CCTV cameras - Expert commentary

A three-point plan for enhancing business video surveillance
A three-point plan for enhancing business video surveillance

Cyber threats hit the headlines every day; however digital hazards are only part of the security landscape. In fact, for many organisations - physical rather than virtual security will remain the burning priority. Will Liu, Managing Director of TP-Link UK, explores the three key elements that companies must consider when implementing modern-day business surveillance systems.  1) Protecting more than premises Video surveillance systems are undoubtedly more important than ever before for a huge number of businesses across the full spectrum of public and private sector, manufacturing and service industries. One simple reason for this is the increased use of technology within those businesses. Offices, workshops, and other facilities house a significant amount of valuable and expensive equipment - from computers, and 3D printers to specialised machinery and equipment. As a result, workplaces are now a key target for thieves, and ensuring the protection of such valuable assets is a top priority. A sad reality is that some of those thieves will be employees themselves. Video surveillance system Of course, video surveillance is often deployed to combat that threat alone, but actually, its importance goes beyond theft protection. With opportunist thieves targeting asset-rich sites more regularly, the people who work at these sites are in greater danger too. Effective and efficient surveillance is imperative not just for physical asset protection, but also for the safety From this perspective, effective and efficient surveillance is imperative not just for physical asset protection, but also for the safety of colleagues as well. Organisations need to protect the people who work, learn or attend the premises. A video surveillance system is, therefore, a great starting point for companies looking to deter criminal activity. However, to be sure you put the right system in place to protect your hardware assets, your people, and the business itself, here are three key considerations that make for a successful deployment. 2) Fail to prepare, and then prepare to fail Planning is the key to success, and surveillance systems are no different. Decide in advance the scope of your desired solution. Each site is different and the reality is that every solution is different too. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all solution and only by investing time on the exact specification can you arrive at the most robust and optimal solution.  For example, organisations need to consider all the deployment variables within the system’s environment. What is the balance between indoor and outdoor settings; how exposed to the elements are the outdoor cameras; what IP rating to the need? A discussion with a security installer will help identify the dangerous areas that need to be covered and the associated best sites for camera locations. Camera coverage After determining location and coverage angles, indoors and outdoors, the next step is to make sure the cameras specified are up to the job for each location. Do they have the right lens for the distance they are required to cover, for example? It is not as simple as specifying one type of camera and deploying it everywhere. Devices that can use multiple power sources, Direct Current, or Power over Ethernet well are far more versatile You have to consider technical aspects such as the required level of visual fidelity and whether you also need two-way audio at certain locations? Another simple consideration is how the devices are powered. Devices that can use multiple power sources, Direct Current or Power over Ethernet as well are far more versatile and reliable. Answers to these questions and a lot more need to be uncovered by an expert, to deliver a best-of-breed solution for the particular site. 3) Flexibility breeds resilience Understanding exactly what you need is the start. Ensuring you can install, operate and manage your video surveillance system is the next step. Solutions that are simple to install and easy to maintain will always be favoured - for example, cameras that have multiple sources of power can be vital for year-round reliability. Alongside the physical aspect of any installation, there is also the software element that needs to be considered. The last thing organisations need is a compatibility headache once all their cameras and monitoring stations are in place. Selecting cameras and equipment with the flexibility to support a variety of different operating systems and software is important not just for the days following the installation, but also to future-proof the solution against change.  Easy does it Once the system is up and running, the real work of video surveillance begins. Therefore, any organisation considering deploying a system should look to pick one that makes the day-to-day operation as easy as possible to manage. And again - that is all about the set-up. Cameras can also provide alerts if they have been tampered with or their settings changed The most modern systems and technology can deliver surveillance systems that offer smarter detection, enhanced activity reporting so you learn more about your operations, and also make off-site, remote management easy to both implement and adjust as conditions change. For example, camera software that immediately notifies controllers when certain parameters are met - like motion detection that monitors a specific area for unauthorised access. Cameras can also provide alerts if they have been tampered with or their settings changed without proper authorisation. Remote management of HD footage What’s more, the days of poor quality or unreliable transfer of video are long gone. The high-quality HD footage can be captured, stored, and transferred across networks without any degradation, with hard drives or cloud-based systems able to keep hundreds of days of high-quality recordings for analysis of historical data. Finally, the best surveillance solutions also allow for secure remote management not just from a central control room, but also from personal devices and mobile apps. All this delivers ‘always-on’ security and peace of mind. The watchword in security Modern video surveillance takes organisational security to the next level. It protects physical assets, ensures workplace and workforce safety, and helps protect the operations, reputation, and profitability of a business.  However, this is not just an ‘off-the-shelf purchase’. It requires proper planning in the form of site surveys, equipment and software specifications, as well as an understanding of operational demands and requirements. Investing time in planning will help businesses realise the best dividends in terms of protection. Ultimately, that means organisations should seek to collaborate with vendors who offer site surveys - they know their equipment best, your needs, and can work with you to create the perfect solution.

