Scalable Key Management Systems Strengthen Security
With apologies to Benjamin Franklin, there is a third certainty in life beyond death and taxes: change. This is particularly true in business, as organizations are continually growing and evolving. As they do, their needs change, sometimes dramatically. Therefore, any solution deployed today – whether for security or non-security applications – must not only meet current goals and purposes but must also be capable of growing to address future needs. Therefore, it’s not a stretch to say scalability is among the most valuable capabilities a system can deliver.
Scalable systems allow organizations to easily expand their solution to accommodate changes in size, capabilities, number of users and applications, delivering maximum value and return on investment (ROI) while extending the lifecycle of a solution. One vital component of a solution’s scalability is the ability to maintain a high level of performance under increased demands. Any system that can’t be easily scaled can create a number of challenges for organizations, with expansion often translating into a complete system redesign, or rip-and-replace. Given the cost, complexity and potential downtime associated with both, organizations must seek out solutions that are capable of scaling quickly and easily.
Two Paths to Scalability
When it comes to the nuts and bolts of scaling systems, there are two primary approaches. The first is to beef up existing solutions to expand the capabilities of hardware or software to accommodate an increased number of users or volume of data. This might mean increasing processing power, memory or storage capacity, for example. While this is the most convenient way to scale a system, not every product is built to scale in this way. Even for those that are, the process will likely involve downtime, causing lost productivity and inconvenience.
With networked key management systems, this kind of downtime simply isn’t an option. Security is a paramount concern for organizations, and the stakes are high to ensure that people, locations and assets are protected.
Controlling and monitoring physical keys plays a major role in assuring a high level of security, and taking a system offline for expansion introduces far too much risk.
The Soft Approach
The second strategy for scaling – adding modules or systems using software – is better suited for expanding the size, capabilities and applications of a system. This strategy eliminates the downtime that often results from increasing the load-handling capacity of a single unit, while delivering the added benefit of system reliability and availability. As a result, the solution will continue to provide a high level of performance on an ongoing basis, both during the initial scaling-up process and as the system continues to grow in the future. Should an organization encounter an issue with one or more of the units, others will most likely remain online, ensuring that the entire system is not compromised.
In addition to improved redundancy, today’s networked key management systems also offer control, flexibility and strong auditing and reporting. Software-based modular scalability enables these solutions to track keys while allowing users to remove keys from and return them to any cabinet within the system.
An organization is able to assign each individual user-specific permissions that provide users access to only those keys they are authorized to take. Access to a cabinet itself is controlled and tracked with PIN pads or other criteria unique to each user. Further, having a single, common user database ensures system integrity and enables tracking and auditing of all transactions and user history, providing up to date information about key usage in real time. Should keys not be returned to a cabinet by the established time, the system can generate alerts to allow the organization to quickly take action.
Therefore, any downtime for the key management system – such as that associated with scaling a system by increasing the capabilities of existing hardware – significantly weakens security. Choosing a scalable system facilitates the process and eliminates potentially costly, time-consuming procedures that could delay implementation for particularly sensitive areas. In the best case, organizations are not only able to add units easily, but will not need to configure individual cabinets, further reducing the time and cost of expanding a system.
More of the Same
What’s more, expanding systems built to be scalable with software and add-on modules eliminates potential compatibility issues that can cause system downtime, as all hardware added to the system will automatically integrate with existing units. This interoperability is a major benefit, as one of the main strengths of networked key management solutions is the ability to synchronize data and other information across all cabinets and other hardware that makes up the system, including those that are newly deployed.
Growth, change and evolution are inevitable in business, making the ability to scale solutions vital for all organizations. This is especially true with security solutions, where ‘life and death’ can be much more than hyperbole. Easily scalable key management systems deliver time and cost savings, redundancy, increased reliability and many more benefits, while software-based expansion ensures interoperability of networked solutions. All these factors add up to stronger security, improved ease of use and increased ROI, both today and as organizational needs inevitably change in the future.