Data centers are at a crossroads when it comes to the resiliency of their physical security systems. Not only are cyberattacks on the rise, physical breaches, such as unwanted intruders, are too.

Today’s data centers face a complex physical security environment regarding threat detection and response. They seek modern approaches to harden their existing security systems while adding new technologies via IoT devices. The goal is to leverage technology to improve security operations.

To help ensure your data center’s physical security systems are less vulnerable and more resilient, there are specific measures you can take. Key strategies include layered defenses, unification and redundancy, standard operating procedures (SOPs), and effective compliance policies.

Layered defenses

Across the world, data center security professionals are taking a closer look at perimeter security. They’re thinking beyond the fence line and expanding detection methods inside and outside their properties. The goal is to quickly identify and defuse potential threats before they reach highly sensitive or restricted zones.

To stay alert and effective at securing hyperscale and colocation facilities, security teams are turning their attention to both electronic and physical defenses. There’s a symbiotic relationship between the two. Technology and automation can help detect and counter attacks, but trained security personnel are also essential.

A layered defense allows for smart interaction. Between the growing number of devices and the multiplication of systems, it’s easy for a security team to get overwhelmed with data. All of this noise makes it difficult to identify the true threats hiding among the hundreds of events.

A decision management system based on workflows provides a solution by helping your operators identify the priority of multiple alarms that require a response. For example, video analytics may have difficulty distinguishing an object in low light and not an intruder. Using a decision management system, your team can better understand the events that led up to the alarm and decide the appropriate response.

Your perimeter defense also depends on how well you define your perimeter. A perimeter isn’t fixed in time. It’s dynamic, and your defenses must change with it. For example, in the past, you may have used sensors on a fence to detect perimeter breaches up to 20 feet off the ground. But can those sensors detect overhead drones flying into your space at 50 feet? Assess and update technology components regularly to match new threats to the perimeter, and train personnel to react to them.

Unification and redundancy

Monitoring various standalone systems isn’t an effective way to ensure the security of your data center. Having to manage events from different types of sensors can often amplify false alarms, overwhelm operators, and slow response to real threats.

By bringing all of your sensors, cameras, and IoT devices into one unified solution, you can correlate information from various technologies. Your operators interact with all of your security systems in one interface. They can quickly gain situational awareness of an event, such as a perimeter breach via video from nearby security cameras. They can also arm and disarm restricted zones within the data center based on access control roles or schedules. From an operational standpoint, they could even have the option to monitor non-security systems that may be high-risk assets, such as HVAC and electrical.

In addition to the unifying systems, it’s also important to employ redundancy measures. Data centers know how to plan for hardware and software failures with redundancies and backup components. A best practice for unified security systems is to have primary and failover directories as part of the software and servers.

Part of a redundancy strategy also involves personnel and is a bit more nuanced. A security officer in the field who investigates an automatic sensor notification offers a redundancy — a human backup to technology. Or if redundant technology fails, security guards can be deployed to physically protect sensitive areas.

Personnel training comes into play too. Workers benefit from a rotation of roles and responsibilities. This provides skills-based redundancy to ensure the day-to-day challenges of worker shortages don’t impact operations. Teams aren’t reliant on one person who has all of the knowledge to operate a system.

Finally, be sure your redundancy plans work. Perform announced and unannounced contingency drills to test both systems and personnel responses. Without testing, there’s no way to know if you have effective redundancy plans in place.


Standard operating procedures (SOPs) include how to respond to security threats — whether physical or cyber. Within a unified security platform, your team can use a collaborative decision management system to automate SOPs based on certain threats and events.

Thus, every situation is managed according to your security policies. You can even customize procedures for different audiences with different roles and levels of experience so personnel have quick access to the information they need.

Write SOPs in clear, intuitive language for new employees who may not be technology savvy and are learning processes for the first time. For example, if a forced door opening is detected, your SOP can include how to find the door number on a map, along with the camera ID. Keep SOPs updated frequently with references to current technology and devices, so the information is fresh and relevant.

Compliance policies

For data centers, regulatory compliance is a topic that can’t be ignored. Handling confidential customer data and mission critical functions requires you to provide compliance assurances to your customers based on transparency and security.

Consider how you’re using technology to meet regulatory requirements. Are you using a built-in workflow engine to ensure consistent response and compliance? Are you training and testing regularly for email phishing attacks or cyberattacks?

Monitoring the health of your system through a centralized security platform can help. It offers fast access to compliance information and auditing checks alongside the rest of your security operations. It’s also essential to include personnel training and contingency drills in your compliance and auditing plans.

Avoid complacency

It’s easy to be complacent about protecting physical security systems based on how the data center has operated in the past. But, newer technologies have changed the game. For example, organizations weren’t thinking about drones 10 years ago or how to detect their presence.

As the components of a physical security system have changed, a data center’s threat detection and resiliency policies must change with it. Plan for both physical and cyberattacks. Ask your physical security provider to outline their cybersecurity strategies and review your measures as well.

A unified physical security platform combines all of your physical security systems and monitors the health of each. It offers the simplest way to make sure your systems are up-to-date, identify a threat quickly, and take corresponding action.

With a layered security approach built on a unified platform, teams can better ensure the security of their assets, make more informed decisions, and provide the uninterrupted services that customers demand.