Friday, September 27, 2013

The Art of Asset Management for Higher Education Institutions

Car keys on documentFor universities and colleges, controlling who is in possession of assets such as electronic equipment, department resources and keys to dormitories, research labs and administrative offices can be a time-consuming task, especially if key control officers can't always be nearby to physically monitor the check-in and checkout process.

For instance, when the College of William and Mary's Sandra Prior was promoted to director of the Environment, Health and Safety Department, she was charged with maintaining an inventory of 30 to 40 radioactive sealed sources. The problem was, her office was located in a separate building from where the sources were stored, making it difficult for her to be available when someone needed access to the sources.

In situations such as Prior's, it is easy to sacrifice security for convenience in an attempt to streamline users' access to keys and assets. But despite the appeal of easy access, security needs to be a top priority for higher education institutions.

Michael Burch, access control supervisor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, says it best in an article by Campus Safety Magazine: "We have a mandate to care for our students, faculty and staff as well as the buildings themselves, so we need to be proactive in providing the best level of security that we can. At the same time, security can be intrusive, so we need to minimize the inconvenience to the people we serve."

Like Burch, Prior recognized the need for an "inventory control means that gave faculty ready access while still maintain[ing] the integrity of a good inventory control process."

Finding a Balance Between Convenience and Security

Electronic key control system containing sources
The KeyTrak Guardian system Sandra Prior implemented in her department

Fortunately, as Prior discovered, providers of electronic key and asset management systems have addressed the accessibility-versus-security quandary. These systems are designed to provide three essential elements of asset control:

  • Key and asset storage
  • Access levels
  • A 100 percent verifiable audit trail

By meeting the security standards higher education institutions require without making it unnecessarily difficult for authorized people to gain access to the keys they need, electronic key and asset management systems can be the key to implementing a well-rounded key control policy.

As for Prior, her research led her to the KeyTrak Guardian. The system's individual lockers provide more security than the padlocked flammables cabinet that was previously used by the department. In addition, the system allows her to automatically grant faculty members access to the sources through fingerprint biometrics, ensuring that access is only granted to authorized users. Because transaction records are stored in the system, Prior is not required to be present to check keys in and out.

To read the full story of Prior's experience with the Guardian system, click here.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Electronic Key Management Systems: Common Misconceptions — Part 4

So far in this series, we’ve addressed three common misconceptions people have about electronic key control systems:

In this last installment, we’ll address one of the most common misconceptions people have.

Misconception #4: The Cost Isn't Justifiable

Man with Empty Wallet
For many businesses, the initial investment of a key control system can be off-putting. But, as they say, you get what you pay for. When it comes to key and asset management, it’s important to keep the big picture in mind.

Before deciding against an electronic key control system for budgetary reasons alone, weigh the price of the key control system itself against the potential cost of lost or stolen keys and assets and even lawsuits.

Consider these real-life accounts of key control gone wrong:

  • An apartment complex was found liable in the death of a former tenant after the handyman used a master key to enter the tenant’s apartment and murder her.
  • Total Cost: $10.8 million
  • An adjunct instructor at a community college was charged with using a master key to steal textbooks from faculty members’ offices.
    Total Cost: $20,000
  • A former Tiffany & Co. executive was arrested for stealing and reselling a stash of jewelry.
    Total Cost: $1 million

In each of the above cases, the price of an electronic key control system would have been a fraction of the cost of the security breaches affecting the assets, keys and people the keys were intended to protect. When you have adequate key control measures in place, you reduce your chances of people gaining unauthorized access to keys and assets. For those who do have access to keys, you are able to automatically create an audit trail that can aid in tracking down stolen keys.

It’s true that there are less expensive alternatives to electronic key control systems. What you save in the initial investment, however, leaves you vulnerable to security breaches that could cost you far more than the price of a key control system in terms of lost or stolen assets, re-keying costs or lawsuits. As Lawrence J. Fennelly states in his "Handbook of Loss Prevention and Crime Prevention," "Key control is an extremely important inclusion in a crime prevention or security survey."

Can you think of any other objections to purchasing an electronic key control system? Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Visitors' Cars Raided After Man Steals Keys From YMCA

Every year over $1 billion in personal belongings are stolen from vehicles. One of the most convenient places thieves can gain access to victims' keys is behind the front desk at a fitness center.

Visitors readily turn over their personal items to the front desk while they work out, expecting them to be secure. However, key racks are often highly visible and accessible to criminals.

This was the case at the Sarasota, FL YMCA. Peter Strohminger made a habit of stealing items from YMCA visitors' cars by simply lifting their car keys off the front desk key rack and returning them after he was through. In the first incident he stole a wallet, and in the second he was caught by the would-be victim and a YMCA supervisor.

The YMCA has since moved its key rack to an area only staff members can access, but without proper key security there still exists an opportunity for theft. Electronic key control systems can prevent this sort of theft, allowing businesses to store keys and assets in tamper-proof drawers where only authorized employees can gain access to visitors' items by entering a password or scanning their fingerprint.

To learn more about how electronic key control systems can prevent theft of keys and valuable items, view a video of how KeyTrak systems work.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Electronic Key Management Systems: Common Misconceptions — Part 3

Backup disk in drive
In part 2 of this series, we established that using an electronic key control system doesn't have to be complicated.

But for some, just the possibility of data loss seems to outweigh the benefits key systems provide. A common fear people hold is that the loss of this valuable data is inevitable. Read on to see how you can ease this fear.

Misconception #3: Data Loss Is Completely Beyond Your Control

According to a study conducted by the University of Texas, 93 percent of businesses that suffer a catastrophic data loss do not survive. To prevent this outcome, there are several preventative measures your business can take to protect your data starting with a comprehensive disaster recovery (DR) strategy.

Disaster Recovery Strategy

When incorporating an electronic key management system into your infrastructure, make provisions in your DR plan for backing up and storing transaction data. (If your DR plan is still a work in progress, check out this DR plan checklist to help you get started.) Document these procedures so all your employees are aware of the process.

Daily Backups

As soon as you begin using your electronic key control system, set your system to automatically store backup data on a CD-RW or USB flash drive at the end of each day and print and file reports showing current inventory and checked out keys. You should also use an uninterruptible power supply so that in the event of a power outage you can run a manual backup.

Data Storage

The timeless advice "never put all your eggs in one basket" should be applied to your data storage strategy. Store copies of your data off-site so even if your facility is destroyed by either a natural or man-made disaster, you can access your information.

Electronic key control systems are efficient, easy to use and have manageable data recovery solutions, but is the up-front cost really worth it? Check out part 4 of our series in a few weeks to find out.