Data centre managers are taking security to the next level by implementing robust physical security procedures for their facilities. Telehouse America, a leading IT provider, has strengthened its security capabilities by implementing Genetec’s solutions to modernise its offering.
As the Internet evolved in the 1980s, Telehouse was busy building the infrastructure to support booming network operations. In 1989, the company built the first-ever American data centre in Staten Island, New York, US. Since then, Telehouse has expanded to over 40 state-of-the-art data centres worldwide, offering over 4 million sqft. of colocation space to thousands of customers. Beyond the 162,000 sqft. flagship data centre in Staten Island, Telehouse America also offers colocation centres in downtown New York and Los Angeles.
Moving away from outdated systems and processes
Security has always been mission-critical for Telehouse. The security team has consistently monitored video surveillance and access control systems 24/7 at each site to ensure customer data remains fully secured and protected.
The problem in the past was that the video and access control solutions weren’t connected. Security operators would move between applications, trying to piece information together during investigations.
Only having access to basic system functionality created other challenges. The security team couldn’t modernise their visitor management processes or add newer biometrics, intercom, or perimeter technologies to enhance site security. The systems were simply too old to accommodate new integrations and expansions.
Over time, these limitations began straining resources. Visiting technicians needed to be escorted to servers to ensure compliance, taking Telehouse staff away from other jobs. The Telehouse team also logged when visitors were issued server keys using pen and paper. As audit requests came in, compiling information became difficult and time-consuming.
As the systems neared the end of product life cycles, the data centre company was ready for a major security upgrade. According to Milad Abdelmessih, Senior Director for HR and Corporate Division at Telehouse: “We wanted a unified and modern security solution that could accommodate the latest technologies. Our plan was to create layers of security at each site using select technologies and automate some of our processes for checking-in and managing visitors. This would help our team work more efficiently in securing our sites and in keeping detailed audit trails.”
While the Genetec Security Center unified platform met key criteria, conversations with the Genetec team firmed up Telehouse’s decision. “We wanted to partner with a company that would be responsive and value us as a customer. When we spoke to the Genetec team, they diligently answered our questions and provided lots of details, so we felt confident that we were choosing the right solution and a company that would support our security objectives,” said Abdelmessih.
Unifying security makes investigations easier
Across both the Staten Island and Manhattan locations, the security teams monitor a total of 400 cameras and 400 doors using both the Omnicast video surveillance system and the Synergis access control system of Security Center. Since installing Security Center, Telehouse has strengthened security in big ways.
From maintenance closets to server racks, every single door in the data centre now has an access control reader. The security team works from the map-based interface, Plan Manager, to quickly handle alarms and locate cameras.
“Investigations have been simplified with the use of Security Center. In the past, we had to pull up blueprints and maps to see which cameras were associated with a door. Using the map-based interface, we can quickly find doors and nearby cameras and see everything happening around them,” said Abdelmessih.
The security team also benefitted from the platform’s open architecture, adding a MAGOS radar perimeter detection system to spot potential threats at the property line. “We’ve created a virtual fence around our sites. Now, if someone tries to cross our property boundaries, we’ll know right away,” said Abdelmessih.
An intercom system further re-enforces security. Through the built-in Sipelia intercom module within Security Center, operators can now quickly initiate a two-way call if someone buzzes an intercom device at the front door or shipping docks. Live video automatically comes up on the monitor, so operators can also identify visitors or cardholders before choosing to grant or deny them access.
Streamlining visitor management with Genetec Clear ID
Within each facility, Telehouse has completely modernised the visitor management process. Not only did the security team install BioConnect fingerprint and facial recognition and Deister key management technologies, it also implemented Genetec ClearID. This physical identity and access management module allows Telehouse to automate visitor requests while keeping detailed audit trails of each visit. While some aspects of the application are still being finalised, Telehouse is keen to launch this upgrade and streamline its operations.
