PSIMs have had a bad rap in the pro security industry for a multitude of reasons; ranging from suppliers overpromising on integration and control capabilities to complexity of implementation and use. However, there is a silver lining to this story.

Today, advanced PSIM solutions are being successfully deployed in commercial applications with the ability to integrate previously disparate professional access, video, notification, building operations and more onto a unified control and management platform. Equally important, these new PSIM solutions are easy to operate, allowing faster and more efficient implementation and use.

To help organisations sort through the many available PSIM options, here are six key attributes to look for in a best-in-breed solution.

Simplifying workflow

Fast and effective response is vital when an incident occurs, and standard operating procedures are critical to achieving this goal. However, even the most well-thought-out SOPs will either be ignored or forgotten if they are complicated (how many command centres have you seen with binders of SOPs covered in dust?), difficult to follow or improperly enforced. Therefore, simplicity is the key to ease of use and consistent response.

Beyond simplifying workflows, the PSIM must also present them in an easy-to-follow and easy-to-understand format, even if the action is brand new to an operator. For example, rather than requiring the user to locate and consult a multiple-page document, an advanced PSIM solution can ask a series of yes/no questions that only require operators to simply click the answer – a far more effective approach, particularly in high-stress and/or chaotic situations.

Operators may begin to tune out alarms or sift through them manually to find a critical situation

Identifying and responding to non-critical events

In a security operations centre (SOC), it’s easy for operators to become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of alarms generated by the ever-growing list of security systems deployed in today’s enterprise environments. Operators may begin to tune out alarms or sift through them manually to find a critical situation, creating the risk that an important incident may be overlooked or a response delayed.

Best-in-breed PSIM systems solve this common problem with automation by identifying and automatically responding to the non-critical events. This provides operators with the time and space they need to focus on those events that are most important and require human intervention and decision-making. Whether the response is automated or requires operators to act, all events are logged and audited, making them available for management reporting and information purposes. More important, the most critical events won’t get lost in the shuffle but will receive the full and timely attention they warrant.

Open architecture of PSIM systems

Without question, the ability to integrate multiple disparate systems into a single, centralised interface is a primary benefit advanced PSIM systems offer. The architecture of these solutions allows them to support and bridge the gap between a wide range of integrated systems over multiple physical locations.

To fully harness and maximise the power of integration, PSIMs must be built on open architecture that provides organisations with a standard tool for integrating their many systems that is simple, easy to maintain, cost-effective and scalable. The flexibility to seamlessly integrate with virtually any solution from a variety of manufacturers – including legacy systems – saves money, streamlines operations and provides more complete information for incident response. Without PSIMs to unify systems, communication between them can be challenging or impossible, substantially increasing the expense, time and potential for error in managing the various solutions separately.

Standardised functionality

To be truly effective, a PSIM solution must also simplify functionality and interfaces across different classes of systems, eliminating the time and cost of custom solutions to deliver a consistent user experience. For example, regardless of manufacturer, every access control or video surveillance integration should perform in the same manner when integrated with a PSIM platform. This ensures security personnel can follow established response procedures no matter what system they happen to be connected to. Consider the impact of introducing an operator to an unfamiliar system or user interface during a high-pressure situation.

Even the most well-thought-out SOPs will either be ignored or forgotten if they are complicated
PSIM must present SOPs in an easy-to-follow and easy-to-understand format, even if the action is brand new to an operator

There is tremendous value in providing an operator with a familiar user interface in any situation to optimise the potential for calm, standardised response. PSIMs with this type of standardisation create consistent outcomes and ultimately ensure adherence to proper practices and standards throughout an entire incident.

Intelligent analysis

In addition to situational awareness, PSIMs can also analyse the data they capture to provide deep insights and intelligence about security, business and overall organisational operations, both in real time and over extended periods of time. Armed with this information, organisations can better prepare for events and identify any potential changes that could improve response and staff adherence to SOPs. These solutions can provide in-depth views into specific incidents as well post-event analysis that can further improve security and operations.

Further, PSIMs should be capable of automating and standardising the creation and initial completion of audit, legal and compliance reports within an incident management system. This generates significant savings in personnel time and ensures not only that the initial report follows a defined company standard, but also that all incidents are reported correctly.

Benefits of advanced PSIMs

Deploying a PSIM solution that complies with industry standard failover and disaster recovery practices is crucial. As the central repository and point of control for security response, it is most important that the system provides redundancy so service will not be affected in the event of an unplanned hardware or network failure.

There are many ways this type of redundancy can be deployed, from SQL and server mirroring to federated servers across regions for both scaling and backup. In our industry, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) provides good standards for running a 24/7 monitoring application under their UL1981 standard. Look for platforms that conform to this standard to ensure the application can meet a rigorously tested failover and redundant configuration for security monitoring.

Organisations that place an emphasis on these important criteria when selecting a PSIM can ensure that they will reap the benefits of best-in-breed solutions that will meet their specific needs. With the ability to seamlessly integrate previously disparate systems into a unified control and management platform with automation and standardised interfaces, today’s advanced PSIMs deliver ease of use, faster and more effective response and most important, enhanced security.

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