Setting the Bar High with Access Control

Kemper Development Company (KDC) is a fourth-generation, family-owned real estate development company. What began as a 16-store shopping center nearly 75 years ago has become an internationally renowned hub of life and entertainment, work and leisure, relaxation and pleasure -- all at the epicenter of the city of Bellevue, one of the most sophisticated, fastest-growing markets in the U.S., known as The Bellevue Collection.

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Back to School: 1-on-1 Training, Overrides and a “Ghost”

Back to school means back to training, with several schools bringing in Open Options for not only equipping groups of system users but also one-on-one sessions for extra hands-on training. No two sessions are the same since Open Options tailors training material to meet the system administrator’s specific needs.

“Back to school time is always a busy season for Open Options training, and since late August, we’ve found ourselves supporting schools on many levels,” said Sherinda Barrow, Director of Education Services at Open Options.

On a recent visit to the Denver area, the company took the “Open Options classroom” to a local community college that has DNA Fusion implemented across multiple campuses.

“The system user had already attended Administrator training in 2016 but felt they could benefit from some personalized training,” said Barrow. “The college put together a list of topics they wanted to cover so they could expand their DNA Fusion installation and take advantage of some of the unique features offered by the software.”

During the one-on-one training, the system user learned for the first time how to issue “override” cards, so that in the event of a lockdown, emergency first responders can enter through doors that have been locked. The new feature in DNA Fusion provides a more straightforward method for securing access points while still allowing access to specific cards that are used by first responders.

Interestingly, this training session also included the identification of a “ghost.” Barrow explained, “During the visit, a ghost event popped up, and the ‘ghost’ was quickly chased down to a door position sensor that had not been properly labeled.” Furthermore, when it was discovered during the training that the college was using an older version of DNA Fusion, a collaboration between Training and Tech Support supported the end-user customer to upgrade. “Open Options’ Technical Support team sat in the wings as the customer upgraded to the latest and greatest version of DNA Fusion, and the college is currently working with Open Options training to fine-tune their lockdown procedure,” added Barrow. “It is this kind of joint effort across departments to assist our customers that make Open Options an excellent team-oriented organization.”

No DNA Fusion, No Active Directory Integration, No Problem

To secure their schools, a large school district on the gulf coast of Florida could not take any chances with a migration to new, enterprise-level access control to replace their existing access control hodge-podge that ran on five separate servers. They needed assurance that the installation of DNA Fusion with Active Directory integration would go smoothly. The customer saw value in calling in Open Options’ Professional Services.

The school district had never used DNA Fusion, and they were concerned that the integration of DNA Fusion with Active Directory would be problematic. The person responsible for access control had no experience with DNA Fusion. They requested that Professional Services support them with the software configuration and rollout. No problem.

As a proof of concept (POC), the district required the installation of a pilot system at one of their schools, consisting of 34 access-controlled doors. Open Options' Professional Services was engaged to spend a full week on-site to assist in commissioning the system and configuring Active Directory (AD) integration. The district chose DNA Fusion for the enterprise-like capabilities they wanted for access control ̶ albeit, customized for a school district.

“The decision to bring in Professional Services was because it would provide a high level of assurance that DNA Fusion and AD integration would be installed and configured properly, as well as having an on-site resource to assist with any potential issues as they might arise,” said William Murphey, Professional Services Manager at Open Options. “Our team took on the project to travel to the customer's site and work for a week with them and the dealer installing the hardware to install DNA Fusion with AD integration.”

Open Options Professional Services personnel worked with the customer's IT team to configure the servers for installation. Once completed, the installation was carried out within the time allotted, including time for testing and troubleshooting the system configuration.

“By working with the customer in such a close manner, we were able to recommend best practices and configuration options for future sites,” said Murphey. “This led to the customer redesigning the planned hardware configuration for the remainder of the sites, as well as choosing to engage Open Options Professional Services for the upcoming 3 to 4 installations to ensure project success.”

