When the University of Texas constructed a new, 7,500-square-foot data center in Houston, part of the building design included the need for security cameras to protect and monitor the facility and the valuable equipment housed there.
Located in the Texas Medical Center, the institution brings together the Dental Branch, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Medical School, the School of Public Health, the School of Nursing, the School of Health Information Sciences, the UT Harris County Psychiatric Center and the Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine for the Prevention of Human Diseases. The student population totals 3,865 students, with 1,389 faculty and 3,648 staff.
"We wanted to see who's coming and going in this high-value facility," said Kevin Granhold, Director of Data Center Operations and Support Services at UT's Health Science Center. "We also needed to monitor entrances to remotely let people in if necessary."
A security and surveillance solution would allow the organization to record activities within the data center, review incidents, monitor who is performing what tasks throughout the day, and keep track of the general coming and going of employees.
"We were looking for an enterprise solution to help us manage a few dozen cameras and assess any situation that might occur within the data center," Granhold said. "We also needed to consider design issues with respect to wiring and camera placement."
The Health Science Center evaluated the analog surveillance system used by the University of Texas police department and took a look at the associated costs. They also looked at technology issues like optical and digital zoom, and camera capabilities in particular lighting situations.
Network cameras would be much less expensive than analog, from both equipment and wiring perspectives. University administrators decided that they would need wired Ethernet cameras, because they didn't want to add power receptacles to accommodate wireless cameras. They would be able to power wired Ethernet cameras with PoE technology.
"We made a strategic decision to use PoE rather than putting receptacles at each camera," Granhold said. "From a cost perspective, it was definitely advantageous to go with PoE cameras using IP rather than your typical analog and cable camera."
After exploring several network camera vendors, the university decided to invite a D-Link field engineer to their campus to discuss options and review building designs. The engineer made some recommendations to accommodate coverage needs and helped the university decide on the proper cameras for specific applications.
The university purchased 30 network cameras with PoE, 40 percent with digital zoom and 60 percent with optical zoom.
"We used the optical zoom cameras in the places where we needed better pictures," Granhold said.
The IP surveillance network is linked together with a 24-port PoE switch, and PoE adapters. This separate network links to the production network via one uplink. By keeping the video network separate, it has a higher level of security, and the facility's IT staff can treat it as a distinct entity outside of the production network.
The system is configured to record 90 days of intermittent activity. The cameras record only when there is activity in the rooms. The cameras detect if there is no activity, in which case no data is stored to disk. The camera network includes eight simple 1U servers, each with a 500-GB hard drive. Staff can monitor the cameras via eight 23-inch screens in the operations area of the data center. Each screen shows four cameras.
The system is mainly used for security and surveillance purposes, as opposed to monitoring employee productivity. Within weeks of the installation, the university was able to analyze a theft incident using the recordings. "We had some equipment stolen from the data center," Granhold said. "We went back and looked to see who took it. One vendor took another vendor's tools. It was easy to figure it out with the digital evidence."
It's now easy to sort things out when events occur in the data center and no one takes responsibility. "We just look at the video files and sort it out," Granhold said. The University of Texas police department has even asked to view the university's recordings to examine incidents that have taken place on the property.
"I think it's a really good tool," Granhold said. "Some people find it a little intrusive, but we have a really big investment in our data and equipment, so it's necessary. Most people don't even think about it any more."