Path to the Future
Cloud-based video surveillance is here to stay
- By Jeff Whitney
- Sep 01, 2019
Security professionals face many challenges in selecting
video surveillance systems that address their unique
needs. They must compare features, simplicity of use
and of sharing video, system reliability and expandability,
and overall affordability. As the technology
choices have grown, so have the cybersecurity risks and challenges.
Opening the Playing Field
Today’s security industry was shaped by yesterday’s technologies and
solutions. Customers were once locked into proprietary surveillance
systems from whichever vendor they selected. Open systems gradually
came into play, with tape-based analog VCRs replaced by DVRs,
NVRs, and video servers. Entirely new firms introduced VMS software,
while analog cameras were increasingly displaced by higher
resolution megapixel cameras. Some security brands disappeared
through mergers, acquisitions, or being driven out of business entirely
as open standards-based surveillance systems became the norm.
The next technology shift is already underway. New companies
now offer complete cloud surveillance solutions built from the
ground up to offer a range of benefits over the traditional systems
that they are increasingly replacing. Existing VMS vendors are adding
cloud-based features to their own offerings.
Cloud solutions for video surveillance face similar challenges as
traditional systems, while adding even more issues to the mix around
scalability and cybersecurity. Yet the benefits are worth it.
Surveillance systems that are based entirely in the cloud have
become standard offerings from telephone companies, traditional
alarm monitoring companies, and a range of new startups. As IoTenabled
cameras connect to the local IP or WiFi network, they then
access the cloud to be monitored and administered over the Internet.
Cloud solutions require less dedicated equipment and physical
infrastructure than traditional systems, accompanied by reduced installation
challenges. The simplicity of the best of this technology
results in lower staffing and administrative requirements, simplified
system use and increased user satisfaction. Perhaps best of all, cloud
solutions offer lower ongoing costs.
Most security professionals are familiar with the home and small
business video monitoring that a range of vendors now offer. They
bring the ultimate experience in terms of simplified installation and
require little to no investment beyond a subscription.
Solutions for Home, Business or Retailer
For a homeowner or small retailer, cloud solutions may prove to suit
their needs using a few cameras. The technology grows more complex as larger facilities present issues that must be addressed. The first big
challenge is around the availability and cost of network bandwidth.
When multiple cameras are added to a typical cloud solution, the
limits of available network bandwidth come into play. Security professionals
must often sacrifice image quality and resolution through
compression or other temporary solutions in order to stay within
the limits of available bandwidth. Even when sufficient bandwidth is
available, the cost of its use and the storage of large amounts of video
in the cloud may be too burdensome for many customer projects.
Another important issue facing cloud solutions is the potential
ulnerability of network devices—including surveillance cameras—
to cyberattack. There is no shortage of media coverage of successful
malicious hacks, and the risk increases as data move from physical
barriers to the cloud without adequate protections in place.
Keeping these challenges in mind, an increasingly popular solution
is a hybrid cloud surveillance system. At their heart, leading hybrid
solutions are designed to address the challenges of the cloud
while leveraging the technology’s benefits. It is important to recognize
that while all video needs to be easily available for viewing 24/7, not
all video needs to be instantly uploaded to the cloud as it recorded.
With a hybrid cloud solution, all video is recorded locally onto an
NVR or video server, residing in the location, just as in a traditional
surveillance system. The NVR or server is administered entirely
over the cloud, rather than requiring local staff. There is no excessive
bandwidth cost and no practical limits on the number of cameras.
Delivering Additional Benefits
The best of these hybrid cloud solutions deliver many additional
benefits, with a full-function VMS at the core to the system. User,
group and equipment profiles and permissions are stored securely in
the cloud, allowing remote access by any authorized administrator, at
any time and from virtually anywhere.
The best hybrid cloud systems allow all NVRs and servers to be
accessed via a single sign-on tied to their individual or group profile,
all managed via the cloud. Video from any location can be easily accessed
by authorized users and uploaded to the cloud. Instant notifications
of alarms, motion or system health are all delivered over
the cloud. A systems integrator or dealer can support their customers
with affordable remote monitoring and administration, reducing
truck rolls and offering an enhanced recurring revenue stream.
These best-in-class systems offer strong cybersecurity, designed
from the start for maximum protection rather than being a later addon
for a traditional surveillance system. These features address the
major IT security concerns, including no requirement for open inbound
ports into the customer’s firewall and the network beyond.
Multi-factor authentication is key to the best solutions, as is NISTcompliant
data encryption and full transport layer security.
Cloud-based surveillance is already here. As video analytics and
AI technologies are further integrated and current
bandwidth challenges are addressed, cloudbased
surveillance systems will continue to grow
into the standard solution for future security
This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of Security Today.