Once upon a time, AV and security integrators could talk about being “network centric” as a unique selling point, but that isn’t the case anymore. IT projects are now central to technology.
No matter what you design and install—intercoms, access control, fire alarm, nurse call, videoconferencing systems, etc.—it’s now vital to have IT network expertise.
In the 2022 State of the Industry survey report, released earlier this year by Commercial Integrator and NSCA, nearly 35% of integrators described themselves as “completely ready” to jump into IT projects.
But before you make the leap to a full-fledged IT integrator, there are some things you should have in place first, especially when it comes to the risk involved with working on a client’s IT projects or network.
Cybersecurity is a Must
Customers across all markets are concerned about cybersecurity and the vulnerability of their own data—as well as the customer data they store. In fact, we anticipate that your customers will start to ask integrators to provide assurance that the systems and devices they connect to the network won’t create security issues.
If you want to be able to work on a client’s network, then you need to demonstrate that your team is trustworthy, certified, and has cybersecurity insurance in case of a security event. We recommend investing in two types of insurance coverage:
- Third-party coverage, which protects you in case of a customer breach due to your software or services
- First-party coverage, which protects you in the event that your firm’s own data is breached
When you can promote your own security posture and offer peace of mind to customers, it differentiates you from less-innovative competitors that don’t prioritize security.
Policies Are Important for IT Projects
Because many of the AV, security, life safety, and communications systems that integrators now design and deploy will connect to clients’ enterprise networks, you face a new responsibility: These solutions not only need to work correctly, but also need to be secure to eliminate potential vulnerabilities.
As of June 2020, integrators must ensure that Division 27 and Division 28 cybersecurity standards are met and included in all IT projects.
Before you begin IT projects with a client, we recommend working with them to establish rules and guidelines for the project. For example, what response plans will be put in place in case of a breach or security incident?
“We always consult with the IT manager for the facility anytime we’re touching the network,” says Shawn Hansson, founder and CEO of Logic Integration. “Each jobsite and customer gets their own unique, newly generated password. This has helped, but it’s definitely not bulletproof. Security is a very big concern, and we’re always learning how to better our team and projects.”
Training Provides Peace of Mind
To make sure your team members are prepared for the technicalities and responsibilities that come with working on client networks, IT certifications and education are good options to consider.
CompTIA offers certification in core IT skills, including networks and security, as well as infrastructure certifications for subjects like the cloud and server. It also offers cybersecurity certifications for subjects like penetration testing and behavioral analytics, as well as a data/analytics certification.
Defendify offers education on subjects like security policies, phishing, and general cybersecurity awareness.
NSCA CEO Chuck Wilson emphasizes that, if integrators want to position themselves as a player in the market, then they must invest in IT training. “Otherwise,” he says, “there will be no business for them to pursue.”
In the State of the Industry report’s follow-up webinar, where survey results were explored in more detail, Christina De Bono, president at ClearTech Media, explains that all members of her company’s technical team have IT certification or expertise. “In every single project we’re on, almost every single type of equipment we’re putting in has to be configured to the network, which requires IT experience.”
If you have questions about the best way to get started with IT projects, then NSCA can help. Send us your questions!