Intelligent Infrastructure For A Smarter Campus
Technological advancements enable campuses to proactively mitigate vulnerabilities
- By Brandon Reich
- October 01, 2018
Schools and universities are increasingly the targets of both
physical threats and cyberattacks. As a result, security and
IT leaders are on a continuous search for solutions that help
keep students, staff and data safe and secure on or off campus.
Recent high-profile incidents have emphasized these
risks, bringing these threats and their challenges to the national conscience
via mainstream media outlets that are asking if enough is being
done to keep our schools safe. While the answer to that question is
more than a bit challenging, significant technological advancements
are enabling educational institutions to more proactively mitigate vulnerabilities
and create a more secure, intelligent campus.
Video surveillance has long been used to improve overall situational
awareness and aid stakeholders to more effectively respond to incidents.
Research by the National Center for Education Statistics reported
that in 2016, 81 percent of public schools used video surveillance to
enhance safety. And in today’s connected world, there is a significant
demand for video data, as schools realize that it can be used for a wide
range of purposes.
The rise in the deployment of these systems leads to a significant
influx of data generated by surveillance cameras, as well as other security
and connected devices (the “Internet of Things,” or IoT). Not only
are schools collecting massive amounts of information, but the data
obtained is more important than ever before. Because campus environments
are mission-critical, leaders cannot tolerate video loss, system
downtime or the inability to access live or recorded video in the
event of an incident. Video data is valuable to help ensure a secure
campus and stakeholders must ensure that a robust IT infrastructure is
in place to protect it.
This is a common problem as organizations adopt more advanced
technology. To illustrate this value, one of Texas’ premier school districts
found a way to advance its video surveillance efforts and streamline
its IT infrastructure to support its growing data requirements.
Located in Dallas County, Richardson Independent School District
(RISD) consists of 54 campuses that serve more than 38,700 students.
Including administration and support, RISD maintains 70 facilities
covering more than 6 million square feet with 35 million square feet
The school board has long focused on ensuring a high level of safety
across its campuses. It began installation of a video surveillance system
to enhance security in the mid-2000s. Years later, the analog-based
system needed to be upgraded to a network-based solution to keep up
with increased data generation. Scott Porter, Project Manager at RISD,
worked to leverage existing devices with new IP solutions, creating a
“We’ve always viewed video as mission-critical,” Porter said. “The
biggest problem was always ensuring cameras are running as required
and making sure video data is captured and available when needed.
When we decided to move toward an IP infrastructure, we knew we
needed a more resilient video storage system.”
Once the legacy cameras reached end-of-life and additional funding
was made available, Porter upgraded to IP cameras and a next-generation
video management system to enhance resolution and extend video
capabilities. But by that time, the district had amassed 66 individual
servers, which were time-consuming and complicated to manage.
DEALING WITH COMPLEXITY
Porter was interested in how modern IT infrastructure could help consolidate
operations, enhance reliability and scale easily as video and
other data demands increased. He began researching the benefits of
hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI). When deploying this advanced
IT datacenter technology to video surveillance, users can consolidate
servers, storage and client workstations into one enterprise-class solution
that is easily managed from a single user interface without the
need for specialized IT skills.
“When I saw the return on investment HCI could deliver over
time—specifically due to reduced infrastructure and ease of expansion—
I quickly came to the conclusion that it was the ideal solution for
our district,” Porter said.
The HCI platform RISD deployed is specifically optimized for
demanding, data-intensive video surveillance workloads. Using standard
off-the-shelf server hardware, the solution aggregates the storage,
compute and bandwidth resources from multiple servers into a single
unified pool that all cameras can access, which maximizes performance
and storage capacity utilization. It also delivers industry-leading
resiliency; even if multiple hardware failures occur, including an
entire appliance, video management servers will remain online and
recording, and any previously recorded video will continue to be protected
RISD stores video for a minimum of 30 days to help the district
maintain safety and investigate incidents, such as theft, unauthorized
access and property damage.
“We used to get vandalized frequently and our crews were up every
weekend replacing windows and washing graffiti,” Porter said. “We
added four cameras and now have maybe one broken window a year.
We believe that video is a valuable deterrent and an important forensic
tool, which is why we are willing to invest in ensuring it’s available
Porter said RISD is dedicated to continually seeking out ways to
improve capabilities while staying within budgeting parameters. As the
district looks to the future, it is analyzing the value of face detection
and other video analytic software as a valuable benefit to the overall
security program and envisions the use of other programs for automating
video search functions.
“The safety and security of our students is paramount to us,” Porter
said. “We like to look at advanced technologies,
like Pivot3, to see how they can help us maintain
our strong security posture. We owe it to our leaders,
students and families to make the best investments
This article originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.