Pitching a Better IP Solution

Pitching a Better IP Solution

Turning technology staff into your biggest champions

Pitching a Better IP SolutionBefore you pitch an IP video solution, first consider how many other systems are likely riding on the network: email, VoIP, access control, fire detection, HVAC and possibly more. Who’s responsible for maintaining the infrastructure that keeps everything up and running? The IT department, of course.

IT professionals are becoming increasingly involved in video surveillance initiatives across all industries. It’s time to build strong relationships with the IT side of the house and include them in discussions about any new system that will piggyback on their backbone. If done properly, by setting expectations and listening to needs and concerns, you’ll gain a champion who can help you build a solution that’s a win-win for everyone.

The Case for More Efficient Storage

Many times I’ve heard IT staff say, “I typically don’t get involved in the details of video system decisions. They just tell me how much storage to provide and I provide it.”

You could take that comment at face value and just throw a storage number out there. However, if you really want to win the hearts and minds of IT, show them how your IP solution can make more efficient use of their storage resources without compromising security’s need for exceptional video quality.

Using H.264 compression. If you’ve ever walked through a data center, you can feel the lifeblood of the company pulsing through every inch of real estate—from the air conditioning units humming, to the fans cooling racks of storage devices, to the raised flooring hiding the thousands of feet of cabling that underpin the entire ecosystem.

Clearly IT will have a stake in how much additional strain IP video storage will put on that environment. This is a perfect opportunity to discuss H.264 compression technology, an advanced video codec that maximizes compression while maintaining video quality and frame rates to keep physical security, operations, LP and executives happy.

Depending upon the amount of movement in the field of view (FOV), H.264 can reduce the size of the video data being transferred and stored. I saw a live demo recently where a full 720p, HDTV, 30 fps video stream was reduced from 32Mbps at MJPEG to 2.9Mbps using the H.264 codec. Even at this level of compression, the system was able to maintain high video quality and frame rate. For the physical security people, this means the ability to maintain forensic quality images. For IT, it means a video solution that requires 80 to 90 percent less bandwidth and storage.

It’s important to note that some manufacturers may still use the older predecessor to H.264, MPEG-4 compression technology versus the older MJPEG technology which is rarely used in today’s solutions. Even in the case of MPEG-4, however, H.264 would still consume 50 percent less bandwidth and storage compared to MPEG-4 compression.

How do you translate that advantage into your proposal?

Here’s a recent RFP anecdote as an example. The proposal called for approximately 2,000 cameras that required various storage ranges—anywhere from 90 days of stored video from some cameras to as much as one year of storage from others. In the initial calculation, the customer would need over 13 petabytes of storage. Running the same calculations using H.264 codec, however, the demand for storage dropped abruptly to only three petabytes of data. Even assuming commodity prices for storage, that represents a significant savings in capital expenditure and operating costs.

The Case for Additional Short- and Long-term Benefits

Compressing video and reducing the amount of storage leads to other short- and long-term benefits for an end user’s company and its IT department. Among them are reduced demands on the cooling system, power supply, data center, real estate— which is always at a premium—and data load on the network.

Cooling systems. Data centers and rack rooms generate so much heat from their equipment that businesses typically install a separate cooling system in order to avoid overloading a building’s basic HVAC system. As more components are added to the data center, the amount of cooling required increases in-line.

While advances in server and storage cooling technologies are reducing the additional load on existing data centers, supplementary cooling needs for growing systems will never be eliminated entirely. If, however, you can reduce the amount of storage required for your IP video solution, you can reduce the amount of additional cooling equipment needed to protect it. This represents a savings in additional capital investment as well as the recurring costs associated with providing power to cooling units.

Power. Adding storage, servers and routers to the network also adds to the power consumption of any IT closet or data center. H.264 compression is a great way to help keep that consumption in check, even as the system grows. It increases efficient use of resources, which reduces the requirements for additional hardware and storage.

As new equipment is added to the IT closet or data center in smaller increments, daily power consumption will rise in smaller increments as well. This translates into additional capital savings for power-related equipment and long-term operating savings for recurring utility costs.

Real estate. Data centers and rack rooms that house IT equipment require physical real estate, which companies often lease or pay for by the square foot. It’s an expense that sometimes gets overlooked when factoring in the cost of an IP video solution. Even though advancements in storage and scalability have enabled IT to handle many petabytes of data storage in a single equipment rack design, at some point, the rack and/ or the room will reach capacity.

Compression helps postpone the inevitable need to acquire additional real estate by minimizing the amount of resources required to support an IP video solution. This means IT can devote more real estate to accommodate the increasing data load from other systems on the network by providing them with more flexibility to decide how to use the space they have, making them true company heroes.