In the end, thanks to the excellent experience with the Professional Services team, the school district decided to move forward with Open Options and DNA Fusion for the rest of their schools.

Frozen: How Tech Support Helped a Customer with a Problem “Let It Go”

A school phoned Open Options’ Tech Support to report that their DNA Fusion software was freezing up randomly multiple times per hour. The problem was adversely affecting dozens of people using the system at any one time. To resolve the issue of the “frozen” access control system, Tech Support fired up the teamwork.

Zack Davis, a technician in Tech Support at Open Options, answered the call from this school and listened to the customer explain how the lockup of the system would render the software “unusable” until the program was terminated and reopened. Zack was able to remote into the customer’s computer and verify the problem. The diagnostics of DNA Fusion, along with all the other necessary log files, were uploaded back to Open Options for analysis.

When he determined that there was nothing that stood out to be causing this odd issue, and the senior technicians were not able to find anything, Zack connected with the Software Development department within Open Options, forwarding details of the problem to Gary Bell, VP of Software Development.

“The way Open Options addressed this customer’s issue is a great example of cooperation between departments,” said Nic Robran, Technical Support Manager, Open Options. “Zack kept an open line with the Software Development team and was checking multiple times a day with them to answer questions and pass on recommendations to the customer. Zack was crucial in relaying the information back and forth as quickly as he could, and he maintained a constant vigilance for emails throughout the weekend and after hours. He showed that he cared about the customer experience.”

After days of troubleshooting and constant feedback from the customer, Gary and his Software Development team discovered the root of the issue: the NREGSrv COM+ object was exceeding its pool size.

“We had never seen this at a site before, and our default setting for this was 64,” Robran explained. “This had been more than enough in the past, but due to this discovery, Development has now increased that to 128 to avoid this happening at other customer sites.”

Zack was able to get back with the customer and upgrade their system to handle the increased demand that was causing the issue on the DNA Server. To ensure all was well, Zack continued to monitor the site to verify that they were able to run DNA Fusion without it freezing up anymore.

Customer Appreciation Event Honors School’s Maintenance Department

The maintenance department of a school is rarely acknowledged publicly for a “job well done,” but the Open Options sales team, along with our partner GC&E, hosted a “Thank You” luncheon for the maintenance department of a large K-12 school district in the southeastern region of the United States to show appreciation for the work they do in the community. 

The school district has been an Open Options customer since 2015, and it currently uses DNA Fusion to secure more than three dozen schools and tens of thousands of students.   

“Our honoring a customer shows the level of partnership and relationship we have with our customers”. We’ve seen a significant increase in new & existing K-12 customers who are looking to add more security to their schools and classrooms,” said Charles Johnson, Southeast Regional Sales Manager at Open Options.

The customer appreciation event was a planned luncheon with the maintenance personnel at all levels from the school district. Maintenance helps support increasing the security of the school district. “They have done a great job over the past year, and we wanted to express our gratitude,” added Johnson.

Governor Kemp of Georgia recently announced a new grant program for public schools; each receiving $30,000 to improve security and safety in all public schools. The money received will help this large school district to add an additional 115 doors onto DNA Fusion in the next 9 months. 

The two-way relationship with Open Options makes securing K-12 worth appreciating. 

Customer‘s Frustration Roared until Professional Services Created Hakuna Matata-like User Satisfaction

Open Options Professional Services is accustomed to being proactive to help customers plan out implementations and solve complexities. But when one customer wasted 8 years being frustrated with DNA Fusion because they overlooked the value of Professional Services, the Open Options team got reactive to give the customer a problem-free, no-worry experience with DNA Fusion.

Prior to receiving Open Options’ assistance, the customer was furious. They were not getting the support from the dealer that they felt they needed to use DNA Fusion. They felt the software did not meet their needs. Reports were not working, and the software was not configured correctly. After nearly a decade of using it, the customer was gearing up to throw DNA Fusion out the door – or in their case, out of nearly 300 doors across the organization’s facilities in multiple states.

