Cloud Adoption Gives Way to Hybrid Deployments

As trends continue, it is important to consider potential pitfalls

Cloud adoption is growing at an astonishing rate, with Gartner forecasting that worldwide public cloud end-user spending will approach $600 billion by the end of this year—an increase of more than 21% over 2022. McKinsey believes that number could eclipse $1 trillion by the end of the decade, further underscoring the industry’s exponential growth.

Recent research indicates 98% of enterprises “are using or plan to use at least two cloud infrastructure providers,” while 31% say they use four or more. Across nearly every industry, businesses are jumping at the opportunity to leverage new cloud capabilities as they emerge.

For the most part, that is a good thing—but as the trend continues, it is important to consider the potential pitfalls that come along with it. In the security industry, cloud capabilities have enabled organizations to deploy surveillance cameras and other sensors in a more efficient manner, but they have also forced them to address challenges like bandwidth and storage needs, subscription fees, and data security considerations.

As cloud adoption trends upward, the security industry needs to consider what it will mean for them as we move into 2024—particularly as hybrid deployments balancing cloud and on-premises solutions become more popular.

The Reasons Behind Increased Cloud Adoption
When it comes to security, there are a number of reasons driving increased cloud adoption. First, and perhaps most importantly, not every business has the technical expertise to implement and maintain an on-site server or keep surveillance devices updated and calibrated. Handing those considerations over to a third-party provider can be an appealing option, especially since building an on-premises solution can have significant up-front costs.

Maintaining a temperature-controlled server room can be expensive, after all—as can the server itself. Many businesses eager to reduce their up-front capital expenditures (CapEx) may jump at the opportunity to forego that investment and allow a cloud provider to step in.

Another factor driving the trend toward cloud adoption is the fact that cloud providers do not just help mitigate up-front costs—they provide continuous technical support, ensuring that devices are patched and updated at a regular cadence. This eliminates a major source of friction (and frustration) for businesses that do not want to spend their limited resources on device maintenance.

It is hard to quantify the peace of mind afforded by having a trusted provider keep surveillance devices hardened against cyber threats—especially since not every business has the in-house expertise needed to stay on top of every new and emerging threat.

But perhaps the most important reason for the surge in cloud adoption is the convenience. A cloud solution can allow users to interact with video feeds, access control stations, and other security solutions remotely, allowing security teams to address problems as they arise without needing to be physically present. Through the use of a VMS, security teams can watch live surveillance footage, open (or lock) doors, trigger automated warnings and engage with the system in other valuable ways.

The other convenient element that the cloud offers is scalability. In the past, a business with multiple locations would require a server and server room at each of those locations—which was often not financially feasible, especially for smaller businesses. The advent of cloud support means it is now possible for businesses to deploy a small handful of cameras at each location without the need for costly servers.

Instead, those camera feeds can be sent directly to the cloud, where they can be monitored and accessed as needed. This has made the cloud a very attractive option for businesses seeking to scale and expand, and it’s a trend that will almost certainly continue well into the future.

Continued Impediments to Cloud Adoption
All of that said, for those in the security industry, whether you consider the cloud a friend or foe probably has a lot to do with whether you are an end user or an integrator. The shift to the cloud has left many integrators unhappy as cloud providers often employ a direct sales model, marketing themselves to end users directly.

In some ways, this is good for consumers, as it can reduce the cost of implementation—but it is important to remember that integrators play an essential role that goes beyond installation. That value that integrators bring to the table as trusted partners and advisors should not be underestimated, and many organizations are understandably hesitant to move away from those reliable partnerships in favor of a fully cloud-based system.

There are other potential drawbacks that businesses should be aware of as well. As cloud usage expands, businesses have found that while the reduction in CapEx can be advantageous, the added operational expenditure (OpEx) can become more expensive over time. Many cloud providers require businesses to sign a long-term contract, and while subscription fees generally start at reasonable rates, they can climb quickly as storage requirements expand. A business adding a large number of devices and locations may find that the amount of video they need to analyze, and store has grown dramatically, resulting in significantly higher costs. Cloud storage may still make more sense than on-site servers, but it’s important for businesses to weigh their options before committing.

On a similar note, businesses must know how long they need footage stored. Cloud providers generally store footage for 30 to 90 days (depending on the contract), but certain businesses or industries may need footage stored for two years or more. On-premises solutions give organizations total control over the storage duration, but long-term storage can be more difficult—and expensive—in the cloud. It’s an important reminder that, despite the rapid ascension of cloud-based security solutions, they remain use case-dependent, and it’s critical for organizations to understand their specific needs before making a decision.

Trending Toward Balance
There have already been murmurs of “cloud backlash,” and it is true that some organizations have pulled back from aggressive cloud investments in favor of reestablishing on-premises storage. But it is important to consider these developments in context: these businesses are not, by and large, going from a fully cloud-based deployment to a fully on-premises deployment. Instead, they are striking a balance between the two, embracing a hybrid approach to security and data storage that allows them to straddle the line between cloud and on-premises.

For most businesses, this is a wise approach, and one we can expect to see more of in the coming years. Organizations with a number of small sites may choose to fully embrace the cloud, while an organization based around a large, monolithic system like an airport may choose an entirely on-premises system. But the space between those two possibilities is vast, and most businesses will find that the advantageous course of action is to avoid committing entirely to one option or the other. A small, on-premises server can grant a business greater control over their data storage, while a limited cloud investment can offer them benefits like remote access and device management capabilities. Another option for on-site storage is using SD cards, especially since today’s high-end SD cards can easily store 30-60 days of video, meaning no server room or IT closet is needed. Modern SD cards also have long life spans, and can even outlast the cameras that house them and can—though the downside is that if camera is stolen or removed, so is all video.

Critically, integrators will continue to play a necessary role in advising organizations on this hybrid approach, providing expert insight on how to most effectively deploy cloud and on-premises solutions. But it may force integrators to change the way they operate—namely, it will be increasingly important for them to align themselves with channel-friendly companies that recognize the valuable role they play in managing the relationship between product and end user. As hybrid deployments become increasingly common in the coming years, manufacturers, integrators, and end users will benefit from maintaining a close working relationship and ensuring that information flows smoothly between all parties.

Understanding Both Cloud and On-Premises Solutions Is Critical
The rapid growth of cloud-based solutions highlights the essential role the cloud now plays in the security world—but a growing number of organizations now recognize that balance is needed. The benefits offered by on-premises solutions cannot be overlooked, and what was once an overwhelming trend toward cloud adoption has shifted toward the embrace of hybrid security solutions. Integrators today can help businesses identify which solutions are right for their specific needs and locations, providing the insights necessary to straddle different solutions as appropriate. Both cloud and on-premises solutions will have an important role to play for most organizations, and as the trend toward hybrid deployments continues, understanding the advantages and disadvantages of each will be increasingly critical.

This article originally appeared in the November / December 2023 issue of Security Today.

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