How a franchise operator enhanced security through innovative cloud-based technology.
By Lisa Ciappetta
Securing franchise businesses with multiple locations can be challenging. A cloud-based integrated security system can secure each location and serve as a management tool allowing business owners to administer and monitor their operations from anywhere, at any time.
Century 21® Action Plus Realty is a New Jersey real estate agency employing more than 250 sales professionals across seven franchise offices. For Tom Hogan, president and owner of the business, attracting and retaining the best agents is key to his agency’s future.
He operates a customer service center where operators handle incoming calls and efficiently distribute inquiries to the agents for prompt follow-up. Most importantly, providing a safe and secure working environment for his agents and clientele was one of his top priorities.
Among Hogan’s challenges were the security systems for his buildings. The locations had outdated access control systems with limited capabilities and were hard to administer, time consuming and costly. For example, changes to his operating schedules had to be made from a dedicated computer located in one of the offices. This required someone to travel to the site to re-program the system or lock or unlock doors to accommodate business requirements.
Common to real estate agencies, he experiences high turnover of associates and contractors, making it difficult to manage access cards. Agents also have a tendency to share cards, which made securing the premises even more difficult. Finally, the system did not provide for any reporting or integration with video footage and updates to the existing software were unavailable, leaving the system exposed to potential hackers.
“The system was not very secure or nimble,” Hogan states. “If we needed to remotely lock the door during the business week, it was a big process and could only be done through one stationary computer.”
A Better Way
Looking for a better solution, Hogan engaged a security company to explore alternate means of securing his operations. He was looking for the latest in cloud-based access control systems that could be integrated with advanced IP-video technologies.
The access control systems are cloud-based, eliminating the need for local servers and software and fixed capital expenses and maintenance costs to maintain them. The new systems are software as a service (SaaS), which allows for automatic software updates ensuring the site is secure from the latest cyber threats.
To streamline administration of the systems, he can now remotely manage and control his physical security at all sites from a secure connection to any connected device – from anywhere. The systems also provide alerts of critical events via email or text and ensure compliance through customized reports.
Hogan also has installed new IP-video cameras in his offices that are fully integrated with the access control systems in the cloud. He is now able to monitor live video streams or review clips linked to important events. Cameras are placed both inside the offices and outside for a view of the entrance and parking lots.
The cameras are separated from the Internet on an isolated, protected network so they can’t be compromised or used maliciously. Furthermore, the systems can automatically receive updates without having to send someone on-site, saving time and money
A New Way
Hogan has also adopted new way of granting access to his building through the use of a mobile app, eliminating the need for physical keycards. The application makes it simple to activate and deactivate access privileges, is easy to use and requires no special hardware. It also solves the problems of lost or misplaced cards and card sharing.
Panic buttons and motion detectors are monitored at a central station and can be integrated with the video footage. When the button is pushed, a central station operator can immediately dispatch local authorities.
Hogan now has a standardized access control system across all locations that can help address safety concerns and improve operational efficiencies. And a single browser controls both the access control and video systems.
The new video solution allows for customized views. As an example, one layout allows him to see all of his parking lots on a single screen to determine whether parking lots have been plowed after a snowstorm or if an office should be closed for the day. It can also provide documented evidence of fraudulent activities on his properties.
Hogan is now able to remotely monitor his offices to ensure they are fully staffed and provide video escorts for employees who are uncomfortable entering or leaving the offices alone.
“My new security system is doing much more with a lower cost per user,” said Hogan. “The ability to remotely change the locking schedule on a bad weather day or to remove a repairman’s access to the building when a job was completed was the flexibility we needed. I am thrilled with this solution.”