Magazine Article | November 15, 2013

IP Surveillance Is Ready For The Cloud

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By Jay McCall

The cloud offers several benefits for your video surveillance customers and a recurring revenue opportunity for you.

No matter which channel research groups you follow, there’s lots of evidence that suggests IT is moving to the cloud at an impressive rate. Gartner Research estimates that the global public cloud services market will account for $131 billion in revenue this year, an 18.5 percent increase from 2012. And according to IDC, worldwide spending on hosted private cloud solutions will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 50 percent during 2012 to 2016, reaching $24 billion in revenue by 2016. Even though data storage and business continuity services comprise a majority of cloud revenue, video surveillance applications are making their foray into the cloud as well. Industry experts from Genetec and March Networks offer their insights into what’s motivating customers to buy cloud-based video surveillance solutions, and they offer their advice on pitfalls to avoid along the way as well.

Why Your Customers Want Cloud-Based Surveillance Solutions
Companies deploy video surveillance solutions as a theft deterrent, to more accurately identify and prosecute lawbreakers, and/or to remotely watch their stores and employees to ensure things are running smoothly. Cloud-based video surveillance can help them achieve these goals, and it offers the following benefits over on-premise solutions:

  1. Reduced Costs. This reason shouldn’t be a shocker to any VAR, but understanding how the cloud can help achieve this goal might not be readily apparent. “By eliminating the need to invest in servers, which need to be maintained and cooled, plus eliminating much of the infrastructure that goes along with a traditional onpremise video surveillance solution, VARs can reduce the cost of their solutions significantly,” says Christian Morin, director of the Stratocast Product Group at Genetec. “Given the lower licensing and installation costs, and eliminating the need to purchase servers, customers realize approximately $4,000 in savings for a six-camera system over a 12-month period.”

    There are additional trickle-down cost savings that benefit customers as a result of reducing their on-premise IT footprint, too. “Fewer [and sometimes no] dedicated IT or security personnel are required, as much of the system is automated, thus ensuring business owners and staff can operate the equipment,” says Morin. “For example, Genetec’s cloud-based surveillance cameras include phone-home functionality, which requires integrators to enter only a serial number and authentication key when adding the camera to the Stratocast software, and the software automatically creates a secure connection between the camera and the cloud.”

  2. Mobile Access. With traditional surveillance systems, users wishing to view their video archives had to go to the designated location where the video was captured. With the cloud, users can access their video from anywhere in the world. “VARs can even empower their customers to access video footage from their mobile devices,” says Dan Cremins, director of product management at March Networks. “Channel partners can earn recurring revenue by charging a per-user, per-year fee and providing a scalable, reliable, and secure way for their customers to see video on the go.” Because of the dynamic nature of a cloud environment, server resources can be turned on during peak traffic times, ensuring consistent performance. “Using a browserbased mobile solution instead of a mobile app-based solution provides additional benefits that make better use of the cloud’s scalability and create a truly deviceagnostic environment,” says Cremins.
  3. Access Control. Even though customers want to extend access to more people within their company, they don’t want all employees seeing all video footage. The cloud offers a solution to this need, too. “By using secure Web-based logins and passwords, VARs and integrators can provide customers with precise access control capabilities,” says Cremins. “For example, in a retail environment, a retail chain may want its CEO to have access to all video footage, a regional manager to have access to all the stores within a particular region, and a store manager to have access to only one specific store.”
  4. Scalability. One additional benefit the cloud offers your customers is what’s sometimes called “pay as you grow.” Unlike an on-premise scenario where a customer needs to purchase storage in anticipation of how much it will eventually need, the cloud requires that users only pay for the storage they’re actually using at any given time. The same principle holds true for allocating server resources. As customers’ surveillance needs grow, their server costs grow with them and they don’t need to buy extra servers before it’s necessary.

Cloud-Based Surveillance Advice, Pitfalls
Before attempting to sell cloud surveillance solutions to every prospect, it’s important to understand upfront that it’s not a fit for everyone. Following are two challenges you many run into as well as advice for reducing or eliminating those challenges.

In addition to selecting the right type of cloud provider, it’s also important to know your cloud provider’s credentials. All reputable cloud providers are audited by independent agencies and should have documentation that describes their security level. For example, Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements (SSAE) number 16 is an attestation standard put forth by the Auditing Standards Board (ASB) of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) that addresses engagements undertaken by a service auditor for reporting on controls put in place by data centers. If your cloud provider is compliant with the SSAE 16 standard, you can have full confidence that you’re dealing with a reputable cloud provider.

Several analysts are predicting the upcoming year to be a breakout year for subscription-based video surveillance services. By understanding the benefits the cloud offers you and your customers and avoiding the two pitfalls mentioned earlier, you can put your company in a better position to capitalize on this growing opportunity.

  1. Beware of Bandwidth Limitations. Bandwidth is the number one obstacle most VARs/integrators will face when it comes to selling cloudbased solutions. “We’ve had partners share nightmare stories about how they installed a cloud-based IP surveillance system only to discover after the fact that the customer’s bandwidth was insufficient and no adequate alternatives were available in the customer’s area,” says Cremins. “The partner ended up ripping out the system and replacing it with an analog solution, learning the hard way that you have to assess a customer’s current and available bandwidth before beginning such a project.”

    Not every insufficient bandwidth situation has to be a show stopper, however, says Genetec’s Morin. “Integrators can look to blend technologies by incorporating IP cameras with built-in ‘edge’ recording capabilities. This allows video to be directly stored on the camera and trickled to the cloud during off-peak hours when network bandwidth is not being allocated to other pivotal business systems. This also provides greater reliability and redundancy for end users, as video is stored both locally on the camera and remotely in the cloud.”

    Morin also stresses the importance of investing in higher performing SD cards when using video trickling. “Integrators should refer to the cards their camera vendors have tested and certified to work on their devices; otherwise, they may end up having to constantly replace lower cost cards that aren’t built for multiple rewrites.”

    Morin also stresses the importance of investing in higher performing SD cards when using video trickling. “Integrators should refer to the cards their camera vendors have tested and certified to work on their devices; otherwise, they may end up having to constantly replace lower cost cards that aren’t built for multiple rewrites.”

  2. Do Your Due Diligence On Your Cloud Provider. Even though the term “cloud” is bandied about everywhere, it’s important to note that there are a range of security and performance functionalities available among cloud providers. For starters, it’s important to understand that there are two basic kinds of cloud providers — public and private. Public cloud providers are operated by recognizable names such as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. What makes a cloud provider a public cloud provider is the fact its services are open to anyone, and oftentimes it will house multiple customers’ data on the same physical resources separated by server blades. This can create security concerns for some customers – especially those that operate in highly regulated industries such as healthcare. Private cloud providers, on the other hand, typically offer services more geared toward businesses, where security and disaster recovery functionality are top priorities.

In addition to selecting the right type of cloud provider, it’s also important to know your cloud provider’s credentials. All reputable cloud providers are audited by independent agencies and should have documentation that describes their security level. For example, Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements (SSAE) number 16 is an attestation standard put forth by the Auditing Standards Board (ASB) of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) that addresses engagements undertaken by a service auditor for reporting on controls put in place by data centers. If your cloud provider is compliant with the SSAE 16 standard, you can have full confidence that you’re dealing with a reputable cloud provider.

Several analysts are predicting the upcoming year to be a breakout year for subscription-based video surveillance services. By understanding the benefits the cloud offers you and your customers and avoiding the two pitfalls mentioned earlier, you can put your company in a better position to capitalize on this growing opportunity.

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