Taking physical security to the cloud
Firas Jadalla, regional director for the Middle East, Turkey and Africa (META), at Genetec looks at the role of cloud based security
Providing physical security is no longer an option for today’s businesses: it’s become a mission critical element for organisations of all sizes. Most businesses desire to have a comprehensive and technologically advanced physical security system but may find that the investment in an infrastructure to support today’s modern IP systems is more than they can afford and maintain. Servers, IT and security staff, wiring, software installations and updates – it all adds up. Advances in cloud technology, however, are helping to make physical security solutions more affordable for businesses of all sizes.
While the cloud might have been considered just hype at one point in time, more organisations are becoming interested in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model for video surveillance, access control, and many more physical security applications following tried and tested best practices already put in place by IT departments for many years.
Why the cloud? Why now?
There are many reasons why more businesses are turning to the cloud. On one level, adoption of the cloud is propelled by economies of scale. Installing IP video surveillance cameras and setting up the networks and hardware components that facilitate transmission and live monitoring can be costly. And one of the most financially burdensome aspects of any surveillance deployment is purchasing and maintaining the servers that are required for hosting applications and storing video surveillance archives. As organisations continue to expand their surveillance efforts, their private data centers will become more difficult to manage, maintain, and afford.
For physical security, in particular, a need for more storage is greatly impacted by the increasing interest in, and desire for, higher resolution devices. Video surveillance camera manufacturers, for example, are developing higher quality and more advanced products all the time. These cameras, while impressive, can take a toll on an infrastructure that’s not equipped to accommodate these advances in technology. The need for more storage can also put a burden on an IT infrastructure. Increasing mandates by insurance providers, government agencies, or internal policies to keep video archives far beyond the common 30 to 90-day retention range are straining resources even more. With these considerations, more organisations have pressing concerns about planning and budgeting for the future operational needs of security systems and are turning to cloud technologies for answers.
How is the cloud more affordable?
SaaS allows organisations to deploy surveillance systems for a cost-effective monthly fee, avoiding the approvals or sourcing of lump-sum capital expenditures to procure more on-premises servers. Cloud services also eliminate the need to find additional rack space – and to cool, power and maintain storage hardware – while freeing up valuable IT resources for other projects. Hosting the system in a public data center also ensures additional offsite redundancy, as compared to local appliances that are susceptible to theft, damage, or failure.
Cloud solutions can improve security and operations
Today, vendors are leveraging the cloud to develop creative security and business applications that were once considered unrealistic or economically impractical. The ability to easily share data across departments and locations can aid investigations by allowing different organisations to securely collect, manage, and share video evidence and other relevant case information from one simple cloud-based application. Comprehensive audit trails ensure that the chain of custody of evidence is maintained at all times.
How safe is the cloud?
Tier-one cloud providers have implemented far more stringent security measures for their infrastructures than most independent organisations could ever afford to do on their own. They offer the highest levels of physical security for their datacenters since they have to comply with regulation such as SOC 2, ISO 27001, HiPAA and PCI. Furthermore, IT tasks such as infrastructure maintenance and patching are done in a timely matter, ensuring the ongoing security of the services provided.
Of course, cloud service providers must do their part to ensure that the right security mechanisms are in place such as encrypted communications, data protection capabilities, and strong user authentication and password protection. Not only do these tools help protect organisations against hackers and other internet-based attacks, but they ensure only those with defined privileges will be able to access or use resources, data, and applications.
Cloud-based SaaS vs. Hybrid cloud applications
Having an entire security system running in the cloud is not the only option when considering cloud-based solutions. Organisations can extend the functionality of on-premise, server-based systems by simply adding devices with cloud-based software and storage, implementing remote sites with cloud solutions, or running specific applications in the cloud.
A hybrid cloud solution allows organisations to keep on premises servers for existing technologies and uses as well as to add other security and business components or systems on as-needed basis. The sheer flexibility and scalability of the cloud simplifies expansions by accommodating many different objectives, uses, and durations. From a front-end perspective, nothing changes for the operator who can manage all components, whether cloud-based or hosted on-premises, from a central location within one platform interface.
More private and public entities, for example, are turning to the cloud to freely extend storage or gain added layers of redundancy with minimal economic impact. In this case, organisations can easily choose to keep longer-term video and data archives in the cloud, while storing short-term archives on local on-premises servers. Other organisations are realising the value of cloud storage by using it to back up video and data archives. In case anything happens to the physical servers, companies can rest assured that their most critical security information is safely stored in the cloud and is easily accessible on demand.
Beyond cloud storage, public and private entities are expanding their operations with entire cloud-based applications to achieve central management and monitoring from one location. While every independent system can be server-based, the component that ties them all together and connects people across the globe remains a subscription-based cloud service. This minimises the drain on existing resources and also accommodates sites where the infrastructure might not be available to enable this level of collaboration.
With a hybrid cloud model, expanding security and business applications is simplified. Generally, the hybrid cloud model allows organisations to gradually expand their existing server andstorage infrastructure by leveraging the benefits of public datacenters at their own pace.
Integrators can transform their business with cloud-based, recurring-revenue offerings
Forward-thinking integrators are using cloud applications to take their business to the next level. By offering SaaS, integrators can provide security solutions that deliver the latest in technology and features, including maintenance and upgrades. This allows integrators to focus on their core competencies and gives them the foundation to build a managed services business with greater focus on customer service, loyalty, and retention. Offering long-term contracts of cloud services can provide a more stable and predictable monthly revenue stream that has the potential to surpass one-off sales over a longer period of time.
By incorporating a cloud-based or hybrid solution, organisations and businesses of any size can reduce investment in new hardware and easily scale computing and storage resources to facilitate physical security at locations across the globe. Ongoing IT network infrastructure expenses like purchasing servers, electricity, and cooling can be drastically reduced if not eliminated. A cloud-based system is easier to maintain, can be safer from cyberattacks with the right protection, and offers the most up-to-date features and functionality. In addition to the physical security and protection it offers, a cloud solution can improve business marketing and sales functions with powerful business intelligence and can improve the bottom line for system integrators looking to add recurring revenue streams.