The Case for Mitigating Cyber Threats

While the security department focuses on the chain of custody for forensic evidence, IT worries about the potential vulnerability IP video might introduce to the network. Cyber threats are everywhere—whether you’re talking about surveillance recordings or any other electronic data traversing the network. Domestic and global hackers are continually running programs to find and exploit any and every unprotected portal into a company’s infrastructure to gain access to confidential data.

Any IP-based video proposal must address those cyber threat concerns right from the outset. At a base level, it helps to assure both physical security and IT professionals that IP video components employ the same authentication protocols and data encryption procedures as other devices allowed on their corporate network.

Authentication protocol. A main concern for IT might be that IP video devices added to their network might afford intruders a chance to use that device and its connectivity to the network as a means to access the internal network. This is a perfect opportunity to introduce authentication protocols like 802.1x via a PKI certificate that uses private and publicly-shared keys to authenticate devices at the port level on a switch and at the camera.

If someone attempts to access the camera, network switch, and router or servers communicating with the camera, the switch automatically shuts down all traffic to that port. And, in the case of the camera, it locks out access to the camera and its data streams.

This IP camera benefit will resonate with IT professionals because they’ve been using this protocol for decades to secure other devices on the network such as laptops and PCs. And, now, with the proliferation of mobile devices that can remotely access corporate networks, systems and data, as well as third-party partners granted permission to certain corporate electronic assets, institution of strict authentication protocols has inevitably moved from option to necessity.

Data encryption. There are a number of commonly deployed encryption standards that can block outsiders from grabbing a free ride on the company’s Internet connection or decoding the content of data streams on the network. Today’s encryption keys are usually one of three lengths: 128, 192 or 256 bits. Including IT in the conversation ensures that you propose professional-grade video surveillance devices that consistently employ all the same security protocols as every other component connecting to the company network.

Even higher IT security standards. Depending on the sensitivity of the data being protected, you might also bring some government cyber protection programs into the discussion. These programs are specifically designed to address Information Assurance— the protection of valuable data and systems—and Authority to Operate—the adherence to an organization’s highest standards for threat mitigation. The Department of Defense (DoD) established the highest of these standards-based criteria under its DIACAP (Defense Information Assurance Certification and Accreditation Program), which recently was renamed to Risk Management Framework (RMF) for DoD Information Technology.

While most installations probably won’t need such heightened protection standards as those outlined by the DoD, any IP video devices installed on a company’s network should provide some higher level of protection. This could mean adopting and managing policies that enforce greater vigilance to reduce the impact of cyber threats. Or, it could mean using PKI certificates for authentication instead of relying on more easily breached user name/password schemes.

It pays to do your homework. Quiz manufacturers and suppliers as to what measures they have taken as industry leaders to harden their devices against cyber threats before recommending their components as part of your proposal. This is a major differentiator between professional-grade IP video surveillance devices and consumer- grade systems purchased online or from a big box retailer.

Being well-versed in the types of threats both IT and physical security professionals’ face and having concrete strategies ready for their protection will help to instill greater confidence in the proposed IP video solution.

Working across Departments

Since IT owns the network and all critical business operations that rely on its infrastructure, IT naturally works with different stakeholders in different departments. The best IT professionals are masters at sharing technology, resources and data across the entire company. Today’s IP video systems are being used for far more than security, so who better to tap for advice, experience and help with the execution of using video to improve operations, sales, marketing and more?

Turn the IT team on to analytics and intelligent integration with systems and they’ll likely begin envisioning different ways they can use their assets—the network and their own expertise—to share valuable video data and systems with the rest of the company. If done properly with other departments on board, budget resources could potentially be pooled for your IP video system.

Getting IT in Your Corner

It always pays to have the company heroes in your corner. While you’re touting the benefits of IP video for physical security—image usability, scalability and functionality, and TCO, be sure to include the IT team in that discussion. Get to know what their concerns are and learn the key factors that govern how they protect their network and data against threats. Then educate on the proper configuration and ultimate benefits of IP video.

Be sure the proposed solution is easy to manage, has minimal impact on other systems and data riding on the network, and can provide business intelligence IT can leverage with other departments throughout the company. IT may or may not be involved in the nitty-gritty of system design and device decision making, but any decisions made will impact them and their domain. When you can empathize with the challenges IT faces and show them how your solution can mitigate those burdens, they are bound to appreciate your efforts and be more likely to champion your proposal.

This article originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of Security Today.

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