Let's Get Physical: Is Your Site's Security Adequate?

It's almost the end of the year, and you know what that means: a surfeit of college football bowl games (go, LSU Tigers!), post-holiday sales, and physical security. Wait--what does physical security have to do with the end of the year? Quite a bit, it turns out.

First, many insurance policies and leases allow changes during a defined period at the end of the calendar year or the beginning of the new year. If you suspect you might need improvements to the physical security in your building, or changes to your insurance to help mitigate physical risks such as fire and flood, now is a good time to upgrade. Typically, the first calendar quarter of the year in the United States is relatively free of bad weather, wildfires, and other such disasters, which lets you get things squared away before the threat of physical damage rises.

Second, the budget year of many organizations follows the calendar year. If you have leftover money in your IT budget, you might consider spending some of it on improvements to your physical security. Of course, there's no point in spending money just to spend it (I'm reminded of the example in Blueprints for High Availability by Evan Marcus and Hal Stern about spending money on a "Godzilla shield" for your data center), but there are many legitimate areas where shoring up your security might make sense. For example, how are your physical access controls? Should you upgrade locks or alarms? How are your fire suppression systems doing? Do any of your UPS units need refurbishment, replacement, or new batteries? You might be surprised by the state of your protective equipment if you don't check it regularly—and many sites don't.

This is also a good time to make sure that any emergency power systems you have, such as generators or cutover switches, work properly. Every disaster-recovery planner has horror stories about times when generators didn't start (or, worse, started and then immediately stopped) when they were needed. A little preventative maintenance now can save you a ton of trouble later.

Finally, one often overlooked aspect of physical security is to make sure that your local 911 Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) has the correct address information for your buildings, facilities, or employees. Most of the time, PSAPs get updated information from the local telephone service provider, but it's an excellent idea to check at least once a year—especially if you've moved.

Entries have been slowly trickling in for our contest for the worst Exchange design or administrative mistake. Because so many people are taking end-of-year vacations, we've extended the deadline for entries to January 7, 2008. So if you haven't entered yet, it's not too late! Submit entries via email to [email protected]. For more information about the contest, see "Inexpensive Unified Communications Deployment, Part 2," November 15, 2007.

Finally, on a personal note: I want to thank all the editors and staffers who help make Exchange & Outlook UPDATE successful. I also want to thank you for reading! My family and I wish you a beautiful holiday season and a safe and prosperous 2008.

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