Colocation facility provides high-tech security
Apr 1, 2001 12:00 PM
By RANDY SOUTHERLAND
The front lobby is itself surrounded by bulletproof glass. Outside, unobtrusive concrete planters and other decorative objects form an additional protective barrier.
A storm might mean possible power outages or other conditions for which the facility must prepare.
A soft, relentless hum fills the chilled air of this cavernous room. From within a windowed control room lined with computer screens, technicians keep a watchful eye on long rows of tall black steel cabinets. From metal platforms overhead, cables and brightly colored hoses connect to each cabinet like life-support systems.
The computers contain the Web pages and other data storage belonging to companies that have staked their claims in cyberspace. That's what so-called colocation is all about. This buzzword of the new economy is the bread and butter of e^Deltacom, a subsidiary of telephone and long distance provider ITC^Deltacom. To house its operations, the company has constructed a 375,000-sq. ft. center that will be one of the true first stops on the information superhighway.
At this newly constructed facility located in Suwanee, Ga., just outside of Atlanta, the security mission is not just protecting people, but protecting the vital interests of other companies as well.
Company officials say they wanted a system that gave them completely reliable security ¡ª a system that would be up and running 24 hours a day. It must also allow reasonably fast access, but still maintain security, while being able to handle large amounts of data on a large number of customers and staff.
The answer to their needs came from Ocean, N.J.-based integrator Deterrent Technology, which put together an access control system that uses the NexSentry StarGaze security management system manufactured by WSE. The system combines Windows NT operator stations and the graphical user interface with a Linux server database, controller and LAN.
Deterrent has two decades of experience, primarily in providing security for a variety of technology companies such as AT&T.
"The vast majority of our clients fall into that Fortune 1000 category," says company president David Hersh. "They're not all telecommunications companies. We also work with quite a few pharmaceutical companies as well as large hospital corporations. We have another niche market within the banking community."
Deterrent understands the needs of high-tech companies such as e^Deltacom.
"E^Deltacom wanted to develop an extra layer of security," says Steve Ludeking, a partner in Deterrent. "We established the criteria by looking at the company's plans, its access ways, its vulnerable areas, and its way of doing business. Together we designed a system that took all of that into account."
"We chose the system because it was a total package," says Ray Bartels, ITC^Deltacom's security manager. "Deterrent could bring in the cameras and different types of equipment and do the total integration of the package."
The system integrates digital proximity and fingerprint readers with CCTV. The company chose WSE's DigiReader Digital Proximity Readers and the Veriprint 2100 fingerprint recognition system by Biometric Identification Inc. to control access to the building's most sensitive areas.
The security office provides mag-stripe badges manufactured by Datacard Group, Minnetonka, Minn.
In order to access the work area, an employer or vendor must have a general access card. To enter a restricted area, such as the data center, photo and biometric ID are required.
"We control everything from one central access point. Most of our employees have general access to the office area," says Bartels. "Only people who need to be in the data center or other restricted areas can access different zones. We do that by individual cards."
The company's approach to security is to build layers of effective but non-intrusive protection. Because of the nature of its business, it was critical that the security system be both flexible and expandable.
Employees and clients must have access at all times, and the system must be able to accommodate a large number of people.
The system must be able to protect extremely sensitive data such as credit card numbers, medical information and sensitive government information.
In addition to card and biometric access, an extensive CCTV network composed of Sensormatic Electronic Corp.'s DeltaDome cameras enables security personnel in the control room to see throughout the interior of the building, as well as on the perimeter.
"We have an alarm interface unit so that certain alarm conditions communicate directly to the WSE host," says Ludeking. "So we're networking and integrating CCTV systems into the WSE system to form one common system. It's all monitored locally. There are two stations for monitoring and viewing. E^Deltacom has the local main security system, which is downstairs, and then it has a separate secondary office where they do a lot of their playback and recording."
Other layers of security are also being developed. A system of covert camera units will soon be put into place. In addition, the security department is getting ready to install other biometric entrance control devices, such as an iris scan unit. This equipment can be used on the most secure areas of the building, including the data center. While security will increase in these areas, it will not make access more difficult for authorized workers.
The security program does not rely solely on technology. Security guards stationed behind a counter adjacent to the main control room greet visitors upon entering the building. The front lobby is itself surrounded by bulletproof glass. Outside, unobtrusive concrete planters and other decorative objects form an additional protective barrier. The officers, outfitted in jackets with the security company's crest, also regularly patrol the building's hallways and the loading dock, in the building's rear, as an extra measure of security.
In fact, no one except staff and registered contractors enter the building unescorted. The lone exception is the driver who fills the soft drink machines.
"Our contract specifies that it has to be the same driver every time," says Cyndi Meiners, an e^Deltacom security manager. "If it's someone different, then he has an escort."
The e^Deltacom facility, which company officials say is the largest of its kind in the world, presents a demanding situation for both workers and security personnel alike. The delicate computer equipment requires continuous care and feeding along with an unending appetite for power. The regular electrical feeds are backed by the largest constant power system (CPS) deployments available. Because redundancy is a company watchword, back-up systems include automated diesel generators.
Security officials are sensitive to the critical nature of the data and applications with which their clients have entrusted them. Personnel monitoring the data floor, for example, make sure that competing companies have cabinets that are located far apart.
Just off the data center area, a large control room contains rows of computer monitors facing a set of wall-sized screens. A central screen glows with green and red lines. Green indicates the computer network is running smoothly, while red lines sound an alarm that something has gone wrong somewhere in the system.
To one side, another large screen monitors surrounding weather conditions. A storm might mean possible power outages or other conditions for which the facility must prepare.