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Why Colocation Data Centers Can't Scale Biometrics Effectively

Unfortunately, the biometric systems previously deployed are not meeting the evolving demands placed on colocation data centers by their customers or their security teams.

4 Min Read
Why Colocation Data Centers Can't Scale Biometrics Effectively

Josh Solomon is Manager of the Data Center Division at BioConnect.

Colocation data centers are hands down the largest consumers of commercial biometric technologies for access control.

So how come every colocation provider I speak to is unhappy with the way biometric solutions scale inside their data centers? The reason is biometric systems are inherently hardware focused and almost always offer no ability to scale, integrate or support at enterprise scale.

For colocation providers, security is not a "keeping the lights on" activity but rather a driving factor in the day-to-day success of business. Biometric solutions are actually a key selling feature of their data centers.

Unfortunately, the biometric systems previously deployed are not meeting the evolving demands placed on colocation data centers by their customers or their security teams. As we evaluate what is truly required to deploy, maintain and scale an enterprise biometric solution in a colocation data center there are three core challenges in the way of a better biometric solution.

Lack of Standardized Deployments

This is the biggest issue colocation providers face with biometrics.

Each facility they operate has deployed biometrics, but each has done so differently. Whether that means different technologies (finger vs hand), or standalone systems at each data center, the one thing that is clear is there is no standard way to deploy biometrics.

This creates a ton of headaches for data center managers and security teams because it significantly reduces their ability to operate effectively. More concerning is the negative impact it creates on the customer experience.

Imagine this scenario. A customer leases space in five data centers. At each location anyone requiring access is forced to stop, check in with security, and enroll his or her biometric. The customer experience slows down and the enterprise has to manage multiple identities. The fast-paced environment of colocation does not allow for this type of friction.

The issue is that each data center runs completely standalone opposed to as part of an ecosystem of locations.

This also creates a large amount of deployment risk. We often see sporadic/inconsistent programming from facility to facility that negatively effects the way the systems perform.

Lack of Integration to Access Control

Lets take a second to think about who truly interacts with the biometric system the most inside the data center. Is it the engineers? No. Is it the IT staff? How about the security system design team? Wrong.

It’s the security guards.

Security guards are tasked with managing the day-to-day operations of these systems and usually the inclusion of a biometrics means… more work.

With high turnover and lower technical skills, the security guards can be challenged to operate the biometric system correctly. The data center's access control system is managed correctly while the biometric system is neglected creating bad data, security risks and the perception that biometrics don’t work.

The challenge is that access control providers do not have the resources to build and maintain biometric integrations. Their businesses are too large and biometric revenue does not yet represent a compelling reason to lead these efforts.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some access control systems that built their own biometric integrations. However most were completed in the early 2000s and have not been updated since. While these integrations provide a stronger experience, they struggle to allow the colocation provider to scale their biometric use as they are rarely updated due to competing development priorities.

Lack of Enterprise Support

The biometric industry has been extremely hardware orientated since its birth. This is because most vendors entered the space seeking to build solutions that met federal requirements. As the need for biometric solutions continues to shift towards consumer and enterprise markets these solutions begin to feel like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

The challenge with this is that the biometric vendor usually has a “device only” point of view.

The results? The inability to support deployments that span multiple locations and regions, require high availability and are completed by multiple systems integrators.

How Do We Move Forward?

The colocation market is not going to slow down.

The need for colocation becomes critical as cloud computing, IOT, VR and machine learning create a immense amount of data. As the enterprise continues down this path, privacy and more complex compliance/regulation requirements (PCI, HIPAA, SOC, etc.) are a major concern that will only drive biometric growth.

So if you believe the above to be true, how do we make biometric systems a better fit inside our digital factories?

As a colocation provider I would be actively look for software-focused solutions. The ability to operate an enterprise scale biometric system will often provide strong integration to access control and better visibility to support your data centers. The difference between leveraging a solutions provider versus a hardware provider will not only allow you to overcome these core challenges but also increase the long term success with identity solutions.

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating. View previously published Industry Perspectives in our Knowledge Library.

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