwire by Veracity, Glen Rock, N.J., can provide the network-compatible connection needed for less money.


“Another advantage is that converters allow for cabling runs to be up to 300-plus meters in distance compared with the traditional limitation of 100 meters for Ethernet cable,” he said.


In video applications, fiber is most commonly used as a backbone for the network, for example, a fiber ring around a campus environment, fiber between buildings or even fiber between switches.


“It has many advantages, such as fastest methods for data transmission, the ability to transmit data over great distances and to send large amounts of data at one time,” he said. “However, the disadvantages are in the cost: fiber is much more expensive than category cabling to deploy, plus a fiber cable cannot be plugged directly into an IP camera.”


Deploying video on existing Ethernet can be done to save deployment costs, but it may not be the best decision.


It is not recommended to install a new IP camera system on an existing network, because it takes up a considerable amount of bandwidth, Gorski said.


“Having one or two IP cameras on an existing network may not cause concerns, but a whole system could be problematic and bring a company’s data network to its knees,” he said. “Rather than taking that risk and upsetting the IT director who faults the IP cameras as the reason for the network being down, set up the surveillance system on its own network.” 


This tactic can be achieved by segmenting existing switches if they are capable or by providing new switches in the network data closets for the camera system.


“You can still use the existing cabling, patch panels and jacks to reduce costs,” Gorski said. “This way, the only camera traffic that will be on the existing data network is when someone logs into the surveillance system’s video management system to view an event or a camera. It is a win-win. The costs are reduced and the IT director is happy.”


When exploring network infrastructure options, consider the application and the devices running on the network, whether intrusion, access control or video. Don’t forget to enlist the assistance of manufacturers and distributors, who also have a stake in helping to get the specification right. 


About the Author

Deborah L. O'Mara

Freelance Writer

O’MARA writes about security, life safety and systems integration and is managing director of DLO Communications. She can be reached at dlocommunications@gmail.com or 773.414.3573.

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