As more business look to integrate their physical and IT security, value-added resellers (VARs) have a unique opportunity to expand their services and make significant returns on their investments -- if they educate themselves and their clients.
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Many IT vendors are behind the eight-ball when it comes to offering physical security services, and many physical security providers lack the technical know-how for integration, said Ray Bernard, principal consultant for Ray Bernard Consulting Services in Lake Forest, Calif.
"Resellers could partner up with a [security] consultant who knows his stuff, and learn while making money," Bernard said.
A March report by BT Counterpane, a Mountain View, Calif.-based managed security firm, named integrated security as the top emerging trend of 2007. The report predicted that physical and IT security will remain mostly separate for the next three to seven years, but it also said there are opportunities now for those who adopt new technology.
"Nowadays you can't go to a security conference without mention of IT convergence," Bernard said.
Although every end-user tailors its integrated security to meet its needs, there are some common features that most systems have. They include digital video cameras that run on IP networks and the use of security cards to log on to work stations.
"That provides an extra level of authentication," Bernard said.
The emergence of power over Ethernet technology -- and specifically VoIP -- has facilitated the trend towards integrated security, because it is easy and inexpensive to install digital video cameras at the same time new network cables are going in.
"The incremental cost of what you're doing is next to nothing," Bernard said.
Despite those benefits, there are other issues with integrated security that have driven some potential clients away. Seattle-based Pemco Insurance actually deintegrated two years ago, mostly because "the cultural blend between the information security world and the physical security world did not go well," Chief Information Security Officer Kip Boyle said.
Benjamin Jun, the vice president of technology at Cryptography Research, an antifraud and antipiracy firm in San Francisco, explains the difference this way: IT people typically work with porous boundaries, such as VPN clients that allow users to access protected data from areas that are not necessarily secure. But physical security staff deal in closed systems with real boundaries.
"You can see the culture clash here," Jun said.
Jun and Boyle agreed that VARs must understand these differences -- and help their clients through them -- to be successful.
"That has to be an explicit planning point, otherwise there's a chance that one will dominate the other," Boyle said.
For help in that area, Bernard suggests that VARs with no experience in physical security work with a consultant. Under that partnership, sales representatives can receive on-the-job training while selling integrated security to clients, Bernard said.
"They can learn when that effort is tied to revenue," he said. "The customer wins and the companies win."
Although large corporations are the leaders in integrated security, VARs have the opportunity to sell to all kinds of businesses. Bernard has even seen some gas stations and retail stores make the switch to integrated security in order to help with video surveillance and customer counting.
"I am no longer willing to say there are some types of businesses that are not good candidates," he said.
Let us know what you think about this story; email: Colin Steele, Features Writer.