Software upgrade allows for disaster recovery, off-site access
Wednesday, March 1, 2006

INDIANAPOLIS--General Emergency Monitoring took an avant-garde approach when upgrading its automation software; the company invited its board of directors, a group of non-industry professionals from the community, to examine product options.
After the discussion, the central selected the SIMS windows-based UL version and it is expected to be running in March.
"The ultimate decision rested with us. Our thinking and brain trust assisted us with making the decision," president and owner Lisa Prosser said.
Tom Oakes, project IT manager who oversees central station operations, said the upgrade is important for several reasons, "many of them having to do with the limitations of our current software." Prosser agreed it "maintains and enhances our competitive edge as a third-party monitoring business."
The automation software improves communications. Dealers can now download information through a PDA. There is also the ability to offer off-site access to information and remotely back up information, Oakes said.
What also set the automation system apart from other vendors the central examined was its disaster recovery management system.
"If there were a problem with our central or building, we could switch all of our accounts and procedures immediately to SIMS and they could provide services to our customers," Prosser said.
The central also added video monitoring to its service line-up because "more camera surveillance systems are being sold and installed. The question is, who is going to take the time to review all that archived video, or to watch that video, with the cost of employees continually on the rise," Prosser said. This is a solution and another opportunity to stay competitive. However, she said, the new automation at this point in time doesn't have a piece to interface with video monitoring,
The system positions the central for technology advancements, noted Oakes. As monitoring technology is based on IT, "it is good to have that understanding to make decisions because even the new receivers are really just advanced mini computers," he said. "The entire industry is just way more technological than it used to be." However, an upgrade is not a quick one-day project. The switchover takes time, as does the training. "It's not an easy upgrade. It's like going from Mars to Pluto." On-site training for the central's operators was a critical step. "The days where you just programmed the device and left are going by the wayside. It [software] lets you better utilize your resources," Oakes added.
General Emergency Monitoring includes Prosser's installation arm, General Alarm, which serves the central Mid-west with roughly 10,000 accounts. Often the company has crossover between the two entities. "I think it says a lot for our credentials that we monitor for a lot of installing dealers in the same town we do installation work in," Prosser said.