5 Questions for Your Cloud Provider
It’s going to become the ubiquitous platform for physical security, so start querying now
- By Martin Renkis
- Sep 01, 2019
Do you want the real bottom line in providing cloud
services for video, access control and other integrated
services? It’s a challenging and uncomfortable business
transformation, but one that will ultimately prepare
security integrators for the future. Moving services
to the cloud does require a totally different financial model and
sales process. While profit margins are compressed and the upfront
payouts for installing hardware are much smaller, the good news is
that security businesses will instead benefit from incremental and predictable
income from recurring monthly revenue (RMR) generated
from system management, maintenance and monitoring.
The real story here is that it’s no longer a matter of if you move to
the cloud, but when. End users are asking for the cloud, with many
CEOs, CIOs and CSOs insisting on moving all their “iron” off premise
and relying on hosted, off-site cloud solutions for secure and easy
maintenance. Systems integrators need to be able to deliver the value
proposition expected of the cloud during the industry’s ongoing digital
transformation—reliability, expandability and the move to operating
expense (OpEx) versus capital expense (CapEx). With cloud,
integrators can yield services that can be maintained on a grand scale
even with thousands of cameras across the globe, ensuring the solution
is running reliably. Installations are also simpler, utilizing one
portal for all systems, services and user management, yielding a unified
platform for video and access control.
When systems integrators embrace cloud technology they enable
a long-term solution that allows a transitional approach with
many different options available to customers. There’s also inherent,
enhanced, cybersecurity and compliance embedded into cloud platforms.
Long term, leveraging cloud solutions means a healthier revenue
stream and additional options for future profitability. It’s easy to
add or offload services, not to mention the added benefits of providing
remote maintenance and management through a single interface
or mobile devices. Together, these help to create a better user experience
and a stickier customer.
Moving to cloud management and storage starts with a deep dive
into the functionality of the platform. Education and research come
next, honing in on what your customers are looking for and what the
cloud solution offers to meet their physical security needs or challenges.
When posed to your potential cloud provider, these five questions
should provide guidance in the quest to decide what’s best for
you and your organization.
How Robust and Open is the Platform?
This is a simple question, but essential to the decision-making discussion.
The cloud platform you select should run on an open and
modern architecture to deliver fast, scalable and secure cloud services
globally in addition to covering video, access control, artificial intelligence,
cyber security and unified legacy products.
To clarify, just because you have a cloud-based offering doesn’t
mean you have to store video only in the cloud. In fact, the best cloud
platforms allow you to share video securely and store video in cameras,
via gateways, in the cloud or in a hybrid combination. This gives security
integrators the ability to manage and store via cloud, and custom design their managed services to all their customers—from SMBs to
large enterprise accounts. Some cloud platforms require you to use specific
cameras when in fact the beauty of cloud services is that you can
use existing devices with a gateway product or new hardware, which
solves the problem of the transition with legacy equipment.
How Many Ways Can I Create
It’s important to select the most versatile, flexible, and scalable platform
available. That’s what you are looking for in this answer. When
a platform is versatile, you can use a cloud solution where it makes
most sense to move complex and costly infrastructure off premises.
Unlimited storage options provide simple and cost effective onpremise
cloud and hybrid video storage, where you can select days,
motion event counts, bookmarks, and quality settings for each camera
individually and schedule video upload times for off peak. You
should have unlimited flexibility for cloud recording in a simple-touse
interface and be able to select all cameras or any single camera,
to specify video resolution and to enter the number of days
to record (from one day to one year or more) or record only when
motion is detected. With a flexible cloud platform, you can create a
custom upload schedule to upload video to the cloud in the evening
or off prime time to save bandwidth, as well as turn on and off
recording as necessary.
In the example of a large boutique bank, the customer stores video
in the camera and the cloud. Integrators managing these devices
can ascertain current camera status; how many people have been logging
in and viewing; how much data has been used; if a camera has
been tampered or hacked; and view recorded video. With the ability
to manage thousands of locations from one interface, the integrator
is in control of the levels of management provided and can easily add
or customize services, providing for a stickier customer.
