5 Questions for Your Cloud Provider

5 Questions for Your Cloud Provider

It’s going to become the ubiquitous platform for physical security, so start querying now

Do you want the real bottom line in providing cloud services for video, access control and other integrated services? It’s a challenging and uncomfortable business transformation, but one that will ultimately prepare security integrators for the future. Moving services to the cloud does require a totally different financial model and sales process. While profit margins are compressed and the upfront payouts for installing hardware are much smaller, the good news is that security businesses will instead benefit from incremental and predictable income from recurring monthly revenue (RMR) generated from system management, maintenance and monitoring.

The real story here is that it’s no longer a matter of if you move to the cloud, but when. End users are asking for the cloud, with many CEOs, CIOs and CSOs insisting on moving all their “iron” off premise and relying on hosted, off-site cloud solutions for secure and easy maintenance. Systems integrators need to be able to deliver the value proposition expected of the cloud during the industry’s ongoing digital transformation—reliability, expandability and the move to operating expense (OpEx) versus capital expense (CapEx). With cloud, integrators can yield services that can be maintained on a grand scale even with thousands of cameras across the globe, ensuring the solution is running reliably. Installations are also simpler, utilizing one portal for all systems, services and user management, yielding a unified platform for video and access control.

When systems integrators embrace cloud technology they enable a long-term solution that allows a transitional approach with many different options available to customers. There’s also inherent, enhanced, cybersecurity and compliance embedded into cloud platforms. Long term, leveraging cloud solutions means a healthier revenue stream and additional options for future profitability. It’s easy to add or offload services, not to mention the added benefits of providing remote maintenance and management through a single interface or mobile devices. Together, these help to create a better user experience and a stickier customer.

Moving to cloud management and storage starts with a deep dive into the functionality of the platform. Education and research come next, honing in on what your customers are looking for and what the cloud solution offers to meet their physical security needs or challenges. When posed to your potential cloud provider, these five questions should provide guidance in the quest to decide what’s best for you and your organization.

How Robust and Open is the Platform?

This is a simple question, but essential to the decision-making discussion. The cloud platform you select should run on an open and modern architecture to deliver fast, scalable and secure cloud services globally in addition to covering video, access control, artificial intelligence, cyber security and unified legacy products.

To clarify, just because you have a cloud-based offering doesn’t mean you have to store video only in the cloud. In fact, the best cloud platforms allow you to share video securely and store video in cameras, via gateways, in the cloud or in a hybrid combination. This gives security integrators the ability to manage and store via cloud, and custom design their managed services to all their customers—from SMBs to large enterprise accounts. Some cloud platforms require you to use specific cameras when in fact the beauty of cloud services is that you can use existing devices with a gateway product or new hardware, which solves the problem of the transition with legacy equipment.

How Many Ways Can I Create Recurring Revenue?

It’s important to select the most versatile, flexible, and scalable platform available. That’s what you are looking for in this answer. When a platform is versatile, you can use a cloud solution where it makes most sense to move complex and costly infrastructure off premises.

Unlimited storage options provide simple and cost effective onpremise cloud and hybrid video storage, where you can select days, motion event counts, bookmarks, and quality settings for each camera individually and schedule video upload times for off peak. You should have unlimited flexibility for cloud recording in a simple-touse interface and be able to select all cameras or any single camera, to specify video resolution and to enter the number of days to record (from one day to one year or more) or record only when motion is detected. With a flexible cloud platform, you can create a custom upload schedule to upload video to the cloud in the evening or off prime time to save bandwidth, as well as turn on and off recording as necessary.

In the example of a large boutique bank, the customer stores video in the camera and the cloud. Integrators managing these devices can ascertain current camera status; how many people have been logging in and viewing; how much data has been used; if a camera has been tampered or hacked; and view recorded video. With the ability to manage thousands of locations from one interface, the integrator is in control of the levels of management provided and can easily add or customize services, providing for a stickier customer.

