Security From The Cloud
By Brian Albright, Business Solutions magazine
This security integrator reaps recurring revenue and lower overhead via its cloud-based access control systems.
The transition of access control solutions to the cloud can raise concerns with both clients, who worry about uptime and availability, and VARs, who find themselves shifting from large up-front fees to a smaller stream of recurring monthly revenue. But the benefits of hosted security solutions can far outweigh those fears on both sides of the equation. End users no longer have to worry about maintaining costly servers while gaining the ability to centrally monitor and control the solution, and VARs reduce the amount of overhead required to support new clients.
Security Install Solutions (SIS) is an integrator that specializes in security management, access control, video surveillance, perimeter protection, ID badging, and other security solutions. The company provides traditional onsite solutions but expects a growing portion of its business to come from Brivo OnAir, the cloud-based access control solution it offers from Brivo.
SIS earns margins on hardware installs but also receives recurring revenue on a month-to-month basis for the cloud solution. “The actual revenue from one client is not that much, basically a few dollars a month per reader,” says Rueben Orr, co-owner, VP and FSO of SIS. “The business justification here is not making a lot of margin on any one customer, but we can support a lot of customers and lots of readers with very little overhead.”
SIS supports clients hundreds of miles away without having to make any investment in additional technicians or costly truck rolls when there is a problem. Orr says, “Cloud solutions also provide secure remote management, which greatly reduces downtime and service call charges for the life cycle of the systems.”
Between the technical support staff and a service coordinator, SIS president Bill Doherty says that the company can solve nine out of 10 issues without dispatching a technician. “We can log in without VPN access, which greatly simplifies things and reduces costs for us and the client.”
Cloud Provides Central Support And Control
One client that has benefited from the cloud-based option is a large holding company that maintains offices in a high-rise in downtown Denver. The company occupies multiple floors of the building, with different subsidiaries housed at each level.
The client was using a traditional card-based access control solution, but it was more than 20 years old. “That system went through several server upgrades, firmware upgrades, and hardware changes,” Orr says. “As time went on, there were more and more service issues. The manufacturer no longer supported the system, and the previous vendor submitted proposals that would have forced the client to upgrade the entire solution.”
The client approached SIS based on its success at installing a video surveillance system at a different facility. The SIS team suggested Brivo OnAir, and the client was impressed by the potential to have a remote view of the system. “They had never seen a way to bring all of the elements of the access control solution under one umbrella,” Orr says. “With the old system, whenever there was a problem, someone would call the employee with the troubleshooting expertise, and she would have to walk several blocks to see what was wrong and then get in touch with the vendor. With our cloud-based system, they could have a central view of the system and eliminate that wasted time.”
Before SIS could even get started on the office building, though, it was able to prove the system’s value at a different facility. The client owns an airplane hangar at a private airport that was protected with a lock-and-key system. “It was a simple install,” Orr says. “They had a door they would buzz people through. We were able to tie that into an electric lock and run it through the Brivo solution so they could manage and control it remotely. They were already excited about the new system at the office complex because they got to see the power of the new system at the hangar.”
According to Orr, the client also liked the idea of not having to back up the software or support a server. SIS could also export the existing cardholder database into the Brivo system, making the transition easier.
Out With The Old
While the software is hosted, the existing access control hardware still needed to be replaced. Because of the lack of documentation for the old system and safety concerns expressed by the property manager, SIS opted to run new wiring for the access control system. “It was the best thing for the customer,” Orr says. “They had a lot of problems with the old wiring, and this was a way to make the property manager happy at the same time. We’ve also found that choosing a new head end room and new cabling ensures for a secure transition from legacy to new technology. The average downtime for a card reader door is less than 4 hours.”
SIS put together a thorough set of drawings in order to obtain the necessary permits from Denver County. Orr says that for VARs looking at entering the access control market, learning the ropes when it comes to local permitting is critical. “You don’t want to be a newbie,” he says. “The system life cycle starts and ends with documentation. Most code officials are not going to a job site until after you have submitted something on paper, and it has to be clear, concise, and professional. You want code officials to see the same thing on-site as they do in the paperwork as they go through the inspection. That makes things go more smoothly.”
“A number of doors required us to remove the existing locking hardware, rebuild the frames, and then put in new electric locking hardware,” Orr says. “We helped them as part of the construction to accommodate an employee that required assistance getting through the door. We also had to work with a number of lock manufacturers to make sure the finish was going to be exactly what the client wanted, and that it would match the existing décor.”
The SIS team pulled wire after hours to avoid disrupting operations in the offices. The project was completed in four weeks, and the client is already considering expanding the system to additional facilities.
Since the Brivo solution is 100 percent cloud-based, the client was able to repurpose some existing desktop computers to manage it. “We found some older computers they had set aside, and told them they could use those for administering the system,” Orr says. “All they really needed was a browser.”
If there are problems with ID cards or other access control functions, in-house staff can remotely log on to the Brivo system to see what the problem is. Without the need to install new servers, the client also avoided the cost of maintaining a server room and the energy cost associated with cooling the systems. If there is an outage for some reason, the solution still functions. “The reality is that you will lose the Internet connection from time to time at the local network level,” Orr says. “The intelligence is distributed to the control panels, so even without the network, the system keeps operating as it was last programmed. If any changes are made to the system during the outage, everything syncs back up once the connections are restored.”
While there is a monthly fee to the client for the service, the up-front costs of the server and client software is eliminated. According to Orr, the fee is similar to a data fee for smartphones. The data charge provides access via user-defined privileges via any Web browser. “You pay as you go, and you don’t pay for what you don’t use,” Orr says. “For example, the initial proposal included offices on a floor that they later vacated. Their monthly fee actually went down because they were no longer going to use those readers.”
More Business Shifts To The Cloud
These types of success stories, in which clients are able to save money on the installation and have greater, centralized control over the system, are the reason SIS expects its cloud business to continue expanding. “We expect to see high growth numbers,” Doherty says. “This year we expect that for every traditional solution we sell, we will sell a cloud-based solution. Looking out to 2015, cloud-based solutions will be every two out of three sales.”
And even as the business expands, SIS will incur very little increase in overhead and support costs. “The beauty of the model is that we don’t need to hire a bunch of technicians to add on those accounts,” Orr says. “If we were bringing on the same number of traditional solutions, we would have to back those up with more technicians. The Brivo system is purely additive.”