Virtually every corner of business has adopted software as a service (SaaS) in one form or another. SaaS has changed the way organizations think about their day-to-day operations, and has had a transformational impact on IT. Physical security, however, has yet to fully take advantage of SaaS solutions.  

Here are a few key reasons why SaaS has seen broad adoption across the enterprise: 

  • It’s simple to deploy. You can get up and running quickly, which provides quick time-to-value.
  • It’s seamless to maintain. Ongoing maintenance, such as server management, is generally handled by the software provider.

  • It’s easy to scale. You can test, experiment, and prove it works — with minimal effort. If it works well in your environment and you want to scale up, great, that can be done quickly. If a SaaS solution doesn’t perform, you can just as easily pull the plug.

  • It’s cost-effective. You can pay as you go, for what you use. You won’t need to host servers or software on your premises. You won’t need implementation teams to come in and spend weeks getting your application set up. There are no heavy upfront costs. 

Over the years, IT has realized outsized gains from adopting SaaS. Many recurring tasks that were once performed manually, like onboarding and offboarding employees, are now automated using low-code or no-code SaaS-based tools. IT has embraced SaaS, enabling other departments to manage and secure applications and the data within them.  

SaaS: A New Frontier for Physical Security  

Importantly, SaaS-based solutions can also dramatically ease the management of physical security devices, lower costs and improve cybersecurity for physical security departments. 

Let’s run through the universal benefits of SaaS that I listed above, but this time, we’ll examine them through the lens of a physical security team.  

  • Simple to deploy. Most physical security software projects take at least six months, or much longer in some cases. Imagine you have plans to deploy an analytics system that taps into an end customer's fleet of surveillance cameras. Without SaaS, they would be responsible for hosting the new system, which means they’d have to order physical servers and set them up at their location.
     After that, the software would need to be installed and configured. Many months may elapse between the decision to adopt a particular system and its full integration into the organization's operations. A SaaS solution obviates the need for any of this because infrastructure set-up and most configurations are handled by the provider. That cuts deployment time down to just days or even hours.
  • Simple to maintain. Back to the on-premises example. Let’s say you have an analytics system up and running. The end customer experiences a common but urgent scenario like an outage or a malfunction, and suffers system downtime. Even with expertise in-house, it could take days or even weeks to bring the system back online. With SaaS, the provider is responsible for taking care of all those issues. This allows your end customer's team to focus on ongoing strategic tasks instead of troubleshooting the system.
  • Easy to scale. Take the same example. The end customer wants to deploy the analytics system, but they don’t want to make a huge investment up front. SaaS solutions allow them to pilot the software at a specific site or with a limited set of devices, quickly and effectively. If the project is a success, they can easily scale to multiple sites, across as many devices as they need. If the project doesn’t yield the intended results, they can pull the plug and move on. It’s their call; just that simple.
  • Cost effective. This is especially critical now with a possible recession ahead, and the higher cost of capital today. SaaS can provide the cost savings and flexibility your customer's physical security team is looking for as they finalize budgets for 2023. There are no heavy upfront costs, so they can maintain financial agility. They pay only a subscription fee, allowing them to also tap into their OpEx budget and avoid a major, multi-year commitment.  

Why hasn’t physical security truly embraced SaaS? 

I don’t think there is a single answer to this question. One theory is physical security professionals’ historical disconnect with IT, which fully embraced SaaS years ago. Over time, limited collaboration meant less information sharing, and this may have created knowledge gaps. Basic points like what type of solution to look for, what exists in the market, how to purchase SaaS, and what to ask for internally in terms of budgets might not be immediately obvious to those who don’t work with SaaS and cloud applications on a daily basis.  

For many in physical security, their experience with SaaS is largely with video surveillance as a service (VSaaS), which presents its own challenges (such as bandwidth and networking considerations), and still hasn’t been widely adopted. 

Physical security was historically a leader in adopting technology, with expertise in devices. Originally, it worked mostly with analog devices, and with the migration to digital cameras and IP-based networks, physical security has been making up ground in device and operations management. Moving from legacy software and manual methods to SaaS-based solutions is a key phase in the evolution of physical security.  

There’s no doubt the benefits of SaaS for physical security are compelling from the start, and keep on giving. You can pay as you go, deploy without delay, and scale easily — with no upfront costs. It may sound too good to be true, but it’s reality.