A Clear Vision Through the ‘Cloud’

Many campuses have questions regarding the potential of hosted video. Moving into 2011, it’s time to stop asking, ‘Why hosted video?’ and instead begin talking about ‘How hosted video will … ‘

Buzz about hosted physical security solutions has been reverberating for quite a few years. Still, even with all the partnerships and working systems in place, many campus protection professionals have questions regarding the potential of hosted video. Moving into 2011, it’s time to stop asking, “Why hosted video?” and instead begin talking about “How hosted video will … “

So much of today’s mission-critical business operations are delivered through software-as-a-service (SaaS) or “cloud” computing – everything from personal E-mail and online banking, to corporate payroll, benefits administration and customer relationship management. Cloud computing and SaaS are here to stay.

I recently sat down with colleagues from three of our hosted-video partners to discuss how we can turn the corner with this technology by identifying the likely adopters of cloud surveillance, and sharing some tips and tricks providers need to learn to ensure the success of this solution.

What follows is the group discussion I led with Patrick Snow, director of Cloud Security Solutions at EMC Corp.; Bob Stockwell, director of systems operations and leasing at Niscayah Group; and Steve Van Till, president and CEO of Brivo Systems.

All of us have been participating in hosted video discussions for many years. But for those on the outside, explain why you think the video surveillance market is ready to accept security in the cloud?

Bob Stockwell: Cost reduction is the primary motivation. End users can significantly reduce or eliminate capital expenditures and minimize ongoing equipment maintenance. Instead of refreshing their own hardware equipment every few years to keep up with technology, hosted- and managed-video providers assume the responsibility for maintaining the latest and greatest digital storage and retrieval platforms.

Steve Van Till: Besides the lower upfront costs, smaller IT footprint at the customer site, and a less disruptive upgrade path as new features are added, the biggest advantage is being able to link together a large number of sites that each have the need for a small video surveillance setup. Think franchise organizations or enterprise offices with different satellite locations.

Patrick Snow: The cloud solution adds other value for the campus as well, such as the ability to better plan operating budgets since they only pay for what they use. It’s easy to expand or contract your usage without additional capital expense. It’s an enterprise-level solution that provides back-up redundancy and the ability to create multiple copies – capabilities they normally would not get in a DVR or network video recording environment.

Steve mentioned two potential users of this model. Can you talk more about the most likely market for hosted video surveillance?

Snow: It’s a good solution for customers who have multiple locations, desire remote access, want or need longer retention periods and have limited or no IT expertise. It can also work for large enterprises that have their own private cloud and can operate the infrastructure on a private rather than public network. I’d say the ideal target size is fewer than 20 cameras per site.

Van Till: Certainly large enterprises with widely dispersed assets are one of the markets. The other is small-to-medium businesses that prefer using a service rather than adding another IT platform to their operation. In both cases, the commonality is low camera count per sites to fit the available bandwidth and the desire to remotely view the video from outside the campus network or virtual private network.

Stockwell: I agree but want to stress one thing: Hosted technology won’t replace traditional video management platforms. It will, however, create a unique backup solution.

End users will now have the capability to simultaneously store redundant video on local IT appliances and on secure off-site hosted server platforms that are maintained and safeguarded to stringent data center operation standards. Critical video will always be available.

These general cloud benefits – lower costs, anytime/anywhere access and redundancy – seem consistent regardless of the application. Video security, however, seems to be one place where concerns outweigh benefits. Are you still hearing from users concerned about the security of a hosted surveillance business model?

Van Till: I don’t think this is the case anymore. We used to hear this about five years ago when hosted services were still new to the market. But now people understand that the better providers undergo strict security audits, such as SAS-70, which ensure information security from the SaaS provider is at least comparable, if not better, than what they have within their own network.

The key for end users, as always, is to vet their vendors and make sure that they meet their own information security requirements.

Stockwell: I still hear concerns that users want assurances their video won’t somehow end up on YouTube. It’s up to providers to clearly demonstrate their centers and networks are secure against hacking and penetration. But, then again, customers have the same concerns about video being taken from the DVRs at their sites. For retail customers with multiple stores, cloud video storage actually provides greater security for their video than having DVRs at every site where a disgruntled employee could steal it or, worse, commit a crime and destroy the video.

Snow: The plain truth is that most people today are using the cloud for far more sensitive information, such as online banking and customer management databases. Loss or interception of these transactions would be far more damaging to a customer than their surveillance data. Properly designed, the cloud is a very secure environment for video surveillance.

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