How to Reap RMR From the Cloud
You are building your integration business but the security industry and the world continues to change underneath you, making it a bit harder.
The move from analog to digital cameras changed your business. Physical security information management (PSIM) systems did not change your business. Best-of-breed integrations vs. all-in-one systems allowed you to expand your business with additional value-add.
The product and competitive landscape will continue to change. Some changes impact your business and some changes won’t matter. The Cloud matters.
The Cloud will impact your business, providing advantages for fast moving integrators and hurting others that are slow to adopt. Tony Scott, the former federal CIO, once likened “the act of putting storage on your premise to the act of stashing cash in your mattress.”
It does not make economic sense or cybersecurity sense to put your video on premise any longer. The IT and security industries are already realizing substantial growth in Cloud applications over onsite systems.
Gartner recently reported 18% growth in adoption of Cloud services over all other types of IT systems.
Further, Cloud-based physical security systems are projected to grow at 23% while traditional security systems (onsite) are forecasted to rise 9%, according to IHS Markit, Smart integrators recognize the opportunity and are leveraging the Cloud to grow their business and shield themselves from cybersecurity threats.
Cloud systems enable integrators to focus their expertise on networking and operations as opposed to the cyber risks associated with operating systems, recorders and security cameras.
You should be a trusted advisor to your client, not the party held responsible for a customer’s cyber vulnerabilities. A good Cloud service provides cybersecurity for the integrator and the customer.
Defining the Ideal Customer
As new and sophisticated malware attacks such as Mirai and WannaCry continue to evolve, managing video system software and firmware has grown more important than ever.
Vulnerability is becoming less and less of an option. Customers must worry about the security, version and upgrades of the firmware on their cameras and recorders.
Enterprise-class customers need to manage servers and storage system software as well. It is hard to imagine a future where all these customers want to be responsible for and manage the cybersecurity of their physical security systems.
Cybersecurity is not the only benefit of using a Cloud solution for your video and access control systems. There are many advantages for you, the integrator, and for your customers.
These include cost, reliability, security and user experience. Before delving into some of these benefits, let’s examine today’s ultimate customer for Cloud-based physical security.
Ideal customer for Cloud video surveillance
The model customer for a Cloud-based video solution is one that has multiple sites and a modest number of cameras (two to 100) per site.
When the Cloud provider offers support for a wide range of IP and analog cameras, the conversion from an onsite legacy system is quite quick.
A Cloud provider’s onsite bridge device is installed in place of the existing DRV/NVR and can literally be up and running in a few minutes.
Larger sites with more than 100 cameras might require more bandwidth to the Cloud than is manageable over inexpensive Internet connections.
Locations that have good bandwidth to the Cloud can easily support thousands of cameras per location. “Up” bandwidth from locations is typically way underutilized and therefore available for the transmission of video.
One of the great advantages of Cloud-based systems is that all the cameras feed into a single Cloud service.
Therefore, they are all available for viewing regardless of the location. Integrators can easily merge geographically dispersed cameras without having to run wiring between them, provided you can get Internet connection to each camera.
Customers with distributed cameras over distant locations, therefore, are a good fit. In today’s world, Cloud surveillance systems for large, single sites (1,000+ cameras) are not as effective as traditional onsite systems due to the issues around bandwidth.
Instead, however, it can be very effective and impactful to use Cloud services as a means to extend recording on a per-camera basis for critical cameras requiring redundancy or disaster recovery.
In some cases, even just the need for extended retention periods on select cameras can be enough to justify per-camera Cloud recording. (See “Cloud Video Replication” sidebar.)
The benefits of a Cloud-based video system will still win out in a campus-style application eventually. The time will come when bandwidth is more widely available. Watch for Cloud systems to grow in this application.
Ideal customer for Cloud-based access control
The ideal customer for Cloud-based access control is a business with two or more doors and more than 20 employees.
Smaller customers with two to five doors are ideal for a Cloud-based system because no onsite PC is needed to operate the access control system.
Customers with more than one location with a desire to manage their access control centrally, regardless of size, are also ideal customers.
With a Cloud-based access control system there is no need for a PC at each location and the customer has a single database for all access control that is redundant, backed up and located securely in the Cloud.
This reduces the headaches of multisite management. Cloud access control systems are suitable for any location that has access control because there is no significant bandwidth requirement.
Furthermore, a good Cloud access control system will cache data at each location in case of loss of network connectivity.
The costs associated with deploying an access control system that offers full redundancy is extremely high compared to a Cloud-based system, which provides replication of data onsite and the Cloud for no incremental cost.
If high reliability is important the Cloud offers a significant cost advantage. Like video surveillance, a strong argument can be made that the deployment of a Cloud-based access control system is much easier than having to coordinate between the headquarters and new site locations in a typical server-based access control deployment.
Ease of Upgrading Customers
Now that we have covered the ideal customers, let’s talk about a few of the advantages that are often overlooked. An attractive application of Cloud-based video surveillance is integration with an intrusion or access control system.
Leading Cloud systems providers have properly documented public and open APIs, which facilitate integration.
The integration of a Cloud-based system (as opposed to a volume of separate, onsite systems) ensures a more reliable connectivity with consistent functionality across the multisite systems.
The integration is completed and maintained by the manufacturer in the Cloud, rather than being done onsite. This increases reliability and ease of deployment.
The benefits of Cloud security systems are numerous and quite familiar to the IT department. There is good reason the federal government and every major IT department has a policy of Cloud first.
A simple listing of advantages we have all seen, but let’s talk about the advantages in terms of your customer, and then you the integrator.
For your customer, the benefits can be articulated around major technical differences: higher availability, better disaster recovery, comprehensive cyber-security, user interface responsiveness, open API support for integrations and multisite support by default.
However, one benefit not often discussed or understood is the value of continuous software delivery. In a true Cloud-based system the Cloud provider executes the software upgrades and relieves the customer and integrator from this task.
This ensures the customer always has the latest, most secure and most feature-rich software. In a traditional on-site system, the customer must perform upgrades themselves.
This requires performing backups in case something goes wrong, allocating downtime, scheduling the IT staff and performing the upgrades.
Upgrades are often needed to get the latest features, work with the latest cameras or fix cyber vulnerabilities, but they are often postponed because of the cost and headache.
With a Cloud system, your customer benefits from immediate upgrades with new features and security immediately. No more waiting and no more interruptions.
For integrators, the specific value of Cloud system benefits are less easily defined because they’re based on what the integrator chooses to use.
The overall characterization of the benefits can be rolled up into the term: cost to serve. In other words, they are related to the costs you incur in serving the customer’s operational and service needs.
In this light, the benefits of managing all of your customers across a single user interface for the purposes of remote administration, power cycling of cameras, troubleshooting of network issues, storing of installation related details, among other advantages, is powerful. And saves you money.
With a Cloud video surveillance system, a customer can call you to extend storage on half of their enterprisewide cameras and you can increase their bill without rolling a truck.
The benefits are only limited by your level of interest in reducing your cost to serve. From a pricing perspective, Cloud-based systems have trended down over the past five years (even with a dramatic increase in functionality) while onsite systems with similar R&D investments have trended up.
The why is simple: the onsite systems market is not expanding at the rate of Cloud-based market. Cloud-based systems get tremendous economies of scale because they are buying storage and servers in large quantity and automating their operations.
These cost savings are passed on to the customers. In the long run, economies of scale and specialization have been proven over and over to provide better products at lower costs, in any market economy. The examples of this are countless.
By Dean Drako