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In our old computer room, we stored paper, toner, ink cartridges, floppy disks, and three printers to which general staff members needed access. Not that we don't trust our people, but it was in the best interests of the firm to move those resources out of the computer room and lock the door. We now run computer operations with "authorized personnel only." No one really needs to be in the computer room other than someone who works hands-on with the servers. At their insistence (grin), we also granted access to senior management. Many studies on security say that the biggest threat of attack on a company's computer system comes from the company's own employees. We're simply trying to protect our employees from being put in that position.

How do you secure the computer room?

There are many choices in security technology to protect doors: key, manual, and electronic keypads; card readers; fingerprint analyzers; retinal scan; and on and on. We selected a card reader with fobs—ours are little teardrop-shaped objects that fit on a keyring, 2 inches long, 1 inch wide, and 1/4-inch thick. Other card readers use keycards that are the same size and shape as a credit card and can be carried in a wallet or purse. Why choose one over the other? We had some help in that regard. Our building management company already secured the outside doors and elevators with card readers for off-hours use. They also issued every employee a fob. When we looked at our security alternatives, it made sense to use the same system. We had the same company (Honeywell) install card readers on each of our stairwell doors and our computer room door. The security software runs on one of our servers and we control the programming. All employees have access to the stairwell doors on our system, but only IT and senior management can get into the computer room.

I'll take a moment here to discuss some of the pros and cons of the other systems. Keys are a simple solution, but keys are easily reproducible and former employees may have a copy. With keypads, most companies just assign one code and give it out to everybody. As with a password, anyone can find out the keycode and use it. Changing the keycode every time someone leaves is a hassle. Maintaining separate codes for each person is even more of a hassle. I can't really discuss the virtues of palm readers and retinal scanners, as I didn't even consider them for our new facility due to cost and complexity.

I really like card readers with key fobs because each person is issued a unique fob with a serial number. The security system automatically logs each time the key fob is used, recording which door was attempted, when, and whether the user gained entry. When someone leaves the company, we ask him or her to return the fob. If we don't get it, we can still lock that person out by removing the serial number from the software.

In summary, the computer room that you design will fit your specific tastes. This article touched on many of the things that were influential in my company's decisions. We went for simple and functional. We kept the power and network connections off of the floors and walls and brought it in overhead. This design keeps it neat and presentable. It's fun to show off your new computer room to VIPs.

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