Undeterred, Professional Services swooped in to resolve the issues. John Hubbard, National Sales Engineer, was the Open Options rep who went on site. He quickly discovered that the customer was not aware of some key features that were available to them. It turned out that the dealer had not provided adequate support, and the users had never been trained on all the functionality, while the customer had underestimated the need for Professional Services to be involved.

Hubbard explained the actions he took. “I analyzed their database and helped them get the database to a size that would help DNA Fusion run faster. Once the application was running more smoothly, I found out that they were unable to run reports on the DNA Fusion clients, and I was able to resolve this issue for them. Once these issues were resolved, the customer realized that Open Options goes the extra mile to help them.”

One of the biggest issues for them was how hard it was to find doors at certain locations because the controllers were not listed together under the hardware tree; they were sorted by address. “Once I showed them how to sort them by hardware name, the customer was extremely happy. This makes it easier for them to find the various doors on their system,” he added.

Because of Open Options Professional Services, the customer learned to quickly run different information-ready reports; how to create door groups for different locations; how to add buttons to a tool bar for quick access to open doors and run direct commands for things such as a lockdown, and how they have the ability to show door status and control doors, as well as show when hardware is in alarm mode.

The impact of Professional Services to create a problem-free experience (hakuna matata-like) resulted in not only the customer reversing their decision to throw DNA Fusion out, but also doubling-down on loving DNA Fusion like never before, having a new confidence in the system, and seeing Professional Services in a totally new light. 

Ninja Course Brings Out the Best in Open Options Tech Support

The mystery of why the access control system was having problems at an entertainment center with full-scale “ninja course” and laser tag was baffling the end-user customer, who could not get sufficient support from their dealer and was left stranded. Concerned that “little ninjas” (children playing the games) would be running around the building with doors having issues, the customer called Open Options Tech Support, who answered the call and sprang into action with ninja-like speed, precision, and alacrity.

Jose Charco, a technical support expert at Open Options, listened carefully to the customer explain the problems: new employees couldn’t access the system; the hardware was offline, and DNA Fusion was down. Since the customer was not a part of our Connect Care program, they technically were supposed to go through their dealer for support. In this emergency, they were unable to contact their dealer so Open Options put the customer first. “We always assist in doing what we can to get a customer back online,” said Nicholas Robran, Technical Support Manager at Open Options.

The customer, whose five-door system consisted of one main controller and two sub-controllers, called in with the initial issues of “Access Denied: Not in Card File” when his new employees were trying to get access. He also had “SSP COMM Failure = Timeout.” From Open Options’ command center, Jose accessed the system remotely and discovered the first issue.

“The customer had his DNA Fusion software on a Windows 10 Home OS. DNA Fusion is not supported on Windows 10 Home, as it does not include all the features necessary for a fully functioning system,” explained Robran. “The first step in addressing the issue was to get the end-users system on a supported OS. Jose got him to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.”

The next step was to get a service account setup on their system to ensure everything was running with the correct permissions. Jose walked him through that setup to make sure all the checks were in the box to ensure smooth operation in the future. Once that was done, Jose was able to launch DNA Fusion and get the driver connected and online.

Furthermore, Jose had the customer locate the controller and walked him through programming and doing a reset to ensure everything was correct on the controller side. Once completed, the controller updated and came online. Jose had him do a download on the controller and test his new employees’ credentials. He verified they were now getting “Access Granted” for new employees and ensured the controller and sub-controllers were online.

“The customer was extremely grateful for the support,” said Jose Charco – Technical Support Technician. “And he said he was going to reach out to get training from Open Options, so he could better understand his system in the future.”

No Need for DIY When Training Makes Improvement Painless

A large end-user customer with a household brand name had been having employees take a DIY approach to access control. It was a flop. Each department was making DNA Fusion function differently because of a lack of understanding, causing pain for colleagues in other departments at other locations. Training from Open Options was the answer to doing it themselves. 

