Now accepted as a highly convenient and effective method of storing and accessing data, what we consider to be the modern-day cloud can be traced back to 2002, when Amazon Web Services (AWS) launched its public cloud service.
Since then, it has become well established across almost all industry sectors and many businesses are able to harness the power, flexibility and functionality it offers.
Cloud adoption over the last few years has escalated at an astonishing rate, as we continue to embrace it in our day-to-day lives. According to Gartner, there’s no sign of this slowing down, with global public cloud spending expected to grow by 20.7% to reach nearly $600 billion in 2023, up from $490.3 billion in 2022.
Given its unstoppable rise, it is surprising how some enterprises remain unwilling to fully utilize the cloud as part of their security infrastructures. Of course, cloud-based video surveillance still requires capital expenditure (CapEx) in hardware such as cameras, however, there are no upfront server costs, no back-ups to create and no complex network routing, while software updates and hardware upgrades are carried out without any interruption to service. What’s more, it’s highly scalable and users only pay for the computing power, storage and resources they need.
With the rapid increase in the amount of information created by surveillance cameras and other security technology, the ability to manage and archive data via the cloud should be highly attractive. Yet when considering this option, the inevitable questions around data management and protection arise and can prove problematic. The truth is that many of the fears and objections surrounding the cloud are unfounded and by carrying out due diligence and working with the right partner, data can be as secure as possible.
Information accessed via the cloud is stored in data centers and is sent to and from these facilities using encryption – the process of transforming data from its original plain text format to an unreadable format before it is transferred and stored. This renders it indecipherable and therefore useless without the correct encryption keys. However, not all data centers are the same and it is vital to ascertain where a facility is geographically located and the physical and network security protocols it has in place. Choosing a service provider whose data center has achieved international compliance standards such as ISO 27001 is an excellent starting point.
Even for the most enthusiastic advocates, the journey to cloud adoption can sometimes be a confusing, daunting and intimidating experience. There will also be times where, due to the nature of an organization’s activities and/or corporate policy, an on-premise security system will be the most appropriate option. Not surprisingly, many organizations are opting for a hybrid security solution that combines both on-premise technology for certain aspects of their operation and the public cloud for others. This offers the best of both worlds and helps facilitate a smooth transition towards the cloud as and when deemed appropriate.
One of the most compelling benefits of the cloud is its flexibility. Users select their own provider, storage space and compute resources, allowing them to stay agile. As a cloud solution is hosted off-site, adding cameras in new buildings or a wider estate into an existing system is simple and doesn’t require new CapEx in network infrastructure or computing capacity. It also makes future-proofing simple, because additional services like access control can be added as required.
Rather than having to invest in additional server capacity and software licenses, a monthly subscription can be instantly adjusted. Furthermore, constant upgrades and updates to software ensure the user has the latest, most powerful features, while data storage capacity, processing power and networking can all be scaled up or down, typically with little to no disruption or downtime.
One of the common misconceptions cited by naysayers as a reason not to use cloud-based security is that it creates a level of complexity that makes system management difficult. This, however, couldn’t be further from the truth, as the cloud enables an end user to access their security system from anywhere and on any device – smartphone, tablet or PC – on demand.
The cloud also makes collaboration easier, which is especially important considering how difficult it can be to share large video files with colleagues. It also offers case management functionality, where people can share critical information and insights, to work together on projects.
Users can view live and playback video from cloud cameras, bookmark cameras for quick and easy access from the main dashboard, check camera health status, export footage clips and collect and package related video events together in case files that can be easily retrieved at a later date.
When it comes to managing and monitoring video, it negates the need for numerous displays in dedicated control rooms, while remote diagnostics, technical issues and servicing can also be carried out by simply logging-in with a user-name and password.
As the world moves away from on-premise security systems, the opportunity to have just-in-time infrastructure without long acquisition cycles is compelling and has enabled enterprises to treat the cloud as an IT ‘vending machine’. New functionality is constantly developed and made instantly accessible, with tools pushed to a system for the end user to select and adopt as they wish. AI-driven features such as object recognition can even be utilized – when specific objects are captured and identified by a camera, an alarm is triggered.
With on-premise solutions, planned preventative maintenance, firmware updates, regular patching, firewalls, malware prevention, encrypted passwords and security certificates must all be kept up to date, activities that are time consuming and often fail to be completed. Conversely, cloud-based applications automatically refresh and update themselves, instead of forcing an IT department to perform a manual update.
For many organizations, the determining factor when it comes to making the move to the cloud are the costs involved with doing so.
Cloud-based solutions offer a vast reduction in the expenditure associated with hardware management, meaning that total cost of ownership (TCO) can be dramatically lowered. New devices, estates and functionality can be added in far more cheaply and quickly than with an on-premise solution, as beyond the cameras or sensors required, additional networking and computing infrastructure is not needed.
As already mentioned, operational expenditure (OpEx) savings also include the ‘hidden’ costs of having to employ personnel to carry out maintenance on a security system, as well as the potential disruption created by having to manually perform upgrades and interrupting business operations. Another, less obvious, cost saving comes from being able to monitor and manage a video management system (VMS) remotely. Troubleshooting, maintenance, modifications and repairs can be carried out without having someone on-site, which not only saves money but improves speed of response.
The popularity of video analytics is closely linked with the growth in cloud-based security. By allowing aggregation, analysis and presentation of the data acquired from a video surveillance system through an internet browser, data can be presented in statistical reports and graphs. This offers a valuable springboard for growth and development, without the limitations or lifespans associated with on-premise servers.
Increasingly, video data is more than simply crime-based security footage – it is actionable business intelligence that can be assessed by analytics software and turned into meaningful information. This enables organizations to sort and dissect information to gain powerful insights that deliver transformational business value, greater visibility and fresh perspectives.
Analytical parameters can be established such as traffic and footfall, while heat mapping allows an end user to see where people are going within a building and identify patterns of behavior. With companies taking their environmental, social and governance (ESG) approaches more seriously, cloud-based security drives action to help organizations achieve sustainability-based compliance. For example, analyzing building occupancy data assists in determining where lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and other power-hungry building services are needed, without wasting energy.
The arguments in favor of the cloud are compelling. Today’s cloud-based video surveillance solutions are reliable, secure, well-provisioned and future-proof, delivering a range of advantages including greater resilience, ease of mobile user support, flexibility, minimal CapEx, reduced operational costs and an improved user experience. What’s not to like?
Brad McMullen is the President of 3xLOGIC, Sonitrol and PACOM brands. 3xLOGIC is an innovator and provider of security hardware, software, and cloud-based solutions that drive business intelligence for customers around the globe. Brad is a graduate of Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania with a BSBA in Marketing and he has an MBA in Management from Loyola University Maryland. He has over 20 years of experience and solid achievements across several roles and assignments. Brad has developed expertise in product development, product marketing and commercialization and has a passion for solving customer problems and pain points. He has spent the last five years in the security industry and has a track record of proven results and leadership.
This article was originally published in the May edition of Security Journal Americas. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.