Video Surveillance Takes to the Cloud

Video Surveillance Takes to the Cloud

It was not all that long ago when discussion of professional security services on the Cloud seemed all but preposterous due to bandwidth and security concerns. Fast-forward to 2021, and all that talk seems like it was decades ago, likened to a time when IP video was thought to be a futuristic speculation.

The evolution to Cloud services has largely been the work of technologist in other industries who have been nurturing the Cloud for software as a service (SaaS) applications. The success and widespread acceptance of highly popular and successful applications like Microsoft Office 365 and Salesforce.com helped pave the way for numerous Cloud applications. As a result, scores of software innovators now offer users access to powerful software applications that would otherwise not be affordable with little to no capital expenditures and minimized risk.

The continued demand for remote system access and management is also helping to drive the migration of some or all aspects of professional video surveillance to the Cloud. Moreover, with early barriers to the adoption of Cloud such as cost, bandwidth and resolution all but behind us, it is expected that Cloud security solutions will continue to become even more popular. However, it will take some time to break ingrained industry habits, which will change as more use cases are made public that substantiate the performance attributes and document return on investment (ROI).

Going remote with the Cloud
COVID-19 has also created new security and business operational challenges, which have spurred the demand for Cloud video surveillance solutions. Video surveillance is leading the Cloud movement by enabling a cost-effective way to easily download and share footage remotely. It also offers users the ability to control their systems remotely via a mobile app or a web portal. For example, users can change motion detection zones and sensitivity or use pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) functionality to adjust their cameras to better focus on events of interest, without having to be physically near their system.

When a potential security breach or threat is detected, users can also respond in real time to deter unwanted visitors with features such as two-way audio. These remote capabilities set Cloud video surveillance apart from traditional systems where sharing footage and controlling settings is often cumbersome and requires physical access to the recorder. 

Business owners and management are also increasingly seeking security solutions that can assist in improving daily operations. Cloud video surveillance and security solutions can instantly transform these systems from being reactive to proactive sources of business data and intelligence. For example, users can be alerted via email or push notification when specific objects such as people or vehicles are detected so they can respond to events in real-time.

Cloud providers such as Videoloft offer video analytics features, which can empower even basic cameras with the ability to detect a wide range of objects and thus allow customizable alerting and smart footage search. By connecting Cloud software to existing video surveillance cameras, users can instantly upgrade legacy systems with new capabilities while leveraging their existing capital expense in fixed system technology.

Scaling with the Cloud
While video surveillance and security in the Cloud delivers new remote access capabilities to legacy systems, it also provides virtually unlimited scalability. Users are free from the burden of maintaining the hardware used to store video and are not subject to the fixed storage capacity limitations of resident servers and/or recorders. Recorded footage can be archived in the Cloud for more than three years. 

Bandwidth management in the Cloud
High bandwidth consumption and limited resolution also is perceived as a key hurdle for professional surveillance and security applications in the Cloud. As video compression technology continues to improve, bandwidth requirements have been reduced. Cloud-based systems continuously monitor network conditions and adjust frame rate, bit rate and resolution, so that video can be sent to the Cloud, even in poor network conditions. Cloud-based video surveillance systems also commonly offer an option to store only video events that have been triggered by motion, meaning that bandwidth is used when the video is worth saving. 

Security in the Cloud
Cybersecurity concerns have hindered the growth of Cloud-based systems, but independent Cloud platform providers are arguably more secure than traditional systems. The independence of Cloud providers is important, as often their software runs on a bridging device rather than on the cameras or recorders, meaning that camera manufacturers have no access to the Cloud platform.

Cloud solutions can also overcome other cybersecurity issues. For example, enabling remote access on traditional systems frequently requires port forwarding, leaving the system vulnerable to infiltration. However, with Cloud solutions, no port forwarding is required and in most cases, video files are transmitted over encrypted TLS (HTTPS) channels.

Resolution in the Cloud
The final hurdle historically truncating the adoption of professional video Cloud services is resolution. Cost and bandwidth constraints often necessitated that the resolution of video sent to the Cloud was limited to 2MP. In most cases, this meant an onsite recorder was needed to save higher resolution video locally.

Moving to the Cloud
While cost, bandwidth, security and resolution are areas, which have all improved with vast improvements in recent years, there is still one very simple reason why Cloud is not being more widely adopted by security professionals – resistance to change! However, when it took the security industry literally a few decades to move from coax to IP, making a move to the Cloud may seem even more daunting. One large motivator is the financial benefits that the Cloud delivers to both users and resellers in the form of cost-savings and recurring revenue, respectively. Although perceptions will not change overnight, professional video surveillance and security is destined to take to the Cloud.

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