Hosting a service essentially means a device or application normally housed locally at a customer’s facility is moved across the Internet to a facility used for housing Web or other types of servers. ©iStockphoto.com/Alexey Dudoladov
It isn't news that the Convergence Wave opened up a variety of ways to move video over long distances. As long as sufficient network bandwidth is available, a video stream can be sent literally around the world.
Monitoring cameras remotely isn't the only use for IP technology, however. Several companies are realizing a new business model is emerging: hosted services. Hosting a service essentially means that a device or application normally housed locally at a customer's facility is moved across the Internet to a facility used for housing Web or other types of servers.
This new method of providing service isn't limited to the security industry. Most of the large software providers like Microsoft are looking at hosted versions of their most popular software packages. Google has created hosted versions of word processing and spreadsheet applications, not to mention its popular maps feature.
There are lots of reasons why hosted services should be considered for the right application. There are just as many why it may not be appropriate. The professional integrator needs to consider all sides of the discussion before committing itself and its customer to a hosting plan. As with all new or unfamiliar technologies, do your homework. Let's get that started.
Who Are Host Providers?
Not everyone can afford the extremely large bandwidth pipes needed for serving up Web pages and applications used by thousands or even millions of people every day. Throughout the country, companies started popping up providing Internet connections as well as space on a provided server, or physical space in a secure location (in a cage, essentially) for a server or appliance that the customer themselves supplies.
They provided security, redundancy and high speed access to everyone else. Some were very large, opening branches across the country and paying for large optical carrier (OC) fiber connections that form part of the backbone of the Internet. Some could be smaller, regional or local companies that could host servers for smaller, local customers that didn't necessarily need the huge backbone pipes, but needed to give the public access to information.
Through the use of generators, complex power management and redundancy systems, these providers could guarantee a high level of quality and service to their customers.
Since IP security used the same network technologies and standards as the servers and appliances they were already running, it made sense to offer the same services to our industry.
Making the Case for Hosting
For the security industry, there are currently two main areas that hosting has gained in acceptance, remote video storage and access control databases.
Access control saw the earliest implementation of the new remote network technology. With a conventional access control system, the central database for the system would be located on a server at the customer's facility. They or the integrator would be responsible for maintaining not only the database but the hardware it was stored on. If the customer required redundancy of both hardware and software, elaborate RAID storage and power conditioning systems were needed, all at great expense.
Once it was determined that the database could be located anywhere on the LAN, the next logical conclusion was that it could also be located across the WAN or even the Internet, with a hosting provider. The hosting provider would simply store the database on their server, and give the customer access across the Internet to make changes. Some providers would develop their own user interfaces with Web technologies to simplify management for the user. It is these value-added services that usually separate one provider from another.