The Evidence Is In
The Evidence Is In

Feb 1, 2005 12:00 PM

When RenewData opened its new evidence processing center in Texas, company officials wanted something none of its competitors offered physical security measures normally found only in the most secure government facilities.

Headquartered in Austin, RenewData specializes in electronic evidence services and data recovery services. Started in 2001, the company provides attorneys, law firms and corporations with electronic evidence services for the discovery of e-mail and computer system data. Company services can recover lost data from virtually any media type or operating system, including tapes.

"We want to ensure that we give our customers the confidence that we are protecting their original media from theft, fire and loss," says Alan Brooks, senior vice president of marketing for RenewData. "It immediately puts a client at ease when they see the level of security we have implemented to protect their vital data."

The multi-layer security plan was designed by RenewData's vice president of operations, Steve Nygard. Boca Raton, Fla.-based ADT Security Services Inc., a part of Tyco Fire & Security, also helped design and install many of the advanced security technologies, drawing from the company's experience working on Department of Defense projects.

"This system was on par with those we have installed for Department of Defense vendors," says Mike Weiner, an ADT sales associate in Austin. "RenewData officials are very serious about security."

RenewData's headquarters is located in a 20,000-square-foot, first-floor office space in a multi-tenant facility. The company recently consolidated several Austin offices into the location. Company employees call the back part of the office, "the bunker," becaue it is where the critical data processing is conducted, and it is built into the side of a hill. The two exterior walls are solid concrete. Quarter-inch steel plates fortify the interior walls from floor to ceiling.

The floor of the bunker has been raised, and Sentrol motion sensors from GE Security have been placed underneath, as well as in the ceiling. Vibration sensors from Potter Electric Signal Co. help protect the walls from outside intruders.

But the security begins even before employees reach the bunker. RenewData's 100 employees carry access cards, provided by the building landlord, that allow them to enter an adjacent parking structure. Those same cards are used to gain elevator access to the RenewData office during nights, weekends and holidays.

Once inside the RenewData reception area, employees are required to use their company-issued photo identification cards to access the doors to offices and work areas. Kantech, a division of Tyco Fire & Security, provided the access control panels and 10 card readers. Visitors are required to check in with the receptionist and to show picture identification in order to receive a temporary badge. Company escorts are required to stay with visitors at all times. Nygard says employees have been trained to challenge anyone they do not know or who is not wearing an ID badge.

Once past the main door into the back work areas, employees are required to use one of seven biometric thumbprint readers by Bioscrypt to gain access to other critical operational areas. Three "mantraps" have also been created in which employees must fully close the door located closely behind them before accessing one of the thumbprint readers. This configuration is designed to cut down on "tailgating," when two or more people attempt to enter a door on one access card read. Visitors are escorted and are required to remain on a painted walkway through the main work area so that they do not have access to any projects. All employee computer screens face away from the walkway to further protect data privacy.

Back inside the bunker, there is a caged area that is used for conducting highly sensitive work. Entry is limited to only a few employees and requires passing through another biometric reader.

"We have some clients that want to know exactly who has access to their data," Nygard says. "This way we can isolate access to a project and then control and audit exactly who enters the work area along with the date and time they entered."

RenewData's information technology manager is responsible for removing access privileges for terminated employees and adding new hires to the system.

The access control system is monitored by ADT, as are glass-break alarms in the reception area. There is a backup cellular phone system from TelGuard that will take over should the regular phone service be interrupted or the phone lines cut. ADT also monitors environmental sensors placed throughout the main work areas. An alarm sounds when minimum or maximum temperatures are exceeded, thus helping to keep the company's computers functioning properly.

In addition to redundant power and cooling systems, the offices also have humidity, water, fire and chemical suppression systems to handle emergencies.

The final part of the office security is a video surveillance system. A combination of two dozen domed and fixed cameras by Pelco provide coverage of the reception area, all doors and work areas. Recording is continuous, but images are refreshed only when movement occurs within a camera's field-of-view. RenewData keeps about two months of recorded video on an Intellex digital video recorder from American Dynamics, a business unit of Tyco Fire & Security.

A 14-inch American Dynamics color monitor in the reception area allows the receptionist to keep an eye on all cameras simultaneously. Nygard can pull up live or recorded images onto his desktop computer at any time.

Brooks says the video equipment has already helped the company handle a minor training issue.

"We had one of our employees shut down a computer system that was meant to continue to run," he says. "By checking the video, we determined what actually took place and as a result, provided extra training to employees to see that it didn't happen again."

The major challenge in the security system installation, Weiner says , was coordinating efforts with more than a dozen other vendors involved in remodeling the space for RenewData.

"But we were still able to get our work done within the four-week schedule set by RenewData," he says. "Overall, this was a great project to be a part of because of the customer's dedication to providing maximum security for its facility."

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