For several years now, the cloud has offered security system integrators a mixed bag of concerns and opportunities. Like the migration of camera technologies from analog to digital and then from coax connectivity to IP networks, the technology advantages may have been quickly apparent; but, it took some time for use concepts to be proven, for new best practices to evolve, and for the profitable business strategies to develop around the new platform and its capabilities. And that’s the point where we are now with moving video management to the cloud.
Video surveillance professionals have been waiting for the cloud to become a viable way to offer their customers more capabilities and to extend their business models, but a few things had to come together. Reliability and security concerns, bandwidth and infrastructure limitations, ROI drivers, and the need for a viable solution and support ecosystem that surpassed or at least rival existing on-prem systems needed to be developed. All this slowed the shift to the cloud.
With many business and technology advances addressing the above concerns, the cloud has quickly become a hot topic for physical security professionals, especially with VMS deployments. The cloud has opened the door to fast, flexible VMS deployments, highly scalable remote connectivity, and new video data storage and processing possibilities.
This all means that the security integrator now has a more extensive potential portfolio of services and products to offer customers than ever before. This allows integrators to expand their business model to focus more on video solutions and less on server system design, procurement and maintenance. It also gives them the tools to leverage new recurring revenue streams within their business.
Demand Meets Opportunity
First and foremost, for the security integrator, there needed to be market demand for cloud VMS solutions. Solid demand has a way of overcoming all other obstacles. For decades, on-prem VMS networks have been meeting end users' security and surveillance needs. From healthcare to hospitality to education, integrators have worked with IT professionals and their in-house teams to deploy highly effective video systems, so why change now?
This VMS shift to the cloud is happening today because cloud providers' powerful and flexible computing options have allowed organizations of all types to advance their business in ways that were not possible just a few years ago. And now, armed with first-hand cloud knowledge and experience, these organizations are demanding that the benefits of cloud services be extended to their security systems.
Many organizations today are aggressively adopting cloud-first initiatives that are pulling security systems — and especially video management — into their operations policies. Such organizations understand the benefits of cloud-based solutions and are looking to leverage them fully across the entire enterprise. By adopting a cloud-first strategy, internal departments (including IT and Security) must consider cloud solutions first. Only when cloud-based solutions have been exhausted will the organization then look at non-cloud-based solutions. This shift in organization infrastructure policies has opened the door to huge cloud business opportunities.
Bandwidth and Hybrid Viability
From a technical standpoint, the greatest challenge to cloud-based video management has been an appropriate level of available infrastructure and bandwidth. If there is not enough upstream bandwidth to upload the number of cameras the customer needs to deploy, it dramatically limits the scalability and performance of the deployment.
Over the last decade, significant investment has been made to upgrade the country's national, state, and local data infrastructure. Most U.S. cities today enjoy excellent bandwidth built upon a robust fiber backbone, and with the U.S. Congress passing the momentous Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act — which represents $1.2 trillion in spending on infrastructure — significant opportunity will continue to grow. Modern infrastructure coupled with advances in video compression, aided by high-bandwidth 5G wireless networks, is now making enterprise-level cloud VMS solutions both possible, highly flexible, and affordable.
The emerging preference for on-prem/cloud hybrid solutions is also driving new solutions and business opportunities. In a typical hybrid cloud scenario today, the organization wants part of their security system hardware to remain on premise — such as gateway devices, management servers, recording servers or some combination — but still leverage the strengths of cloud connectivity. In most instances the customer wants some redundancy of video data onsite (2 or 3 days) to guard against connectivity interruptions like natural disasters or power outages. A hybrid installation doesn’t change the organization’s workflow, but IT does provide access to cloud tools and services and reduces the upfront and on-going costs of maintaining a full, on-prem system. And in many cases, longer-term video storage of 60 days or more can be more cost efficient in the cloud than on-prem.
To take the idea further, in a hybrid situation, the integrator can offer customers the option to record dual video streams where high-resolution and high-frame-rate video data is stored locally, with lower-resolution video going to the cloud for remote viewing/sharing, archiving, and perhaps additional analytics. In general, the cloud makes video management easier for end users and installers, who don't have to worry about a video system's infrastructure because the hosting provider has already taken care of that.
Beyond the economic and logistic advantages of migrating a VMS system to the cloud, cloud providers are nurturing an ecosystem with a nearly limitless range of new video data capabilities. Within AWS Marketplace, for example, thousands of secure and tested third-party video analytic applications can be applied to recorded video on an as-needed basis for an amazing range of new capabilities. This cloud ecosystem allows users and integrators to quickly test and deploy highly specific or custom video analytic tools rapidly and economically.
More Capabilities = More Business
When combined with evolving new industry mindsets about sales and service, cloud-based video management and storage have the potential to boost margins for security professionals. Having video and data remotely accessible offers the possibility to provide value-added services based on proactive system monitoring and support. For example, remote video monitoring opens the door to services such as video verification and video guard tours and collecting and reporting on data from video analytics.
By using the cloud to access video security products (cameras, servers, sensors, NVRs) at the client's location, integrators can remotely troubleshoot and resolve issues without physically visiting the site. Connectivity can virtually eliminate commuting costs, travel time, and scheduling conflicts and reduce the time technicians spend supporting past installations leaving them more free time on new installations.
From the client's perspective, they benefit from continuing their daily business uninterrupted. That means little to no system downtime, no scheduling maintenance calls, less costly repairs, and the company's ability to provide proactive maintenance by identifying a problem before the customer does.
By designing systems around a cloud-connected, open platform VMS solution, a wide range of ongoing, recurring services become available, including:
• 24/7 remote system monitoring and troubleshooting
• Remote system configuration
• Proactive preventative maintenance
• Video data analytics on-demand
• Remote System updates
• Cloud video data storage
• Camera, edge device, and on-prem server rentals
By adding line items such as these to existing service contracts, integrators ensure peace of mind for the customer and their business. By setting up clients on monthly or even annual subscription plans, customers can rest assured that their technology is supported by the security professional and the cloud provider. And if issues should arise, they will be resolved exponentially faster than with a traditional service model.
Open for Business
With an open platform video management deployment in the cloud, many of the activities of implementing an on-prem VMS can be vastly simplified, if not eliminated, allowing organizations to scale and deploy their video across any number of locations quickly and cost-effectively — and giving the integrator the ability to spin up an appropriate number of servers in minutes, tap into new capabilities, and deliver fast results.
Both partial or complete cloud deployments are a perfect option for scaling and deploying video security systems. Existing cloud customers especially, are well positioned to take full advantage of enterprise-wide, cloud-based video management.
Security integrators need to keep in mind that the “as-a-service” model comes in near endless forms; and just as end users can pick and choose what they need and what makes sense to them, integrators can choose the services they want to offer and the infrastructure and bandwidth approach to best support the installation and their business. The ability to now mix the strengths of on-prem VMS systems with cloud solutions, smart edge devices and data-driven video solutions is the very actualization of the as-a-service business model, and for the security integrator, the pieces have finally come together.
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