[IMGCAP(1)]The nice thing about having a regular blog here on Accounting Technology is that I sometimes get a second chance to amplify on something I wrote earlier either on the blog or in an article for Accounting Today. A short while back I did a piece on cybersecurity for Accounting Today. In it, I made the point that physical security in your office is also important.

One thing I didn’t get the chance to add, due to story size constraints, was surveillance. Video surveillance is something that’s pretty easy to add in your office, and serves as both a deterrent to people poking around where they shouldn’t, and making a record of when they do.

I’ve got a modest amount of experience with surveillance equipment. A few years ago when I was running a competitive test lab in the imaging industry, we promised our clients that the tests we were running for them would be private, and that if we were also running a project for a competitor, each test would be held in a separate, locked suite. To bolster client confidence, I also had a video system installed in our server cabinet. The system we used was from Swann Communications and consisted of four cameras with Infrared “see-in-the-dark” capabilities, a DVR (digital video recorder) that could store a week’s worth of video when set to start recording only when it sensed movement, and a standard 17-inch flat panel monitor. It was connected to our network, so the lab could be monitored remotely.

This particular system used thick coax cable to connect the cameras, but we had dropped ceilings in the lab so we had no problem running the cable. We easily had the system up and running in a half day. In the end, we never actually had a situation where the surveillance was needed, but that’s kind of the ideal situation—where prevention is more desirable than hindsight, and clients were impressed by our diligence. The whole system cost us about $1,500, though it probably would have run three times that if we had needed to hire someone to pull cable through the ceilings.

But you might not need anything that complex or pricy, depending on how many areas you need to keep an “eye” on. One inexpensive solution that I’ve tested in a local library is the Swann ADW-410 All-in-One Wi-Fi security system. It uses wireless Wi-Fi cameras with infrared capability (up to four), and has a small 7-inch monitor that can record on an SD card.

The base system costs $250 with a single camera and might be sufficient to monitor a limited area, such as keeping an eye on a front door. Extra cameras cost about $100 each, and can be set to view hallways and alternate entrances. Swann is not the only company that makes this kind of wireless monitor, just the only company I have experience with. Swann’s hardware is sold at Best Buy and other major retailers.

The point of all of this rambling is not that you need to be paranoid for a surveillance system to make sense. Nor do you have to have industrial-level equipment that costs a fortune.

But if you have people walking around in your office who don’t work there, having at least a minimal video surveillance system might be a good idea. Even if it turns out that it never has to be used, it’s a good deterrent, especially if there are prominent signs announcing that the area is under video surveillance.

The downside of this approach is that there’s a good chance that your staff may feel that the system is there to keep an eye on them, and that doesn’t make for good working conditions or relationships.

The answer to this is careful positioning of the cameras—they should be set to cover sensitive areas of your office rather than pointed at specific people. Make sure that your staff understands that it’s there to protect them and their work, provide another layer in your practice’s security, and that it’s not there to spy on them.

If you set the cameras where they have a wide field of vision and are positioned to cover public areas like hallways and sensitive areas such as the doors to partner offices, hopefully you can keep track of where visitors go without making your staff feel like they are working under a microscope. One last word of caution in positioning cameras: never point one at a rest room door. You don’t want your staff thinking that you monitor their use of the rest rooms, and in many localities, monitoring this area is against the law.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Accounting Today content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access