Prior to training on DNA Fusion, one location thought they had to create new time schedules every time they needed to make a new access level, while another location was unaware that access levels could be adjusted. The customer needed help taking better control of DNA Fusion and using it to their full benefit, especially with customizing the software interface for specific operators and adding cardholders.

“Without a full understanding of the software, there was a lack of cohesiveness in changes that were being made to cardholders, access levels and time schedules,” said Brittany Tate, Technical Trainer at Open Options. “The employees were a mix of self-taught learners who were accustomed to a different software that was more limited than DNA Fusion. They were looking for a way to customize their access control software without causing confusion for other departments.”

The customer arranged for on-site training with an Open Options training specialist for five of their most involved users to take back to their individual departments and help spread the knowledge.

For example, they were previously accustomed to adding cardholders, but wanted more ways to categorize them. The Open Options trainer worked through numerous scenarios where they were able to add personnel groups and make custom fields more cohesive. She equipped these power users to prevent issues from occurring as well as doing more effective troubleshooting.

One participant said, “I’ve been in DNA Fusion for a few years, but I had not been taught how to use it properly. I’m actually learning stuff in this class that I can change right now." Another participant said, "Those drag and drop options are amazing. I never knew there were so many ways to assign access levels and even copy levels from one card to another. Open Options makes things easy."

Because of the training, those responsible for adding hardware and time schedules now understood how their descriptions impacted those responsible for access levels and personnel. Furthermore, learning about the option to add a card block was so well-received that one participant called it “a game changer for us.” 

Tate summed it up: “With the help of providing real-life scenarios, one-on-one attention and live equipment, Open Options Training was able to bridge the knowledge gap. By the end of class, everyone had a better understanding of how their department could work together to make DNA Fusion work best for them.”

How Is Technology Reshaping the Security Discussion for K-12 Schools?

Ben Vestal, our VP of Sales and Business Development, sat down with a few security professionals in the education world to discuss the changing security protocol for schools.

A shift is happening in the security industry because of a tighter alignment of technology and the human factor within K-12 school environments. It is evolving the security discussion for schools from traditional managed security to a new, thought-provoking stream of conversation around “managed freedom.”

Read the full article in the: September/ October issue of Security Technology Executive

Business Growth Opportunities + Training = Satisfied Customer

An integrator had a dilemma. As the increasing end-user demand for Open Options’ DNA Fusion platform created more and more growth opportunities for their business, they realized that they didn’t have enough of their personnel trained to help end-users from start to finish across hardware and software components. Open Options’ Training department came to the rescue. 

With several projects already calling for the use of DNA Fusion in the near future, the integrator needed an on-site facilitation of training on the popular Open Options platform. Interestingly, the half dozen participants came to class apprehensive, with preconceived notions about the “complexities” of what they thought DNA Fusion held in regard to programming panels and adding users. Soon after the class began, they were pleasantly surprised.

“After breaking down each section, ranging from adding hardware to personnel and more, there was a clear understanding of what DNA Fusion was capable of and how to use it to the benefit of their customers,” said Brittany Tate, Technical Trainer, Open Options. “At the end of the training, all of the participants said they were appreciative, not only of the training, but also of Open Options as a whole for making everything user-friendly.”

After learning the software from installation to completion, they left the three days of training better prepared to fulfill the responsibilities at hand as integrators of security solutions. Now, the company had enough team members certified to meet the growing demand and do the job.  They could start immediately applying in the field what they had learned in class.  Also, as a follow-up, they signed up for the new training portal offered by Open Options to assist with classes or WebEx sessions for their end-user customers in the future

“Investing in the training from Open Options provided a growth opportunity for the company,” said Tate. “We received positive feedback about the hands-on practice with real hardware, as well as our presenting clear solutions to serious protocols, such as creating a lockdown method.”

One participant wrote on the feedback form, "As a consulting engineer, I will be able to convey Open Options benefits to potential customers. This overview covers all the basics; I should be able to answer all their questions."

Another commented that he had "a much deeper understanding of the features and functions available" that can be used going forward for their customers. The company confirmed that the training was time well spent.