Mar 1, 2002 12:00 PM

Shortly after last Memorial Day, security officials at Avon Corp. faced a daunting challenge the access control at its corporate data center had crashed and was beyond repair. More than 700 employee access/identification badges became worthless, and overall security was compromised.

Avon called Antar-Com Inc. (ACI), a White Plains, N.Y.-based systems integrator for help. ACI was given three weeks to tear out a 10-year-old access control system, completely rewire and install panels, provide and install new Windows NT-based servers with ID badging client stations, re-badge employees and program a new system to integrate with the newly installed video surveillance function. And it all had to be done in 21 days.

Exactly three weeks after signing the contract, ACI turned over a fully functional Software House C-CURE 800 security management system to Avon officials at the data center. William McCool, vice president of Kroll Schiff and Associates, assisted with design and planning of the system.

Located in Rye, N.Y., the single-story, 200,000-square-foot facility maintains Avon's data center, which includes records critical to company operation. Also, certain administrative and accounting functions are housed there, along with a daycare center for 50 children.

Avon is a direct seller of beauty and related products, with $5.7 billion in annual revenue. The company markets to customers in 139 countries through 3.4 million independent sales representatives.

Ronn Broadway, Avon's director of global security for North America, says employees arriving at the Rye data center by car use their access cards to enter a 558-space gated parking lot. Some employees commute to work by train, which stops just outside the building perimeter. Those employees then access the building through a pedestrian entrance located near the loading docks. All employees carry their access cards manufactured by Irvine, Calif.-based HID Corp. at all times while on the job.

The building's nine entrances are locked at all times. Visitors and vendors park outside the facility and walk to a reception area, where a receptionist grants them access by pushing a button to release the lock. Once inside, visitors sign in, are issued temporary identification badges and are then escorted into the offices by an Avon employee.

Card readers control access to each entrance of the critical data center, located within the core of the building. Avon's information technology services staff usually determines who may enter the data center, and when they are permitted to do so. Because the center operates 24 hours a day, employee access can be restricted to certain times and/or days required to perform their jobs.

The C-CURE system allows the private security firm providing the facility's guards to monitor time and attendance of its employees.

Isac Tabib, ACI's vice president, says the project presented his staff with major challenges, largely the result of the tightly condensed installation timetable.

"This was still a very busy place where people had to work each day, yet it was critical that we get an access system up and running as quickly as possible," he said. "Our plans had to minimize the impact on the people who had jobs to complete. One way we accomplished that was by quickly creating CAD drawings, performing in-house fabrication and testing while doing as much of the wiring as possible at night, when there were fewer people on-site."

Within four days, ACI programmed the servers and ID badging station and made new badges for all employees. ACI technicians also modified an automatic sliding door in the facility so it could be locked or unlocked by the C-CURE 800 system. All the system's programming was completed at ACI's offices, so when it was loaded onto the computer at Avon, it would be ready to work immediately.

By the time ACI was finished, it had connected the C-CURE 800 to more than 40 card readers and five Software House apC panels. The host computer downloads information into each panel's memory as a failsafe protection. If the host were to fail, the system would still function to limit access to unauthorized personnel.

Tabib says the quick installation was also helped by the use of a Universal Interface Board (UIB), from ITG of Oyster Bay, N.Y. The UIB, a device used in many of ACI's major installations, links field devices, such as electrified locks and the apC panels. The boards use color-coded wires and plugs to simplify system installation and maintenance. A total of 21 LEDs on each board indicate the status of the various connections, while 24 fuses protect the apC panels from damage during electrical spikes.

All access control activities, including alarms, are monitored in a control room located near the main employee entrance. The 600-square-foot command center is manned around the clock. Every building entrance is monitored by the access system and by a video surveillance camera. A total of 32 dome and fixed cameras, from Corvallis, Ore.-based Kalatel, monitor the parking lot and loading docks, main hallways in the center, the entrances to the data center and the interior of the center itself, and are linked to the C-CURE 800 access control and monitoring system for automatic camera display to the guards in the event of system-wide alarms.

Cameras also monitor an on-site store, where employees may purchase Avon products. While all cameras are viewed on four, 21-inch color monitors from Sony Security Systems, Park Ridge, N.J., in the command center, the data center manager can view video from office monitors. The daycare manager also has a camera monitor of interior and exterior entries to the area. All video is recorded by Sony VCRs tapes are kept for 30 days and are then recycled.

An audible signal is heard in the control room upon any access control system alarm. The C-CURE system immediately displays the camera view nearest to the site of an activated alarm. Avon's information technology staff helped ACI to set up the access system on the company's Wide Area Network, which allows the system to send e-mail to security officials in the event of an alarm situation. In the near future, Broadway says, alarms will be registered in the main security office located at the Avon headquarters in Manhattan.

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