Transitioning Clients to ACaaS With Ease
Here are 4 primary factors to consider when choosing which platform(s) to use.
As integrators, we need to recognize the compelling value proposition for providing hosted or managed access control solutions for the customer and our business. For both stakeholders, the value proposition is largely the cost of acquiring and maintaining an onsite access control server versus the ease of hosting the service. For customers, this generally means their access control system will have a lower up-front cost, better remote access control features, and less IT maintenance and security cost burden. For the integrator, it means recurring cash flow, quicker deployments and a more supportable solution.
These benefits are realized by forgoing the traditional on-premises server that contains the access control software and database, which also requires backups and maintenance. Instead, in a hosted or managed access-control-as-a-service (ACaaS) system, the software and database reside in a Cloud-hosted environment, and the integrator typically serves a larger number of customers from the same platform. The cost for server maintenance is now spread across all customers. It is immediately apparent how this can be more efficient, especially at scale.
Choosing Appropriate Solution for the Client
As with anything, there are many factors to consider when picking a platform(s) to use. Although picking one and running with it is easier to support, you’ll find that one size does not fit all, and you may end up with two or even three solutions. Here are the factors to help you make that decision.
Factor 1: Hosted or Managed Access Control — After meeting with the customer, the level of control they desire and the “service” to offer will be considered; this includes adding and removing card holders, access levels, managing calendars, and other day-to-day uses.
If the integrator provides and maintains the server and software in a Cloud environment, this is a hosted access control solution, and the customer fully controls access. If the integrator is hosting the service and providing management of the access control functions, this is a managed access control solution.
Factor 2: Level of Training Required for ACaaS — The platform needs to be carefully considered if the integrator is providing a hosted access control solution. An easy-to-use user interface is critical as the integrator may have to train many users on the system. Likewise, a managed access control solution requires training specific to the integrator and considers that the integrator manages multiple customers. Tasks should be easy to perform in a multicustomer environment.
Factor 3: Integrator’s IT Resources for Hosted Solution — The integrator’s IT resources must be considered based on the level of a hosted solution. Fully hosted solutions such as LenelS2 Elements, Brivo and Alarm.com require minimal resources from the integrator. Whereas LenelS2 servers or AccessNsite require IT expertise to ensure a safe, secure, and highly available environment. While the integrator will need a reliable IT resource if offering its own hosting environment, in the long run, it has even more choices about deploying the hosted environments for its customers.
Many access control software providers offer complete hosting. This is the easiest way to provide the service; however, the integrator has less control and will be committed to a direct monthly cost for every door sold.
Factor 4: Greater Flexibility & Advantages of Hosted Offering — When a customer already has an access control product and is seeking better service, the integrator can host the customer’s server and deliver additional services. The integrator can “move” the customer’s server to the designated Cloud location by creating a hosted solution for disaster recovery and support.
Moreover, the integrator should consider hosting a multi-tenant access control product on its Cloud infrastructure. Depending on the solution, this typically means spinning up a single virtual machine as the access control server. Let’s delve more into this.
Considerations When Hosting Multiple Tenants
Multitenant means the integrator effectively supports many customers with a single software installation. When supporting this, the integrator must partition between customers on the backend database to ensure the customer’s data does not impact another customer. This is especially important if you are doing multitenant buildings and all tenants share common areas.
Keep the server separate from your office network and keep it well-maintained. Virtual machines or Cloud infrastructure make disaster recovery easy. If you go with a Cloud solution, ensure your database server licensing is appropriate for hosting. Many are surprised that Microsoft SQL server requires a different license for hosting a client’s server than if you were installing it on your infrastructure.
Nathan Chavez is general manager of Alarms Unlimited Professional Security Solutions, a member of the PSA Network.
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