How are you keeping track of the visitors going into and out of your facility? If you’re like most buildings, it’s probably a paper logbook. You know, the thing people illegibly scribble their names into; constantly ask, “What time is it?” for the time column; and sometimes flip pages peeking at who was there before them. For places that otherwise have sophisticated systems in place around security and privacy, it seems a bit odd this is still the most common way to keep a record of who’s going in and out. The paper sign-in book is a relic.
Fortunately, more-modern solutions are now available, and the paper and pen book is being replaced by more-sophisticated digital systems. These systems are easy to set up and use, and they create a complete exportable cloud-based record of every person who visits the building. This kind of digital record is particularly important for data centers, where security and compliance are critical. Data centers uniquely must track who’s going into and out of their front doors. To meet compliance demands, both their own and those of their customers, they must be able to provide complete records of everyone who has visited the facility. That’s one of the reasons why leading data centers are ditching the paper record.
As a data center operator, your company actually has unique auditing and compliance requirements. Digital sign-in systems are quite helpful here, especially when you’re multihomed and need a central way to search for visitors. Your customers will often want to know which of their employees were at your data center in the last few months. The reason could be security, compliance, investigations and so on. They’ll ask for this data (e.g., names, emails and signatures) and they’ll want it in a format they can consume easily (be it on Excel or other software). When all this information is on the computer, you can be a true partner and help your customer accurately and quickly—and for any date range. Imagine that request if you were using paper log books; it’s impractical. This situation would become even more difficult should that customer then need this information across all data centers, over the last few months or years, and for a variety of their employees or contractors. Oh, and they need it in the next hour. Having this information centralized and in a digital form is critical to making such common requests even possible.
Speaking of compliance, it’s a real focal point in data center security. SOC1, SOC2, HIPAA: there’s no shortage of compliance demands that data center customers might impose and that data centers themselves might be subject to. In many cases, establishing compliance means being able to provide a complete and accurate visitor log of people going in and out of your facilities. Some data centers have internal compliance teams that focus exclusively on helping the customer meet compliance and certification requirements. They also are able to provide visitor information when the customers get requests, and this ability is important to maintaining customer relationships. Scanning logbooks is totally impractical. When audits come up, you want the right data at your fingertips; you want a digital record that’s easy to export. Modern visitor registration makes that task simple. When and if auditors come, you’ll be ready if you have digital sign-in technology in place.
Another benefit to digital visitor registration is it’s a better first impression. Data centers have some pretty advanced tech behind their walls. This feature should translate to the front desk too. Visitors coming in and out of your building should get the impression that you’re always up to date. Digital registration not only looks modern, but it makes sometimes awkward (yet still critical) things like signing NDAs easy—just sign on the screen with a finger or digital pen. The visitor experience is fast and easy, and a proper sign-in system will even remember visitors so they don’t need to type in their details next time they stop in. Depending on security requirements, the best visitor-registration systems also offer features such as automatic visitor-badge printing, photo capture using the front-facing camera and email receipts of the visit.
Things can get pretty efficient too. Is staff unavailable at the front desk when someone shows up? No worries; a proper digital system will send a text message or even Slack or HipChat notification to your techs to let them know they’re needed up front for a visitor or delivery. This capability definitely beats ringing a bell on the desk or sitting around waiting for someone to show up.
Another benefit is saving paper. Equinix has data centers in 40 markets across five continents and is using iPad-based visitor registration for their facilities around the world. With digital visitor registration in place, they can accurately keep track of everyone who is going in and out of their front doors. For the company, saving paper was one of the many reasons it started using digital visitor registration. Simplifying compliance and improving security were also important.
Managing non-paper-based systems doesn’t have to be hard. Using just an iPad and a stand, you can get set up to sign-in visitors in minutes. You also have a central dashboard that administrators can log into from any computer to see visitors as they arrive. You can customize the data you collect from each visitor by field (e.g., name, email and purpose of visit), and you can also manage multiple locations using the visitor-registration system centrally. The dashboard shows all the devices as well as whether they’re online or out-of-date, and whether the associated printer is out of paper. Plus, setup roles prevent people from accidentally changing settings and give certain people access to preregister visitors so you know who’s expected when.
It’s amazing just how much is possible when you rethink the front desk. You don’t need to be an Equinix to see real opportunity in visitor registration. The existing paper-based system is insufficient for today’s environment. Audits, compliance and customer requests are critical to a data center’s operations and business; they need accuracy and efficiency. The inefficiencies of that paper book just aren’t worth it anymore.
About the Author
Larry Gadea is the Founder and CEO of Envoy, which provides a visitor-registration product that is eliminating paper sign-in books and providing an iPad-based guest sign-in experience to millions of visitors in 55 countries worldwide. Larry started his career as a software engineer at 17, having been recruited by Google out of high school. He later joined Twitter as one of the early people driving its ability to scale. Wanting to build a similar global company, in 2013 Larry went on to design the initial website and app for what eventually became Envoy. Larry holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree from Carleton University.