“We wanted our customers to be able to dictate where and when their technicians or vendors would go. Before, they would ask us to escort their vendors which took up a lot of our time. By setting up this new visitor management process using ClearID and other critical technologies, we can lessen our team’s workload, while ensuring the highest levels of security,” said Abdelmessih.
Soon, a Telehouse customer will be able to log into the ClearID portal and submit all relevant details to request access to the site and server. Details include the technician’s name and contact information, the date of the visit, the reason for the visit and other information. That request is sent to the network operations centre where an operator will review the information and accept or deny the request.
Once approved, the visitor will receive a QR code via email. When they arrive on site, a receptionist will scan their QR code and assign the visitor a temporary badge. The Telehouse team will also capture the visitor’s digital fingerprint and facial scan.
To access the server cabin, each visitor must then go through a series of security checkpoints including turnstiles, revolving doors with anti-pass-back features, and dual-authentication requirements where both cards and biometric scans are vetted.
All this directs the guest to a Deister electronic key cabinet where they must tap their card to an access reader for the system to automatically assign them a server cabin key. Unifying all these security technologies within Security Center ensures that security operators can monitor visitor movements and quickly pull reports to conduct investigations if needed.
When their work is complete, the visitor must go through a similar process to exit. Once again, they are authorised and tracked at every juncture until the access control card is dropped off, their privileges are automatically disabled and they are given clearance to leave through a turnstile.
“When welcoming over 400 visitors per month, Genetec ClearID helps our team become more efficient. Every step from the initial request to the deactivation of the card is logged which simplifies auditing and reporting for our team,” said Abdelmessih.
The Telehouse operations teams can also use Genetec ClearID to track their external vendors who come on site to handle scheduled maintenance or repairs. “ClearID will simplify the process for welcoming our vendors to the site as well. Our in-house staff can request access for these vendors just like our customers can,” said Abdelmessih.
Staying compliant and cyber secure builds customer trust
Telehouse stores and secures data for hundreds of global companies. The company’s customers span industries such as healthcare, banking, manufacturing, hosting and many others. This means Telehouse must be able to adapt and comply with standards set by those industries including the Service Organization Control (SOC) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), among others.
“We go through roughly 40-50 audits for our customers every year. Some have very strict guidelines and rigorous auditing processes. Being able to easily retrieve access control reports has been vital to our business. Using Security Center and ClearID, we can customise these reports and save them for future auditing. So, when we have to re-run the report for the month, it’s as easy as pressing a button.”
Maintaining compliance at Telehouse includes upholding a strong cybersecurity posture. “The ClearID module retains a lot of customer information. So before onboarding Genetec, we had our global security watch team in Japan extensively evaluate the software for cybersecurity best practices. Everything from the built-in encryptions to the certificates that Genetec holds to where the information is hosted and the back-ups available were all scrutinised. In the end, our team agreed that Genetec solutions checked all the right boxes for cybersecurity and we got the approval from our HQ,” said Abdelmessih.
Using an intuitive platform to modernise operations
Beyond security, the operations teams at Telehouse are also benefitting from the security upgrades. Using Security Center, the engineering team monitors video feeds in equipment rooms and near cooling towers. This allows them to quickly see if a fan on a cooling tower stops spinning or if any other mechanical failures need their urgent attention.
Expanding future plans with cloud services
Telehouse is now focusing efforts on upgrading security at the Los Angeles data centre. Part of the plan is to minimise the onsite equipment, so the team is taking a closer look at Genetec cloud services. The security team is also considering the benefits of using Genetec Clearance, the digital evidence management system, to streamline investigations as well as facilitate secure file sharing with customers, vendors, or auditors.
“Since implementing the Security Center unified platform, securing our site and managing our visitors has become much easier. Having that unified security view ensures our staff can see what’s happening and respond without delay. Even from an operational standpoint, we’re delivering more value and assurance to our customers with detailed auditing and reporting. As we continue to evolve our security operations, I think Genetec will be a very long-term partner for us,” said Abdelmessih.Click below to share this article