Cloud surveillance options from AWS

CCTV Handbook 2021 CCTV, Surveillance & Remote Monitoring

The lure of the cloud can be very tempting for those managing security and other operations reliant on information technology. The idea of doing away with the task of managing your own IT infrastructure and simply using a reliable and scalable infrastructure, provided by and managed by someone else, seems like a good idea.

This is even more tempting in South Africa where not only do companies have to buy and manage their IT, but any infrastructure needs to include the added cost of buying and managing your own electricity backup solution since the government is incapable of keeping the lights on.

To find out more about what the cloud can offer to the security and specifically the surveillance industry, Hi-Tech Security Solutions spoke to Clive Charlton, head of solution architecture for sub-Saharan African Public Sector at AWS (Amazon Web Services) about what the company can offer in South Africa.

Amazon has a data centre in Cape Town with three available ‘zones’, which are basically separate data centres for redundancy. Given the possible ramifications in the PoPI Act regarding storing sensitive data beyond the country’s borders, this will provide local companies a secure cloud service without sending data offshore.

Charlton explains that the basis for AWS’ cloud offering is Amazon S3 (or Amazon Simple Storage Service), which provides object storage through a web service interface – which means you can store any ‘thing’. He says the solution provides object-level control over whatever you store, making it easier to derive business insights from your data, while providing resilience, scalability, compliance and auditability. In terms of the safety of your data, he adds that S3 systems are designed for ‘11 nine’s’ (or 99,999999999%) durability, which means the chance of data loss is extremely small.

In addition, data in S3 is encrypted by default, with customers able to manage their own keys or to use Amazon’s Key Management Service. Access is monitored and various levels of access control can be implemented.

Large video data stores

When it comes to large volumes of data, such as video footage, the Data Lake service from Amazon can set up for this data in S3 with the same security and reliability mentioned above. Amazon also provides a number of services to analyse this data, run artificial intelligence and machine learning on it and more, all within your data lake. Since video data is only one of the data types a security operation is likely to store, AWS Glue is a service that prepares the data for analytics and other processing.

Glue has a broad scope and can be used for tasks from discovering and extracting data from various sources, cleaning, normalising and combining it and loading it into your data lake. A security operation may not make use of all these features, but they can be used if required.

One of the most recent examples of a company making use of AWS for surveillance operations is Milestone Systems, which made its XProtect VMS available on AWS. This allows an integrator to set up an XProtect system for a customer in minutes (see more at

Connection issues

While we normally assume that a connection to a cloud service is via the Internet and it often is, Amazon has also developed its Direct Connect Service, operating in Cape Town and Johannesburg, which offers customers a high-speed connection to the AWS data centre without traversing the Internet.

For surveillance operations with a large number of cameras, Amazon Kinesis has been designed to allow bulk data streaming to the data centre direct from the camera (or any device or system you may desire). Using S3 Event Notifications, the system can also capture and/or trigger responses to certain video events. Using APIs built into the system, users can do facial recognition or crowd analytics (and other analytics) and trigger a warning when something requires attention or a response in the real world.

As mentioned above, compliance to the PoPI Act is also catered for as Charlton says the whole S3 service was designed to meet the requirements of the GDPR, which has more stringent regulations than PoPIA.

Charlton adds that Amazon offers a host of building blocks customers can use to design a solution to meet their requirements. Most of its services were originally designed to meet customers’ requests, so they have been tried and tested in the real world.

Find out more at


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