There are tremendous demands placed on IT departments at logistics companies today, which must operate within the constraints of an allotted budget. One of the most difficult business demands to get right is the use of technology. There are emerging technologies to evaluate, deploy, secure, integrate, and support. There is also the ongoing challenge of sourcing and retaining the IT talent to manage it all.

Given the challenges, many logistics companies are considering outsourcing critical aspects of IT to managed service providers. However, this often results in a piecemeal approach to technology integration, given that today’s IT systems span a wide range of complex phone (VoIP), physical security, and network systems.

Traditionally, voice, data, network, and physical security system purchases have been made independently. Security cameras and access control systems, for example, are implemented by security integrators, while VoIP phone systems are installed by telecom providers. In this approach, each vendor offers a proprietary solution with little consideration as to how it will be converged with other aspects of the network.

However, integration of applications can offer immediate significant revenue, security, and savings to any company’s bottom line. As an example, an access control system can be integrated with the HR database to coordinate changes in employee status such as termination, to automatically activate or deactivate an employee keycard. If that same employee has remote access to the security cameras, the network can disable the account immediately.

This has also created a shift in the role of the managed IT service provider, who must increasingly be an expert in all systems. With broad expertise, managed IT vendors can extract value from each individual system, while taking advantage of the tremendous added value in a more comprehensive, fully integrated implementation. It also provides a single point of contact for overall system management and support.

Another concern at top-of-mind for logistics companies is cybersecurity. Many are not aware how products, especially those purchased based on price, can bring embedded vulnerabilities into a network. Cameras manufactured in China, for example, have susceptibilities that are known to hackers. Major breaches have already occurred in pre-hacked technology.

For these same reasons, VoIP phone conversations should be encrypted and firmware regularly patched and updated to block scanning, malware, recording, and monitoring by hackers, as well as illegal sale of company information.

Even technologies that don’t carry the risk of being pre-hacked can become vulnerable when users fail to fully implement their security features. Limited resources can make it difficult to keep all IT systems updated with the latest security patches on an ongoing basis. As a result, the IT department may have a false level of confidence as to how well protected they are against cyber-attacks.

Although this sounds like a high-end service with a commensurate price tag, that is not necessarily the case. An integrated approach to IT with the best-of-breed solutions on the market delivers economies of efficiency and scale that are often passed on to the customer.

When engaging with a managed IT service provider, customers need to know what they are paying for with contracts that clearly spell out each installed product, feature, and support item or service they are purchasing.

IT departments should also seek out vendors that bear the cost of providing an initial assessment of their needs. The bid should itemize the costs for equipment and support. The vendor should anticipate future upgrade paths in order to provide transparency to future expenses. In this way, a customer knows their initial, ongoing, and upgrade costs and can budget accordingly.

Technologies are advancing at a breakneck speed bringing new integration opportunities. With limited budgets, IT departments need to maximize their ROI. This means adopting a network-centric view of how each point solution fits, finding an IT partner that can exploit the convergence opportunities, while proactively supporting the network to minimize security risks.

Eric Brackett is President of BTI Communications Group, a technology convergence provider serving the logistics sector. For more information on BTI Communications Group, please visit, contact, or call 1-312-432-5300.