The amount of RMR from cloud services can vary dramatically. If the camera is sending video to the cloud 24 hours a day at 4K resolution at 5 Mpbs, the RMR can range anywhere on average more than $100 per month. If it’s recording motion activity only, it may be less than $10 per month. Bandwidth is one of the limitations in the growth of cloud recording—but it also provides a lot of different variables and scenarios. Some customers only record on motion or dial down to one or two frames per second to save bandwidth. Again, it’s all dependent on the project’s parameters, and you should have the flexibility in your platform to address every customer and vertical market you serve.

How Does the Platform Help Manage and Grow My Business?

Look for a platform that’s not entirely tied to technology, but instead helps you build your managed services business through efficiency and scalability. It should prepare you for the ongoing digital transformation and the future of security contracting—everything “As a Service.” Leveraging one single user interface and one reporting structure for all your customers helps you readily scale the offering so you can start small and add devices as needed, boosting your RMR in the process.

Storage is critical and is tied to many parameters, including bandwidth of cameras, how video is stored and used and if there are regulations to meet for archiving. These parameters can vary drastically from job to job, so you need flexibility from your cloud provider.

For example, customers should have the ability to record and store at the edge and on the camera; upload video as needed and in the resolution required; or record based on motion or 24/7, such as for mission critical or government specifications to meet compliance requirements. Dynamic, on-demand services to store and manage all your solutions—this is what you are looking for.

What Features Help Me Support My Customers?

Here are some of the capabilities you should be able to glean from your cloud platform:

  • Get status updates in real time to address issues when or before they happen, circumventing possible compromise or security situations.
  • See the entire surveillance system on a map and click on any camera or gateway to see details and troubleshoot immediately and on-the-fly.
  • Add, edit and delete users and remotely upgrade systems.
  • Track and report on bandwidth utilization, view live video and recorded playback, uploads, cloud storage and more with a single dashboard.
  • Provide health reports and other system/process documentation.
  • E-commerce and billing management and reporting to track your revenue per camera or per customer.

Ease of maintenance and labor savings, as well as built-in security and updates are also key to effectively using the cloud. When you can use the cloud to manage the client’s services and even reboot field devices or take locks offline, the company saves money by not having to hire a labor and field technician. Even across an enterprise with thousands of cameras, integrators can manage users, cameras, gateways and services from one web browser. They can also track bandwidth and provide the customer with network and cloud storage utilization reports. Monitoring the status of all systems in an intuitive map mode lets systems integrators jump to any device for instant, onthe- fly troubleshooting.

What About Cybersecurity and How Do I Protect My Customers?

The cloud is one of the most secure platforms, but not all are created equal. The cloud provider’s overall experience in handling a variety of vertical markets comes into play. Architecture is also paramount—and one that’s design-built from the ground up as a secure, multi-tenant platform for capture, transport, storage, management, analysis and distribution of a variety of video sources over different networks makes the most sense. With a cloud infrastructure, there’s more overall reliability in the configuration—think of it as almost a mini NOC— where if one camera goes out, the remainder stay online. With NVRs and DVRs, it’s the opposite: the entire solution networked together can suffer a failure, knocking out all cameras or components.

Uptime and reliability are paramount—and the cloud provider should provide documentation on their track record and cloud services experience. Video surveillance is network intensive and can interrupt critical data collection such as point-of-sale, so select a platform that handles bandwidth management and controls network utilization as well as one with integrated failover. This function buffers video when a network disconnects and then sends data automatically on when connectivity is restored.

Recording services should optimize video for different connection speeds and deliver storage bandwidth control. Another nice perk is the availability of secure third-party app access to recorded video on demand from any location and any connected device.

Leading cloud providers custom-create their own secure software, helping deliver services that achieve higher levels of security, privacy and compliance, including GDPR. Encryption, redundancy, two-factor authentication, backups and software updates are automatic. Best of all, the cloud regularly adds features, so you can pass along a continuing array of new services to customers as well.

This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of Security Today.

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