Are Virtual Security Operations Centers in Your Future?

The next wave of campus physical security may be VSOCs, which leverage the cloud to deliver efficiencies, cost savings and improved security.

Being responsible for the physical security of a campus environment can be a daunting task. Campuses may share similarities, but every campus is different and requires a strategy for master planning before going out and wasting a lot of time and money.

Campus security departments are usually under staffed, under budgeted and, historically, have had a limited voice in their organization’s budget discussions. The security department is often seen as the outcast, a cost burden and the first to have its budget cut when times get tough. Unlike other organizations, such as the facilities group where government regulations require certain standards (fire sprinklers/alarms, etc.), physical security is left to make it up as they go to convince the higher ups why it’s important to invest in their programs.

Another problem is many campus security leaders are former law enforcement professionals who try to run their organizations like a police department. Some use fear as their strategy for getting budget without articulating the value of what they are proposing or data to show why an investment is needed. I know many campus security departments are the police, which is problematic as law enforcement is usually behind the curve on innovation and technology.

Don’t get me wrong, I love law enforcement, but we all know it takes an act of Congress to get police to move an inch when it comes to technology. I spent more than 12 years in law enforcement and the past 15 in the private sector managing physical security operations, investigations and technology. My main focus now is on technology (security consulting, planning, design, implementation, solutions and tools). I work for Microsoft, which is composed of more than 850 buildings with over 100,000 employees in more than 200 countries. Microsoft calls many of its locations “campuses” and has a similar look and feel to a large college campus environment and hospitals. We have many visitors requiring parking, check-in and escorted access to certain areas. We also share the many challenges of keeping our campuses safe while balancing the need for open areas and easy access.

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My goal of this article is not to brag about how big Microsoft’s security organization is. It is to share what I’ve learned over the years to help campus security managers with insights and strategies to help them build a world-class security program.

Technology Improves Officer Productivity
Back when I was a cop, I worked for a small but innovative police department in Redmond, Wash. I was somewhat of a techie cop, and I’ve leveraged technology to help me with my police work since 1989. Back then I truly believed technology was the future, and I purchased my own laptop (Tandy from Radio Shack) with dual floppy drives weighing what felt like 20 pounds with no hard drive. Despite the rudimentary nature of my computer, I could still pump out cases three-times faster than fellow rookies who were using manual and electric typewriters. This mindset eventually led me to Microsoft, where my passion is technology and how to leverage it to make the world a safer place.

When I arrived at Microsoft in 2000, the campus had about 35,000 employees, 50 buildings in the Puget Sound and another 200 or so around the nation and internationally. Our physical security technology infrastructure was a hodgepodge of approximately 60 proprietary technologies that didn’t interoperate or scale. We had 15 control centers around the world that were all standalone. It was a mess, and I was tasked to develop a master security plan for the corporation post-9/11 as physical security was now seen as a priority.

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