The amount of RMR from cloud services can vary dramatically.
If the camera is sending video to the cloud 24 hours a day at 4K
resolution at 5 Mpbs, the RMR can range anywhere on average more
than $100 per month. If it’s recording motion activity only, it may
be less than $10 per month. Bandwidth is one of the limitations in
the growth of cloud recording—but it also provides a lot of different
variables and scenarios. Some customers only record on motion or
dial down to one or two frames per second to save bandwidth. Again,
it’s all dependent on the project’s parameters, and you should have
the flexibility in your platform to address every customer and vertical
market you serve.
How Does the Platform Help Manage
and Grow My Business?
Look for a platform that’s not entirely tied to technology, but instead
helps you build your managed services business through efficiency
and scalability. It should prepare you for the ongoing digital transformation
and the future of security contracting—everything “As
a Service.” Leveraging one single user interface and one reporting
structure for all your customers helps you readily scale the offering so
you can start small and add devices as needed, boosting your RMR
in the process.
Storage is critical and is tied to many parameters, including bandwidth
of cameras, how video is stored and used and if there are regulations
to meet for archiving. These parameters can vary drastically
from job to job, so you need flexibility from your cloud provider.
For example, customers should have the ability to record and
store at the edge and on the camera; upload video as needed and in
the resolution required; or record based on motion or 24/7, such as
for mission critical or government specifications to meet compliance
requirements. Dynamic, on-demand services to store and manage all
your solutions—this is what you are looking for.
What Features Help Me
Support My Customers?
Here are some of the capabilities you should be able to glean from
your cloud platform:
- Get status updates in real time to address issues when or before they
happen, circumventing possible compromise or security situations.
- See the entire surveillance system on a map and click on any camera
or gateway to see details and troubleshoot immediately and
- Add, edit and delete users and remotely upgrade systems.
- Track and report on bandwidth utilization, view live video and
recorded playback, uploads, cloud storage and more with a single
- Provide health reports and other system/process documentation.
- E-commerce and billing management and reporting to track your
revenue per camera or per customer.
Ease of maintenance and labor savings, as well as built-in security
and updates are also key to effectively using the cloud. When
you can use the cloud to manage the client’s services and even reboot
field devices or take locks offline, the company saves money by not
having to hire a labor and field technician. Even across an enterprise
with thousands of cameras, integrators can manage users, cameras,
gateways and services from one web browser. They can also track
bandwidth and provide the customer with network and cloud storage
utilization reports. Monitoring the status of all systems in an intuitive
map mode lets systems integrators jump to any device for instant, onthe-
What About Cybersecurity and
How Do I Protect My Customers?
The cloud is one of the most secure platforms, but not all are created
equal. The cloud provider’s overall experience in handling a variety of
vertical markets comes into play. Architecture is also paramount—and
one that’s design-built from the ground up as a secure, multi-tenant
platform for capture, transport, storage, management, analysis and
distribution of a variety of video sources over different networks
makes the most sense. With a cloud infrastructure, there’s more overall
reliability in the configuration—think of it as almost a mini NOC—
where if one camera goes out, the remainder stay online. With NVRs
and DVRs, it’s the opposite: the entire solution networked together can
suffer a failure, knocking out all cameras or components.
Uptime and reliability are paramount—and the cloud provider
should provide documentation on their track record and cloud services
experience. Video surveillance is network intensive and can
interrupt critical data collection such as point-of-sale, so select a
platform that handles bandwidth management and controls network
utilization as well as one with integrated failover. This function buffers
video when a network disconnects and then sends data automatically
on when connectivity is restored.
Recording services should optimize video for different connection
speeds and deliver storage bandwidth control. Another nice perk is
the availability of secure third-party app access to recorded video on
demand from any location and any connected device.
Leading cloud providers custom-create their own secure software,
helping deliver services that achieve higher levels of security,
privacy and compliance, including GDPR. Encryption, redundancy,
two-factor authentication, backups and software
updates are automatic. Best of all, the cloud
regularly adds features, so you can pass along a
continuing array of new services to customers as
This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of Security Today.