Physical security for data centers has come a long way since I first started in the industry — way back when dinosaurs roamed the hot and cold aisles. Back then, public awareness of data centers was minimal. Security processes involved sign-in sheets; clip-on badges; and a friendly nod to Phil, the security guard. Phil would nod back and then return his focus to the screen showing surveillance camera views of the exterior of the building.

That was then. But over the past couple of decades, physical security for data centers has evolved to a level that is appropriate for critical infrastructure for the global economy. People are still at the heart of a facility’s security strategy, but now they have a much more sophisticated array of technology to support them rather than just a small screen and some walkie-talkies. Those devices can include hundreds of cameras, access controls, movement sensors, biometrics devices, and even drones. The number and diversity of those devices is making facility security a complex IoT environment similar to that of an industrial site, manufacturing plant, or other large-scale IoT implementation.

When your facility’s security depends on so many devices, how do you keep them functional and secure without burdening your security staff and IT team with a ton of labor-intensive work that prevents them from focusing on more strategic responsibilities? 

Managing these devices would be simple if — in the immortal words of Ron Popeil during his late-night infomercials — you could “set it and forget it.” But, these endpoints need a lot of TLC to ensure they are secure and performing well, including security software patches, firmware upgrades, status monitoring, and more. That is a universal challenge for all IoT deployments. Taking those steps manually would be a lot of work for a team to do for a single device, but it’s a massive drain of labor and attention when you multiply that by hundreds or thousands of devices on a data center campus. 

By utilizing automation, Compass Datacenters has eliminated the need for manual operations. Automation allows us to deploy these security devices at scale in ways that work for our physical security and IT teams. It provides a blueprint for how the data center industry can deploy advanced security technologies at scale to enhance protection. We have seen game-changing efficiency in three key areas.

Faster troubleshooting and device updates — Security automation simplifies monitoring and making changes to firmware. Gone are the endless manual checklists and patches required across campuses. Now, from a single pane of glass, we’re able to diagnose and fix issues in real time. This new vantage point also makes it easy to determine if a problem is a network or device issue, so we’re a step ahead on issue resolution. 

Enhanced visibility and monitoring — Security automation allows us to deploy data security uniformly throughout the data center, accessing an entire IoT ecosystem from a single platform. For Compass, it translates to monitoring 1,200 devices — cameras, sensors, perimeter devices, and access controls — simultaneously. What was once virtually impossible — updating 196 cameras at a facility in about three minutes and changing passwords systemwide — is now a reality with the click of a button.

A proactive approach — Automation has changed how we work as we move from being reactive to proactive in managing these devices. Instead of devoting so much time to putting out fires related to device management, our team can focus on the future, identifying new challenges, solutions, and opportunities for improvement. It also gives us a foundation for deploying new technologies that enhance security at our campuses.

Physical security has come a long way in our industry. Sometimes I miss the ritual of signing in on the clipboard and chatting with Phil about the weather. I’m old-fashioned that way, but even my nostalgic self can’t help but admire the progress we’re making in this field and how much it is contributing to securing critical IT assets.