Cloud is the in thing at the moment and for good reason. But many people opt for cloud solutions in various industries simply because they are told it’s what they should do and it will save them money.
For those in the security industry and specifically the surveillance market, there are many cloud options available, but the cloud, especially in Africa, comes with its own pros and cons. Hi-Tech Security Solutions spoke to two industry experts with a view to finding out more about how the cloud and the surveillance markets can deliver a win-win solution to the end user as well as the installer and integrator.
Rudi Potgieter, executive head – Guardian Eye at Vox states that connectivity is top priority for any developing country as the information highway is the way of the future and has been for some time. “The global pandemic we find ourselves in currently has accelerated this requirement as more businesses now offer staff the opportunity to work remotely. The way we work, eat, shop, meet has all changed for the foreseeable future and possibly for good; all with one common golden thread, access to reliable connectivity.
“In parallel to this, technology evolves daily and compression technology has come a long way, allowing for HD video streams to be transmitted remotely without requiring access to unaffordable data connections. As a systems integrator the question is not if there is an opportunity for VSaaS (video surveillance as a service), it’s more around whether you are getting onto the train or out of the way as it’s about to run you over.”
Quintin Roberts, regional sales manager, Genetec Africa adds that though the opportunity is not as large as the North American or European markets, there is still a significant opportunity, in Africa, especially in urban areas.
“Most VSaaS services offer bandwidth management capabilities such as advance compression, event streaming and on-premise backup storage. Given the compression capabilities, most VSaaS providers can easily offer 2 MP (full HD) and upwards. We have seen some campuses stream continuously thousands of cameras from the same site.
“The key benefit of the cloud is flexibility.”
Reducing surveillance overheads
Of course, the cloud is simply a name and it refers to a number of services, from the common Dropbox-type service which is basically a chunk of storage on someone else’s computer, to additional services and solutions – some of them even hosted on the customer’s premises. Making a cloud decision should be based on knowing which cloud services are suitable for surveillance operators and customers who wish to offload some of their infrastructure burden.
Partnering with a knowledgeable partner is key to ensure success, according to Potgieter. “We all know video, bandwidth and storage are not friends and without a professional solution design, the project might end costing exponentially more or might never even get off the ground. While most of the large cloud service providers, specifically AWS and MS Azure, offer very attractive and affordable data warehousing solutions, the off-the-shelf variants are almost certainly designed for data products; not video.
“On the flipside, these providers do have a lot of interesting toolsets that can enhance video data. VSaaS sold as storage only is, to me personally, the boring side of the future. What excites me is receiving dumb data from a client, storing that and providing the client access to enriched information they can use, such as object recognition through deep learning and predictive analysis through AI. The latter allows us to use video for far more than surveillance.”
Roberts agrees that bandwidth is always an issue, hence “some VSaaS providers have offered on-premises gateways that buffer and store video locally. Those gateways being managed in the cloud by the service, with very little connectivity and bandwidth required. In certain cases, VSaaS is offered fully on premises as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and does not need to be hosted in the cloud – hosting only makes it easier for the service provider.”
Some organisations choose to fully host their security in the cloud, Roberts continues. For example, Genetec has many clients with regional offices across the world. These offices may have relatively few cameras so a full cloud solution is feasible and provides an easy-to-use and hassle free experience for them. Other customers may have larger camera counts per site and are choosing to host other components, such as their access control or system management in the cloud to reduce infrastructure costs.
“In both cases, the cloud is critical as the environment is managed by the respective OEM so the customer is automatically kept up-to-date with the latest features and security patches. Cybersecurity is probably the largest concern for organisations today and proactively addressing vulnerabilities as part of a defence-in-depth strategy. The cloud is a very powerful tool for executing this strategy, provided SaaS providers adequately provide for secure communications.”
Value for the SI and installer
While the cloud may have a variety of options for the end user, it can also be useful in expanding the system integrator’s (SI) business. As an example, using someone else’s infrastructure to host the video from customers’ cameras can save money when compared to building and maintaining your own infrastructure. Roberts says, “Integrators can transform their business with cloud-based, recurring-revenue offerings.”
He continues that 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 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.
Moreover, Roberts says, “A cloud-based system is easier to maintain, can be safer from cyber-attacks 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.”
Echoing his comments, Potgieter notes that the world of technology has made a slow but steady shift over the last two decades, moving almost everything to an ‘X-as-a-Service’ model. Physical security has been slow to adapt to this approach, but things are rapidly evolving. For the end user, the business case has been proven repeatedly with TCO (total cost of ownership) models not stacking up when choosing to own technology.
“While paying for a service has many financial benefits, the biggest Trojan horse, however, lies within the exchange of value,” he says. “Gone are the days where you are paying upfront for technology only to realise six months down the line that your business has outgrown the initial requirement, or even worse, that it actually does not comply with the initial requirement.
“A true exchange of value comes in the format of pay as you grow. For the SI, the opportunity is obvious; building a sustainable annuity revenue business, while delivering true value to your client base.”
Cloud services on offer
Both Vox and Genetec offer cloud services to their client bases. Describing Genetec’s offerings, Roberts explains: “Genetec offers a full stack of hybrid and cloud solutions. Our VSaaS offering can be offered as a service on premises, in a hybrid fashion and fully hosted in the cloud. Added to this, we also offer access control in the cloud, licence plate recognition services in the cloud and a whole array of add-ons fully hosted in the cloud. From an SMB to a fully unified system, Genetec can offer this as a service in the cloud.”
The services he refers to include:
• Stratocast Connections eliminate the need for on-premises servers with a service that records video in the cloud. The deployment of the video surveillance system is done in record time with no servers or software to install and without any IT involvement for ongoing maintenance or updates. Stratocast connects to other security centre systems and offers a simple way to deploy remote cameras and centrally monitor multi-site systems.
• Federation-as-a-Service allows customers to centralise their monitoring operations, reduce costs associated with managing distributed surveillance systems and to continue to use their existing security centre system.
• Cloud Archives ensures the video is stored in a secure, off-site location by transferring incidents and critical events to Cloud Archives. Organisations can send select video recordings to the cloud and continue to use their existing security centre system. This hybrid solution allows for greater flexibility with storage capacity and doesn’t require additional hardware. Operators can quickly view and search archived video, whether located on-premises or in the cloud.
Vox Telecoms, according to Potgieter, “is perfectly positioned to guide you on this journey. We are a Microsoft Gold partner with Microsoft CSP accreditation. On top of this, we have our own data centre offering built on VMWare technology.
“Guardian Eye, our security business unit, is certified in a multitude of video management and analytics platforms, providing us with a professional edge ensuring we deliver the service you need.”
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