Recently I was speaking with a colleague regarding integrated security platform product lines and he commented that a certain group specialized in high end systems only. This is an interesting point in that not all systems are created equal. I have seen a fair share of “hardware” companies slapping together a vapid software client in order to put their relays and communications ports into some semblance of a user interface. What can be a perfectly acceptable grain of sand in the shoe on a ten person, two door access control system becomes a debilitating factor when multiplied across thousands of devices and hundreds of thousands of customer records. With this in mind, over the years I have grown quite fond of a number of features that I now look for immediately when being introduced to a new enterprise class security platform.
First in the list of must-haves is a solid back end database engine. Is the platform a current industry standard relational database? This often dictates the pass or fail outcome for the remaining questions that I ask. Fault tolerance and disaster recovery hinge on the type of software architecture the manufacturer has chosen. Next I ask about the graphical user interface (GUI). Is it intuitive? Having worked on software projects in the past, I fully understand the process by which functionality dominates any user experience concerns. But when a non-technical individual engages the product, can they find what they are looking for with relative ease?
From there, my thoughts move to integration of many parts. Does the API allow for smooth integration to the HR system or point of sale? Can the users be divided into departments or subtenants (Partitions)? Can the history be off-loaded into a data warehouse for trend reports and data mining? And for me, possibly one of the most critical aspects is what manner of diagnostic tools are available through the system? Being able to see every cog in the machine at a glance is critical. Performance and trace log reports tell system administrators critical secrets as to how a server is functioning or how information may not be making it across a network. These tools save precious days at times during upgrades or installations. It is quite possible looking back over this wish list that each item was born from a very late night with some deadline looming over me. And in each instance, my expectations grew towards a better system.