Adequately protecting your company's people, assets, and data requires a well-developed set of practical security guidelines that everyone at your organization must understand and follow. These safeguards will vary widely across companies and locations. For some businesses, these safeguards will center on who can walk through the front door or which employees can access a server room. Other companies may require in-depth employee training, alarms and video surveillance.
Physical security solutions are integral to every business's long-term success, regardless of size, industry or location. Luckily, today's organizations have a wide range of cost-effective solutions and easy-to-follow best practices to help protect against security issues – before they cause irreparable damage.
Importance of corporate physical security
Corporate physical security is easy to overlook in a business landscape with a growing emphasis on remote workers and cloud-based systems. Still, our collective cyberthreat vigilance shouldn't come at the cost of physical security measures. After all, even the best available cybersecurity measures are helpless against someone with physical access to your systems.
According to IBM's annual data breach report, malicious insider breaches took an average of 306 days to identify and contain – highlighting the need to limit system access points and maintain detailed security logs with regular reviews for suspicious activity. These insider breaches cost corporations an average of $4.61 million in 2021, and many could have been avoided with better security measures in place.
Best practices for maintaining physical security
Developing a foolproof set of best practices for facility security requires an honest assessment of potential vulnerabilities and threats. Despite having more valuable items, businesses only account for a little more than one-third of all burglaries in the United States, according to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program. That's mainly because business buildings are more likely to install effective security systems than residential buildings and homes.
But the right alarm, video camera, or smart security system can only function properly if the people who use these tools have the right training and mindset for workplace security.
Visitor policies and visitor management systems
Regardless of your organization's size or visitor frequency – including clients, vendors, job applicants, and friends or family members – it's essential to develop a workplace visitor policy that everyone at your company can understand and follow to mitigate outside threats.
If you're unsure where to begin, start with a basic visitor policy and procedures template and modify it to suit the unique needs of your personnel, assets and location. Here are a few key visitor management guidelines to consider:
- Visitors should have a set appointment before arriving.
- All visitors must check in with a front desk, security gate, front office, or reception area and provide some form of identification.
- The check-in personnel should provide all visitors with a guest pass; visitors should wear the guest pass so it can be seen at all times.
- Checked-in visitors should wait in a designated reception area until they're met by the employee with whom they have an appointment.
- Visitors should not misuse the company's internet connection or disclose any confidential information. They shouldn't take unauthorized photos nor record audio or video without written consent.
- Visitors should check out with the front desk when their appointment ends and return their guest pass.
According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, around 75% of employees have stolen from an employer. While it's difficult for many employers to view their employees as potential thieves, one of the easiest ways to deter theft is with a video surveillance system that makes it easy to catch criminals in the act. In fact, the mere presence of a video recording device is often enough to deter a potential thief who may otherwise believe they have an easy opportunity.
Businesses with sensitive data and equipment need secure ways to restrict access to facilities, rooms and equipment. The best access control systems offer multiple security layers through a variety of authentication methods.
Standard office access control systems use physical credentials – such as RFID cards and key fobs – that grant the carrier entry to restricted areas when swiped near a wall-mounted reader. These systems typically include access logs that supervisors can use to track employee movement across security entry points.
In environments that require stricter security measures, multifactor authentication is common – including biometric devices capable of identifying unique physiological characteristics, such as an employee's fingerprint, iris, face and voice.
Alarms are a key business security system feature for stopping a robbery or alerting your staff to an emergency, such as a fire or carbon monoxide leak. Modern alarm systems often work in conjunction with video surveillance devices that you can manage from a cell phone; they often include automated notifications to alert police and fire departments.
Businesses typically must choose between wired and wireless alarm systems, which both have their drawbacks.
Wired systems consist of sensors installed at key access points – such as doors and windows – to create a hardwired network throughout the building. Once an access point is breached, the alarm is triggered and notifications are sent over a phone line to alert the proper authorities. These systems can be expensive to install and may not function properly if the phone lines go down.
Wireless systems work with similar sensors and access points, but send notifications through a broadband Wi-Fi or cellular network. These cloud-based systems are typically less expensive to install and come with the benefit of monitoring your security system through a mobile app. However, wireless systems require a constant data connection to function correctly.
Regardless of the type of alarm system you select, it's essential to consider professional installation, 24/7 monitoring and backup power options to ensure your system can effectively protect your assets.
Whether in retail or corporate settings, employees are arguably the best security measure at your disposal. That's why it's crucial to develop a culture of awareness to help protect your physical assets, data and staff.
Everyone at your company should understand your workplace visitor policy and receive regular training on identifying and reporting suspicious activity in a professional and timely manner. This training should include what to do in an emergency, since CNBC's Momentive Small Business Survey reports that 40% of small businesses do not reopen after a natural disaster.
You might want to run drills to help train your staff and reinforce the importance of being vigilant against any potential external threats.
Consider hiring a physical security supervisor. These professionals earn $53,850 to $169,940 per year in the United States, with a median salary of $104,850, but they can be well worth the investment. Many of them have experience with law enforcement, fire departments, the military and other government agencies where they've been trained in the latest security measures.
A physical security supervisor's primary role is to develop, implement and oversee all aspects of safety for your business and personnel. For most companies, that starts with a comprehensive risk assessment, followed by statements of work and standard operating procedures developed alongside internal stakeholders.
A physical security supervisor will also manage all security personnel, control badge distribution among staff, and train all employees for emergencies such as natural disasters. A great physical security supervisor will help implement a comprehensive security system that detracts would-be thieves from attempting a burglary, while also ensuring the safety of your staff in any situation.