In a 2021 industry report on data processing and hosting services in the U.S., IBIS World noted that cloud video has become more appealing to businesses as continued supply chain disruptions increase the cost of hard drives. When it comes to small businesses, the U.S. Census Bureau tracked explosive growth in 2021: a record 5.4 million new business applications were filed, surpassing the previous record set in 2020 of 4.4 million.
This could mean millions of businesses looking to reduce their barriers to entry by avoiding the hefty upfront costs of hardware. Specifically pertaining to video surveillance, Novaira Insights’ January 2022 survey of business leaders in the U.S. and Canada showed that 68.3 percent believe their organization will start managing and storing more of their video surveillance data in the cloud in the next two years.
The security industry experts we spoke with have seen this happening in real time.
Why Cloud Works
No doubt about it: the cloud is no longer the future, but the present. “Having an exclusively on-prem surveillance system today is akin to using an 8-track cassette instead of downloading your favorite songs to your phone,” suggests Rick Bentley, CEO of Cloudastructure, Miami, Fla. “On-prem offers no financial or security advantage for your business, and plenty of downside. First, on-prem security data is subject to environmental risk. Second, you need to purchase pricey hardware to achieve computer vision and machine learning capabilities,” he adds.
Eric Moe, director of sales for Lake Oswego, Ore.’s Milestone Systems, reports that innovations showcased at ISC West prove that the security industry is moving in the general direction of cloud-enabled solutions technologies. “Business leaders are assessing their organizations and how things are different post-COVID,” he explains. “They are looking for solutions that reduce friction and decrease maintenance time, while improving workflow processes. They want applications that are flexible, easy to manage, simple to update, and require op-ex rather than cap-ex expenditures.”
The ability to easily watch your cameras from anywhere is a big factor when companies consider switching to cloud video solutions. Cloud video solutions can also work with your existing cameras as well. // IMAGE COURTESY OF CHECKVIDEO
Anthony Novotne, marketing ma%nager for Falls Church, Va.-based CheckVideo, concurs, adding that businesses are shifting from what was once a purchase made only when they absolutely must, to an operational investment in cloud-managed video surveillance systems. “It’s easy to think about the traditional features of video surveillance, such as security and crime prevention, but with cloud video there are more substantial features, scalability, and value. Each frame of video can provide unique insights and important data.”
It's impossible to discuss data these days without mentioning AI. Dean Drako, founder and CEO of Austin, Texas’s Eagle Eye Networks, points out that the cloud has AI capabilities that on-prem simply does not. “It’s harder for an on-prem system to deliver AI because it doesn’t have the readily available computing power,” he says. “Ease of AI deployment is a game changer. Over the next two years the cloud will show significant advantages on the AI front, particularly in search capability and real-time alerts. We will see acceleration of cloud adoption because of this.”
Bentley adds, “With cloud-based AI surveillance, you can simply empower the cameras you already have with technology that vastly enhances your security and operations. It provides a unified view of all locations, is accessible from any laptop or phone, and securely stores your data in the cloud.”
When On-Prem Makes Sense
Despite the obvious benefits of the cloud, many organizations still rely on traditional on-prem systems. This strongly correlates with the size of the business and the number of cameras.
“When you start to have huge systems with hundreds of cameras, it gets a little bulky in terms of the number of gateways and bandwidth you would need,” says Aaron Saks, product and technical manager at Hanwha Techwin America, Teaneck, N.J. “That’s where a traditional on-prem system often makes more sense.”
Bill Hobbs, global vice president, sales, 3xLOGIC, Fishers, Ind., agrees. “Larger camera count installations are still weighing heavily in favor of an on-premises solution based on a recorder. Many of those facilities have embedded video technology and it is much more difficult to migrate to cloud since some solutions require wholesale camera replacement.”
The choice between traditional on-prem and cloud-managed video is not cut and dried, says Sanjay Challa, chief product officer, Salient Systems, Austin, Texas. He points to a variety of factors that influence this decision for security operators, such as regulatory and compliance issues; desire to leverage video and metadata for use cases beyond security; size and scale of the video data being produced; and more. “The reality is that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach — and there are important tradeoffs to consider in leveraging cloud to enhance or augment a video surveillance deployment,” he concludes.
Cloud video enables users to monitor, manage events, record, and replay video security footage directly in the cloud from anywhere. // IMAGE COURTESY OF BOSCH SECURITY AND SAFETY SYSTEMS
What to Know About Hybrid
Where a business chooses to keep their data will depend entirely on their specific needs — and in many cases a hybrid approach may be the best fit. The video surveillance industry has, of course, in recent memory had to manage another hybrid scenario. Fredrik Wallberg, vice president of marketing for Redmond, Wash.-based Airship AI, reminds us: “Albeit not necessarily an apples-to-apples example, the adoption of IP network cameras or ‘IP convergence’ did not happen overnight. In fact, I would venture to say there are still more analog cameras deployed today than IP cameras. I believe many end users learned from this transition as well and will adopt a hybrid cloud/on-prem model to remain malleable with the speed of innovation while still balancing reliability.”
In balancing what to manage with the cloud and what to keep onsite, customer need determines what architecture would be the best fit, says Michelle Johnson, North America marketing manager - video services for Bosch Security and Safety Systems, Fairport, N.Y. Some examples she provides: “They may want to continuously record on-prem and have only event-driven recording sent to the cloud. They may also choose a hybrid approach if they do not have the necessary upload bandwidth required to stream large amounts of video to the cloud. Hybrid can help reduce maintenance and hardware costs with less storage equipment required onsite.”
Another area where a hybrid approach provides organizational value is forensic search, notes Leo Levit, chairman of the Steering Committee, ONVIF, San Ramon, Calif. “In this instance, there is local storage of the video but the user interface is also cloud-based for remote access, so an investigator from a remote location can access the video to search a specific incident or determine historical patterns across locations.”
The cloud is no longer the future, but the present. // IMAGE COURTESY OF CLOUDASTRUCTURE
Moe concurs. “As another example, we are seeing the hybrid approach being utilized in scenarios where body-worn cameras are needed. An open-platform, cloud-enabled VMS allows organizations to share video with law enforcement through integrations with secure, third-party websites. We do see a pretty significant uptick in cloud by companies that use body-worn cameras because of the evidence sharing that is needed with these types of applications. The downside to hybrid in this case is that cloud-based applications have fewer features than traditional on-prem solutions and heavy surveillance users tend to prefer on-prem solutions due to the much richer feature set available. In time we expect that feature sets will grow and equalize.”
Levit provides another perspective. “In the sense that the sensor or some hardware will always be on-premise and never in the cloud, essentially all cloud solutions will be hybrid in some fashion.”