Thinking Outside The Cloud

Security has been slow to adopt Cloud services

A series of Microsoft commercials beginning in 2010 brought the concept of “the cloud” into our cultural lexicon. The ensuing five-plus years have grown awareness and adoption of the concept behind that term, especially in the consumer arena. In security, however, adoption has lagged far behind, and while there has been and continues to be talk of the coming acceptance of the cloud for video security, the reality is that so far, most of the success security professionals have had with the cloud has come on the access control side.

The consumer industry does a great job of educating people about new technology and its benefits. Naturally, as consumers, we bring what we’ve learned in the overall marketplace to security. So when end users hear about full HD or 1080p, they ask us, “Where’s your 1080p?” Pretty soon, if it’s not happening already, they’ll be asking, “Where’s your 4K camera/recorder?” because the consumer industry has done a good job of education, telling them, “This is the hot new technology you need.” So of course they’re going to assume that the security industry is ready to deliver the same thing.

Until recently, 4K wasn’t well known, but that has changed dramatically, and very quickly, to the point where 4K technologies can be found on nearly every list of top gifts for the holidays. Now imagine the level of understanding (and misunderstanding) people have gleaned from a much longer timeframe of discussion of the cloud on the consumer side. The technology behind the concept is sound, with numerous companies using the cloud for video today. The challenge is actually the term itself, as “the cloud” has come to mean different things to different people.

For starters, end users’ comfort levels may be affected by their understanding of the cloud. Thanks to widespread media coverage, we’re all keenly aware of breaches that have resulted in social security numbers, credit card information and other sensitive data being stolen. In addition to the potential for identity theft, personal privacy has also taken a hit, as evidenced by the breach that saw several celebrities’ personal photos and information stolen from their iPhones and released very publicly. The good news is that this made Apple aware of security vulnerability with Apple IDs, which the company quickly rectified. The bad news is that this breach caused skepticism and mistrust about the cloud to grow.

Just as importantly to public perception of “the cloud” is widespread uncertainty about just what, exactly, that term means. Many people still can’t define exactly what it is and, more importantly, what it means to our market.

What I’d like to do is define what the cloud means to a customer. If we abandon the term “the cloud” and define it for what it is, the resulting understanding will lead to more adoption within the industry. We can begin by considering the DVRs and NVRs provided by cable and satellite companies. Because these are physical devices that “live” inside the home, customers can easily understand how they work and therefore have a certain comfort level with them.

Today, certain providers offer an alternative to that physical device, providing a service that takes that physical device out of the home but still allows customers to access their recordings and video on demand. They pay a monthly fee for this service, which is likely in line with the equipment rental fee they’re already paying. This delivers a new level of convenience in two ways; it eliminates the need to find space for the traditional cable box, and it enables the user to access their video from just about anywhere via the internet. As usual, the consumer industry has done a great job of explaining this concept (without invoking “the cloud”) to the point where customers are just as comfortable with this offering as with having a physical device in their home.

This is exactly what we want, and need, to do for security, particularly video surveillance. Rather than having customers buy a DVR or NVR, we want to offer them the ability to store their video remotely at a secure datacenter. This allows them to see their video at any time, from anywhere, and eliminates the potential for an on-site device to break down. When you explain this concept to customers, take a page from the consumer industry and make it easier for end users to understand exactly what they’re getting.

It’s important to remember that what a cloud service provider offers is an NVR rental and storage service. They maintain the servers, they ensure data is protected both incoming and outgoing, and they rent space on those servers to end users.

But, let us not get hung up on terminology. It’s much more important that people understand the concept of the cloud as it applies to security. So let’s not lead our discussion with cloud terminology; instead let’s lead with the concept of off-site NVR rental or leasing and all the benefits that provides over buying and retaining equipment on site.

When you boil it down to that simple concept, customers’ comfort level will increase, which will go a long way toward increasing their acceptance. It’s that simple, and as an industry, we need to keep it that way.

This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of Security Today.

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