Cloud Video Surveillance: Best Practices for Selling This Hot Technology
Cloud-based video recording, retrieval, storage and archiving solutions are leading the charge for cultivating video subscription as a service (VSaaS) offerings.
Cloud-based video solutions are providing value to both end users and integrators now more than ever. Architecturally, there are many combinations of Cloud systems, from those in which video is fully recorded and stored in the Cloud to configurations where video is recorded locally on servers or on cameras at the edge but managed in the Cloud.
Each manufacturer has its own take on why their specific architecture is best. That messaging ranges from smash-and-grab fear mongering to cybersecurity conspiracy theories to the COVID-19 pandemic to having no server on site for reduced IT effort.
It seems like no one remembers the old “Columbo” TV series where the perpetrator often cut the phone line — in modern times it would be the Internet connection!
Video subscription as a service (VSaaS) models are taking off ; however, this is not only because they create more business value for installers and integrators.
It also is because subscription business models, together with Cloud technology, create more value for end users that can be shared and augmented by installers and integrators.
The Cloud Delivers More Value
Reduced service costs, ongoing software updates, centralized management and ease of use all add value to both the end user and installer. Here’s the proof:
▶ Lower service and maintenance costs — Managing a system in the Cloud lessens the burden on IT, enables remote diagnostics and leads to fewer service calls.
▶ Always the latest software and feature set — Remote software updates mean end users are not caught with several years of updates they haven’t had the bandwidth to install.
▶ Remote health monitoring — Cloud-based system monitoring ensures a system is always recording when it should, which drastically reduces the situations where there has been an event with no video evidence.
▶ Easy search and sharing of evidence — Evidence is only a click away with Cloud export and storage of clips, password-protected clip sharing and intuitive search tools.
▶ Business intelligence — A Cloud-based system can provide analytic data that offer insight into a business’ operations, from real-time alerts to reports. This data can be used to improve customer service, identify areas where employees need additional training, prevent downtime and streamline investigations.
▶ Ease of use — A Cloud-managed system with an intuitive user interface provides value beyond the bottom line in the form of faster, easier and timely training, as well as security and speed of gathering evidence. In addition, being able to access that system from a desktop, web browser or mobile device with no additional IT work cements the Cloud’s flexibility and place in our industry.
Once an end user understands the true benefits of a Cloud video platform, they will not turn back. Why would anyone buy a monochrome monitor in 2022?
Cloud Offers a Better ROI
No matter which architecture and solution a business chooses, there will always be a capital expenditure (capex) element of a Cloud video solution. The capex portion can be financed or paid in different ways, depending on financial decisions by end users or offerings from installers. More interesting is how the software-enabled services are charged.
When the IP wave hit the commercial video world about 20 years ago, the decoupling of software from the hardware elements in solutions, combined with advances in semiconductors, enabled several fast-moving innovation cycles in both cameras and video management systems. This led to a disruption in our industry that created the now mature client server solutions and the large, slowly growing IP camera companies of today.
The outmoded business models of some video surveillance companies has been to sell perpetual licenses with a software maintenance package, with or without added support functions. The result of this is that end users pay the same amount of money for their software approximately every five years.
Installers and integrators must go back to their customers regularly and resell the solution, often without adding significant value other than the opportunity to install software updates when the end user has time and space in their work schedule.
With a modern Cloud video solution, the software is kept up to date, and the end users pay as they go. There is no ongoing IT support because connectivity to the Cloud enables a remote service level that is difficult to enable with an antiquated client-server architecture.
The result of this is that the total cost of ownership for a Cloud solution is much lower for the end user, which enables the recurring revenue model that is so sought after by installers and integrators.
Installers and end users swayed by proprietary solutions that do not adhere to standards like ONVIF or have open APIs may find it difficult to secure a long-term and sustainable return on investment (ROI). By choosing a Cloud solution where each component is locked in to one vendor’s platform, some end users are repeating the “sins” of the past.
Users that choose a solution with open APIs and ONVIF compatibility, aren’t locked in and can upgrade their systems as new innovations are brought to market, avoiding a costly “forklift” upgrade.
Some may view the Cloud as a dark and stormy place for data security, but the opposite is true. The Cloud is the perfect place to ensure cybersecurity through adherence to standards and safeguarding tools. For instance, adhering to SOC and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) standards signals to users that their data is secure, encrypted and private and that controls are in place to detect and handle breaches.
A Cloud system can also help fortify its security with multifactor authentication, centralized management of users and credentialing, transport layer security protocols, no inbound ports, cross-site request forgery protections and encryption. Automated software updates ensure the system is always current.
Then there’s integrations. Integrating security elements like access control, intrusion and point of sale is nothing new. If such integrations have their own embedded cybersecurity elements, an added layer of security is enabled. The derived benefit when integrated in the Cloud is that cybersecurity is a utility where the applications talk to each other, has a static firewall and no port forwarding, thus reducing the burden on IT staff.
The Cloud Has a Bright Future
As Cloud-based video solutions become second nature for businesses, it will become more than just a security application controlled by corporate IT. Cloud video is now a business tool that drives actionable intelligence and makes it easier to combine video with other operational data to solve more complex problems.
It can rise above traditional security functions like access control and intrusion by including operations like point of sale, production processes, customer service, adoption of operational standards and every aspect of your business. As this takes place, several interesting things will result:
- Cloud video platforms will embed video analytics and artificial intelligence to add these functions to video streams from standard cameras and make them analytics-enabled or intelligent without replacing existing cameras. One could even say that open-platform technology will add intelligence and analytics to today’s dumb edge sensors.
- Multicloud environments are emerging. As IT applications are seeing multicloud environments where all data is treated in a standards-based fashion, enabling several Clouds to integrate and add value to enterprises via their Cloud APIs, this will happen to Cloud video platforms as well. Make sure that you have engaged with a Cloud video partner from the beginning who is dedicated to open APIs and Cloud integration with third-party technology vendors, or you will be caught in a proprietary environment that will be costly to be in and even more costly to get out of.
- Cybersecurity is an effort by a community of vendors and is expected to be a utility when subscribing to a Cloud provider. Cloud video platforms should demonstrate that they are at the forefront of vendor-driven cybersecurity. Local firewalls will be standard and hardened, and it will be the Cloud video provider who will protect the content and integration with other platforms and applications.
In summary, news reports indicate that the adoption of the Cloud in video security will continue to rise due to increased benefits and its flexibility, simplicity, ease of keeping current, ROI/TCO benefits and intuitive ease of use. This said: The outlook in the Cloud is sunny, but cybersecurity will still be king!
Eric Fullerton is Executive Director at OpenEye.
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