Completely On Line - Why they are essential to the networking mission

Completely On Line

Why they are essential to the networking mission

The past few years have been unlike any period we’ve experienced in the professional security industry. The journey from the first IP cameras to the present day is now rapidly accelerating. The Internet of Things (IoT) is poised to make a fundamental change in professional security technology at any moment— a change which is already well underway in the consumer world. Over 4 billion devices are now sending data to the Internet—data which is spun into valuable information. For example, your smart thermostat can detect an unusual drop in outside temperature and raise the heat an hour before you get home from work.

This is true integration between products and systems—the fulfillment of a vision once referred to as convergence in the security industry which has become far more relevant today now that big data plays such a critical role in enterprise level security. As we continue to connect more and more things via the network, technologies and devices are finally and truly converging.

Convergence of systems means the sharing of data, a central point for security since much of the data being generated from these systems, as well as the functionality driving them, comes from physical security systems like video and access control. In fact, video is a tremendous source of both archived and real-time data. The number of installed IP cameras is growing swiftly, and with megapixel imaging, bandwidth expansion and multi-imager cameras, the quantity of data being produced is growing geometrically. At any moment, any frame of this data can instantly become mission critical for identifying individuals, reading anything from a license plate to a serial number on a bill or gaining insight into an incident.

In fact, a moment of recorded video can save executives from a legal action or save a corporation millions of dollars in liability. On the other hand, if the video system fails to record during that critical moment, the loss can be staggering. This is why assuring the video stream is completing its intended path has become one of IT and security’s biggest challenges. Oversight for this has become the role of what is beginning to be termed a Video Network Administrator (VNA), a position that for the most part does not formally exist, but should. Unlike a team comprising of security technology, systems integrator technicians and IT, these individuals work diligently to keep video surveillance up and running. Now it is time to recognize this position and the person fulfilling it, as the VNA will play a vital role in security strategy, a role which will increase in importance with the continuing expansion and integration of video surveillance technologies.

Successful video infrastructure management requires visibility into the network’s behavior. Each video stream is an amalgam of many different systems and processes, the failure of any one of which can result in missing video. Heterogeneous video networks may include cameras at the edge, complex VMS and other software, networking infrastructure and hard discs for recording. The more technology that is deployed in a video solution, the more elements there are which could potentially run slow, cut out intermittently or fail at any given time. Spot-checking the system will not identify degrading components or other developing problems.

Once a problem is detected, it can be a tremendous challenge for the VNA to identify the cause. Uncertainty about where the root of the problem lies can lead to guesswork and an inefficient trial and error process to try and solve it. Having a number of providers, contractors and vendors for your system exacerbates the problem as they may be reluctant to take responsibility for the issue, which only prolongs video downtime. Informational truck rolls are expensive and use even more time in trying to solve problems. During this time there is a lack of situational awareness, video is not being archived, investigations are negatively impacted and as a whole the organization is at a higher risk.

Without question, management of the video stream is a serious and complicated issue for risk management, highlighting the crucial nature of the VNA’s role in the organization. This role will only grow in complexity and importance as video surveillance systems become larger and integrate with more hardware and software solutions. It is time not only to recognize the value of the VNA, but also to consider how automation can make them more effective and efficient at their profession.

The rising recognition of these challenges is driving a new segment of growth in the IT industry which has strong applicability within the security industry, as well. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions now exist which can monitor each unique video stream, detect when any interruption or decay is causing a gap in the stream, and alert the VNA with actionable information on how to quickly solve the problem. This software provides almost immediate ROI, but very quietly, as there is no way to measure the problems and liabilities that an organization has avoided by ensuring a robust video stream at all times.

What can be measured, and therefore managed, is diagnostic data. SaaS solutions do this, providing key performance indicators (KPIs) that give visibility and insight into the behavior of the IP video network and video operations. Furthermore, a well-designed user interface delivers the information directly to mobile phones and tablets in addition to desktop PCs, utilizing data visualization and diagnostic graphing to help the user better understand system statistics. Useful KPIs include:

  • Video path uptime
  • Video stream delivery index
  • Video retention compliance
  • Average ticket response time
  • Mean failure recovery time

Finally, in the current environment where customer service and support truly defines a brand’s value to their community, it is essential for expert live assistance to be a quick call or click away at all times. This helps to get any questions or issues resolved even more quickly, further raising the ROI.

The individual who is fulfilling the role of VNA in any organization will, with absolute certainty, welcome the adoption of this type of automated software to maintain the health of the video network. For executive management, who are ultimately responsible for any risk that exists in the organization, this is a winning solution.

This article originally appeared in the February 2015 issue of Security Today.

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