More customers are beginning to take advantage of cloud technologies. Meanwhile, more and more integrators are offering cloud services in one form or another.

Integrators interviewed for this article reported mixed results with regard to what percentage of their customers used their cloud video services. Rick Tampier, senior director sales and product strategy, Red Hawk Fire & Security, Boca Raton, Fla., says fewer than 5 percent of Red Hawk’s customers use cloud video services, but the company has only recently begun offering the service and expects it to be a growth engine in the future.

Chuck Harrelson, president, Sonitrol of the Triangle and Summit Security Systems, Raleigh, N.C., however, says 100 percent of his video customers “are deployed under a cloud solution” in which video is stored locally, while event-based video is moved to the cloud. Harrelson says Sonitrol has tried products designed to store 100 percent of video on the cloud but have standardized the event-based cloud-only storage model.

Joe Young, senior director of cloud and enterprise solutions, G4S Secure Integration, Omaha, Neb., says G4S discusses cloud offerings with all clients, but the adoption rate is closer to 20 percent.

Jennifer Graham, vice president of marketing for Kastle Systems, Falls Church, Va., says of the 50 percent of Kastle customers that have video, all use Kastle’s cloud-based video solution; while Matthew Ladd, president, The Protection Bureau, Exton, Pa., says about 10 percent to 15 percent of his customers use cloud video services.

However, some of these numbers come with caveats. For instance, Ladd says that nearly 70 percent of his new clients are utilizing some type of cloud service.

And while Michael Moritz, business development manager, commercial solutions, RFI Communications, San Jose, Calif., says about 50 percent of RFI’s new customers are using cloud-based video solutions or access control, he adds this caveat: “If you look at the number of cameras or number of doors in access control, then the percentage is probably a lot smaller, probably 25 percent, being that … the enterprise-type customers are still sticking mostly with conventional.”

But he adds that since RFI started steering people toward cloud in the last six months, it has really picked up, and that people are reacting well to cloud video services, and — more to the point — it has absolutely been a boon to his RMR.

So what are some ways integrators have found to maximize RMR while using cloud video solutions?


Sell the Benefits

In addition to convenience, Moritz says the main thing he focuses on is total cost of ownership. “If you analyze what a local system costs in real terms, there is the actual upfront costs for all the equipment, but then there is the software licensing, maintenance, backups, etc., not to mention the amount of attention needed by the IT department, which is usually an overwhelmed department in most companies. Those costs are rather high.

Ladd explains that you sell the features. “You’ve got to show the client how it operates. I arm my guys with iPhones and iPads so they can demo systems, so they can show a client a remote video camera, show them how you can look up history, show them the access control features.”

He says a mistake some integrators make is assuming the client understands the features and benefits of cloud services. “Just because he may be a smartphone user or an IT guru, it doesn’t mean he fully understands the features and benefits.”

Another benefit is cybersecurity. The companies that integrators partner with to host video have far more cybersecurity certifications than a local company does, Moritz says.

Harrelson says he offers customers video verification and health monitoring of the entire solution, including network communication. “Our Sonitrol video solution features cloud-based health monitoring — we know in real time if anything has failed or has been [compromised] purposely, from video devices to network status.”


Keep It Simple

Having a simple, clear offering with features that you understand and can clearly articulate is more effective than just offering all the latest technology.

Ladd says, “Sometimes we get locked into this concept of, ‘Oh, this is new; look at this shiny thing,’ and then you end up realizing that as an integrator you’re carrying four or five different types of services that have four or five different types of offerings that work in four or five different ways, and then your sales people, your technicians, your dispatch operators, your database people are all having to stop and say, ‘Which system are we talking about?’”

One way you can simplify things is by having clear and clean programs. “I’ve got a couple programs you can take, and that covers it all,” Ladd says. “Just offer the package service right off the wall, because they’re going to add on to it.”

Another way to improve the value of RMR, Harrelson says, is integrating alarm-based video with other systems such as intrusion detection and access control. “Properly implemented, there are real savings to be had from integrating these systems and providing the customer with a much more holistic view of their environment.”

Graham agrees, and in addition to bundling with other systems, she suggests increasing storage and providing services such as analytics.


Charge for Your Services

It is a competitive business, and sometimes integrators are hesitant to ask customers for more money. “Have a clean program,” Ladd says, “but at the same token, make sure you’re covering your costs; make sure you’re making the money that you deserve to make. Early on we were used to monitoring rates, and so we were always trying to keep things at the monitoring rate level of $20 to $25 a month or something — managed services cost more. Don’t be afraid to ask for it and get it.”

Moritz says the best time to discuss these services with a customer is right away. He says the worst thing a security company can do is not discuss concepts and costs up front. “We find that if we prep them properly up front and talk about all the positive implications of having a hosted system, then there’s no shock and we find that it’s much more amenable to the customer.”


Become Indispenable

To be the partner that customers always think of when they want something new or when they need to upgrade security, you have to already be a regular part of their lives. Ladd says he learned while running a central station that clients with open-close monitoring that required regular interaction between them and the central station were always the best customers. “What we found was that because we were having that interaction with the client on a regular basis, our value was increasing, so that when they wanted more services or more security or more something else, they always thought of us.”

Another way to become indispensable is to push apps. “Every time that client picks up the phone, it brings up your app; they’re thinking of you,” Ladd says.

Harrelson adds that customers want relevant data presented to them in real-time on whatever device they’re using. “Push notification in real-time has become the trigger that starts an investigation, not some later realization that something bad happened.”


Choose Wisely

This may seem like a no brainer, but know the company you partner with to host video. Whether it’s a company that hosts video itself or uses a third party to store video, know what you are getting into and what works best for your company’s needs and your customers’ needs.

Young adds that you should invest in your team as well. “Create cyber guidelines and hardening documents, and incentivize sales to drive RMR sales,” he says.

Cloud video services are only going to increase. Make sure your RMR does too.


The Changing Picture of Video

Over the last couple of years we have seen a shift in the video products available from the traditional DVR/NVR method of storage and local software to cloud storage and access via Web browsers. We see a fantastic new market developing as a result. Currently most small and mid-level businesses have IT departments that are already overworked. Traditional systems are another load on these departments with software updates, system back-ups and maintenance. Many companies have experienced system failures and realize they have not completed timely backups, incurring loss of critical data.

Cloud-based systems offer relief to these companies as data is always backed up; no software to update and no maintenance to perform. Additionally, they no longer need all the space taken up by conventional servers.

We are seeing a clear trend in customers embracing this technology. Each quarter we are seeing the size of cloud-based systems increase as even larger businesses are realizing that the total cost of ownership is actually less with a cloud-based system. Over the next few years we anticipate that the majority of all new systems will be cloud based. Several manufacturers offer hybrid solutions as well, allowing the customer to choose what to store locally and what to put in the cloud.

Another aspect of a cloud-based system, specifically in the mid-level business sector, is security. Although all companies employ some type of network security, the security utilized by most of these Web-based systems is much more robust than our customers currently have access to.  Many of these providers are certified or meet standards set by organizations such as SSAE16 Data Audit, TRUSTe Certified, and U.S. Department of Commerce - Safe Harbor Certification. As a result of these standards and many other security measures, cloud-based systems are actually more secure than an on-premise system.

The combination of lower install costs, little or no maintenance, system security, and an overall lower cost of ownership will fuel this upward trend as more companies realize all of these benefits. Cloud-based services are penetrating many aspects of business and security is no exception.

Contributed by Michael Moritz, business development manager, RFI Security