Less than a decade ago, if anyone was referring to “the cloud” in conversation, chances were it had something to do with the weather. Today, discussions on the cloud are springing up everywhere, including the ever-evolving security industry, but in most cases, the meteorological forecast is an afterthought.
The cloud, or in more technical terms, cloud computing, refers to the concept of hosting applications on servers located in large, public datacenters where, through real-time connectivity such as the Internet, a provider can then offer access to the applications as a service. So instead of having a software platform on a local PC, the platform and database are hosted in the cloud, with no onsite software required. Then, users access their data and other functionality via a mobile or Web app, and in most cases, pay a fee to use this service.
In the physical security industry, the cloud has become an increasingly prevalent topic of discussion, where some still voice apprehensions, but where others eagerly advocate their support and interest. And although cloud-based applications have been around for some time and seen success in other industries, advancements in the computing landscape are driving the adoption of more and more cloud-hosted offerings in security. One of the leading areas of emergence is access control.
A Look at the Cloud Today
Factors like the increasing availability of faster and more affordable Internet connectivity and the expansion of global state-of-the-art public datacenters are also contributing to wider acceptance, suggesting cloud-based security systems are becoming more accessible, cost-effective and reliable than ever before. Similarly, the security mechanisms put in place by cloud providers to secure the platform from logical security threats such as hackers are also becoming better. In fact, cloud platforms are often more secure than the servers that some organizations have at their own facilities.
Another major factor that has contributed to the growing number of cloud-based security offerings is the inherent mobility available through such offerings. A growing number of end users no longer want to be tethered to a desktop PC or laptop to access their security system. Instead, they appreciate the convenience of using apps via their smartphones or tablets when they need immediate access. Extending mobility to these users means delivering solutions that they can interact with from anywhere.
Today, a cloud offering category that has been receiving attention in the security industry is video surveillance as a service, or VSaaS. With vendors now offering fully hosted solutions, VSaaS is essentially lowering the barrier to purchasing an IP system by reducing upfront costs and complexities for end users, while boosting recurring monthly revenues (RMR) for the integrator.
For the end user who wants to secure their organization but does not want the burden and costs sometimes associated with housing, maintaining and cooling servers, or for those with limited IT resources or expertise, choosing a fully-hosted cloud package is a very attractive solution. They also benefit from mobility aspect, being able to pull up video and handle alarms from any device connected to the Internet.
Similarly, integrators who are not necessarily interested in deploying and supporting security applications involving complex infrastructures, can now look at fully-hosted cloud offerings as an easy-to-install option that lets them focus on other core services or competencies. While helping to streamline and simplify operations for the integrator, cloud-based solutions can also serve as a new opportunity to expand their market share by encouraging the swap from older analog systems to powerful IP-based video technology.
Doors Opening Via the Cloud
The benefits of the cloud can extend into many other security applications, including access control. Just like VSaaS, access control as a service (ACaaS) is an appealing option for smaller to medium-sized businesses with fewer than 30 doors to secure, like small offices, schools, medical centers or even municipal buildings. In most cases, these customers are seeking the added security and flexibility of IP-based access control, but cannot justify or afford the upfront hardware and IT costs of a traditional server-based solution.
More so, they might not have the personnel or in-house expertise to properly manage and maintain servers. Instead, they look to ACaaS to lower their initial capital expenditures, and forgo the responsibility of onsite servers while still being able to benefit from modern functionality like simple cardholder activation and deactivation, reporting or lockdown.
On the other hand, integrators seeking to grow their business into new markets or by offering new solutions can turn to ACaaS as their catalyst. While some integrators may choose to purchase their own servers, host an access control solution and lease the service to their customers, offering a vendor-hosted access control solution requires very little technical knowledge, minimal installation time, no maintenance, zero upfront investment and far less risk.
Like any access control project, the process of choosing which doors to secure, determining the hardware to be installed, and making sure the system adheres to fire and safety regulations is still necessary. But beyond that, with a hosted ACaaS solution, integrators merely need to install the door hardware, including readers or electronic locks wired to an intelligent door controller that connects to the cloud. From a system configuration perspective, the integrator would then simply log into their own application portal to handle setup, set schedules, create access privileges and provide their end users with credentials needed to sign in to the Web-based and/or mobile platform.
And with a vendor-hosted access control solution, even less time is required for maintenance once the system is installed, as all software upgrades and enhancements are automatically managed by the vendor hosting the application. With quick and easy deployment and no server maintenance required, integrators can complete more projects in less time, with the same number of technicians. This ultimately means integrators can take on more projects, and transition to a service-based business model with recurring revenue streams, one customer at a time.
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