On Cloud 9 - Campuses need effective security equipment

On Cloud 9

Campuses need effective security equipment

Perhaps more than any other time in history, school campuses need effective security equipment and tools not only to ensure the physical safety of students, teachers, staff and administration but also to create a safe environment where effective learning takes place as well as manage expensive assets, such as computer equipment, from theft or damage.

After all, students deserve a safe place to learn and thrive as they grow, and teachers deserve a safe place to teach. To achieve this type of security within the budgetary constraints most campuses are plagued with, the majority of school districts seek cost-effective security equipment with the hope that it will also be effective. With cloud video surveillance, schools can achieve both.

School districts’ budgets for security varies by city, town or province as well as by state; therefore, some campuses have been able to embrace using advanced IP video cameras in conjunction with the cloud for video surveillance while others are sustaining the best they can with analog. One drawback to analog is that some of the DVRs paired with these cameras can only be viewed using a dedicated computer with Windows XP already installed, yet this operating system is no longer supported by Microsoft. In this case, videos can only be viewed on the Windows XP-specific computer that is logged into the network.

This is exactly what happened to a Tennessee school district on their middle school and high school campuses.

“We had an analog system where the DVR could only be viewed using a dedicated computer with Windows XP,” said Dianne Anderson, Ph.D., technology coordinator, McKenzie Special School District. “I wanted to switch to a different system that would work online as well.”

Cloud video surveillance offers campuses a cost-effective option compared to the typical on-site video surveillance system. With the ability to add unlimited users at no additional cost, a campuses level of security is immediately multiplied, enabling authorized users to access a browser-based cloud system’s cameras on a laptop, tablet or smartphone no matter where the user is located. This enables multiple sets of “virtual eyes” to monitor the campus 24/7. Some schools are also taking advantage of this specific feature by adding the local police department as an authorized user in which automatically gives officers situational awareness as to what’s taking place on a campus through surveillance feeds, providing a tool for quicker response time should an incident occur on a campus.

One of McKenzie school district’s main goals was to have a video surveillance system in which all camera-covered areas could be viewed and monitored online. This would enable the campuses to provide security around the clock.

“We reviewed several cloud-based video surveillance manufacturers, but we chose the Smartvue system because of how easy it was to get system access from smartphones as well as computers,” Anderson said. “We installed a 34 camera system at the high school and a 31 camera system at the middle school, all of which are connected to the Smartvue cloud. Now, our SRO [school resource officer] has the ability to log into our cloud-based system and see all the cameras whenever he needs to as well as the local police.”

Realizing that schools’ needs change over time is a huge key to cloud video surveillance as some providers insist on charging a fee for each additional camera licenses; but, there are other providers who understand campus surveillance and offer the option of scalability at no additional cost. Seek providers that don’t charge for camera licenses. This allows schools to add or remove cameras at any time without the extra cost of camera licenses.

“We seek partnerships with providers that help ENA service our school districts by being scalable and simple to implement,” said Stephen Klausner, partner program account services. “Our Cloud video surveillance partner helps us do that.”

In addition, schools should select browser-based cloud solutions so that no special software downloads or specially-dedicated surveillance terminals needed, while offering an easy-to-use system that is easy to set up. Opt for solutions that can use existing cameras or work on the existing network. Choose plug-and-play solutions in which new cameras are installed and found automatically, becoming operational with just a single click of the mouse.

“We feel like our campuses, students and faculty are better protected with the Smartvue solution,” Anderson said. “We can see the camera view no matter where we are, and Smartvue allows us to be scalable without paying additional camera licensing fees.”

When trying to decide if a cloud video surveillance system is right, here are a few questions school campuses should ask themselves to find the best product from the best provider at the most cost-efficient price:

  • Is the solution browser-based?
  • Is the solution easy to use?
  • Is the solution easy to install?
  • Does the solution offer unlimited users?
  • Does the solution offer customized alerts?
  • Do we need to purchase additional camera licenses when adding more cameras?
  • Does the solution provider offer free training or consulting for schools in transition to cloud video surveillance?

The ultimate goal of most schools is to provide a safe and secure environment so that students can learn, teachers can teach, and administration and staff can support the learning process. When an incident does occur, though, campuses need to be properly equipped with the most effective type of video surveillance at a comfortable price point. This is achieved by working with the right provider of cloud video surveillance, one who clearly understands the campus environment, the unique security challenges such a location poses and the budgetary constraints involved.

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

About the Author

Ralph C. Jensen is editor-in-chief of Security Today magazine.

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