Bridging the Divide Between AV and IT: The Consultant’s Role

It is no secret that the AV industry has seen enormous changes in the past 5 years; particularly with respect to the convergence of AV over IP networks. Even with all the change, IT administrators still need to keep their networks secure, while AV managers want flexibility in deploying AV tools to meet their end users’ ever-changing needs. How can these two goals, seemingly at odds with one another, work together to satisfy all parties? Enter the role of an AV/IT or low voltage design consultant.

Long before a project goes out to bid, an in-depth needs analysis must be conducted by a consultant with both AV managers and IT administrators. In the earliest conversations, the answers to these questions are more often than not wish lists from both AV and IT parties. This point of the design process is critical for the consultant: sorting out what is really needed and necessary from those wants and wishes, all while factoring in timeline and budget. IT administrators are often hesitant to allow AV devices on their networks, and for good reason, as they can expose the enterprise to security holes (if not properly designed and managed). AV managers can feel the pain of having to work through an IT system that can seem inflexible and rigid. At the very height of both parties’ frustrations, a third party, design consultant can interject to define what an integrated AV and IT system can and cannot do based on extensive conversations with both parties.

For example, the IT administrator may demand a separate AV network, but the end users may need to access the IT network while on the AV network. This could result in a converged network design. There are numerous reasons, like cost savings, to use a converged network. However, it is important to remember that every project must be analyzed on a case-by-case basis to find the best approach for the project at hand. ┬áSecure environments may call for parallel networks with virtual or “air gaps” between them, in which case a converged network may be out of the realm of possibility. In other situations, a converged network may be more practical, especially if the enterprise has policies already in place to handle secure information and how it’s distributed.

As we look towards the future, and the continuing trends towards AV and IT convergence, the consultant’s role becomes more and more important. Design consultants act as a neutral, third party, evaluate the entire system, and advise on the best solutions for each project.

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