Monitoring in the IP age

Panelists at ESX discuss how central stations need to evolve to prosper in the age of IP signals
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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Good advice on running a central station was in no short supply at ESX. The show’s entire lineup of monitoring track seminars covered virtually every aspect of what it takes to thrive as a central station in 2014 and beyond.

One of those panels, titled “IP, the Central Station and All that Jazz,” deftly explored what security companies need to know now about cloud-based signal processing and the network technologies that continue to reshape the industry.

Weighing in on the topic were Mark McCall, director of IT, Security Central; Morgan Hertel, VP of operations, Rapid Response Monitoring; and Sascha Kylau, VP central station solutions, OneTel. The session was moderated by Don Childers, COO of Security Central.

One important point the panelists stressed was that the time is now to invest in an IT infrastructure that can accommodate a high volume of IP signals, is redundant, and will remain reliable across even the most trying scenarios.

“When it comes to ISPs and bandwidth, you get what you pay for,” Hertel said, adding that it’s crucial now to get your bandwidth “from a reliable source.”

Similarly, Hertel advised attendees to work closely with automation providers to ensure their companies can accommodate IP traffic across any set of circumstances. He noted that during Hurricane Sandy, Rapid Response was hit with an inordinately high rate of IP signals for two weeks straight. Monitoring companies, he added, cannot afford network downtime.

McCall, who described the technological transition of the past decade as “phenomenal,” said the technology required to operate a central station is not what it was a few years ago. Monitoring companies can empower themselves by investing wisely in network monitoring platforms that “keep track of signal information,” and “show when the IP firewall is about to max out.”

These measures will save time and money down the road, McCall said.

The IP revolution extends beyond the compass of equipment and IT investments. There’s also a human capital aspect of running a central station that’s growing in proportion to the technological advances. Hertel pointed out that Rapid Response now employs a 25-person IT and software development team, something that would have been unthinkable years ago.

To that point, McCall said companies need to consider their size and scope, and then decide whether they want to build their own IT team or to contract that piece out. He said it can be an expensive process to train them internally. On the other hand, Hertel noted that having a salaried IT department is a significant investment, too, with the pay scale for those with the requisite skills climbing into the six-figure range.

When asked to give attendees one summary piece of advice, Kylau said you have to ask yourself an important compound question: “What do you have today, and where do you want to go?” Hertel recommended that managers take stock of what costs lie ahead, design a five-year budget and execute it.

Earlier in the seminar, Kylau noted that it’s “not long before Google has a lot of stuff in the home.” With that in mind, he challenged attendees to think in more unorthodox ways about what kind of services and appliances could be ripe for central station monitoring, mentioning everything from pet tracking and telehealth to geo fencing and information gleaned from household appliances.