Video surveillance as a service (VSaaS) from an integrator and user perspective
Video surveillance as a service (VSaaS) from an integrator and user perspective

Technology based on the cloud has become a popular trend. Most IT systems now operate within the cloud or offer cloud capabilities, and video surveillance is no exception: virtually every major hardware and software vendor offers cloud-based services. Users benefit from the cloud due to its numerous advantages, such as ease of implementation, scalability, low maintenance costs, etc. Video surveillance as a service (VSaaS) offers many choices, so there is an optimal solution for each user. However, what about integrators? For them, VSaaS is also a game-changer. Integrators are now incentivised to think about how they can maintain their markets and take advantage of the new business opportunities that the cloud model provides.   Hosted video surveillance The cloud service model has drastically changed the role of an integrator. Traditionally, integrators provided a variety of services including system installation, support, and maintenance, as well as served as a bridge between vendors and end-users. In contrast, hosted video surveillance as a service requires a security system installer to simply install cameras and connect them to the network, while the provider is in direct contact with each end-user. The cloud service model has drastically changed the role of an integrator There is no end to on-premises systems. However, the percentage of systems where the integrator’s role is eliminated or considerably reduced will continue to increase. How can integrators sustain their markets and stay profitable? A prospective business model might be to become a provider of VSaaS (‘cloud integrator’) in partnership with software platform vendors. Cloud-based surveillance Some VMS vendors offer software VSaaS platforms that form the basis for cloud-based surveillance systems. Using these solutions, a data centre operator, integrator, or telecom service provider can design a public VSaaS or VSaaS in a private cloud to service a large customer. The infrastructure can be built on any generic cloud platform or data centre, as well as resources owned by the provider or client. So, VSaaS providers have the choice between renting infrastructure from a public cloud service like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud or using their own or clients’ computing infrastructure (virtual machines or physical servers). Gaining competitive advantage When integrators purchase commitment use contracts for several years, they can achieve significant savings As an example, a telecom carrier could deploy VSaaS on their own infrastructure to expand their service offering for clients, gaining a competitive advantage and enhancing profits per user. Using a public cloud, a smaller integrator can host the computing infrastructure immediately, without incurring up-front costs and with no need to maintain the system. These cloud services provide scalability, security, and reliability with zero initial investment. When integrators purchase commitment use contracts for several years, they can achieve significant savings. Next, let’s examine VSaaS options available in the market from an end-users point of view. With hosted (or cloud-first, or true-cloud) VSaaS solutions, all the video feeds are transmitted directly from cameras to the cloud. Optionally, video can be buffered to SD cards installed on cameras to prevent data losses in case of Internet connection failures. Dedicated hardware bridges There are many providers of such services that offer their own brand cameras. Connecting these devices to the cloud should only take a few clicks. Firmware updates are usually centralised, so users don’t have to worry about security breaches. Service providers may offer dedicated hardware bridges for buffering video footage and secure connections to the cloud for their branded and third-party cameras. Service providers may offer dedicated hardware bridges for buffering video footage Typical bridges are inexpensive, basic NVRs that receive video feeds from cameras, record on HDD, and send video streams to the cloud. The most feature-rich bridges include those with video analytics, data encryption, etc. Introducing a bridge or NVR makes the system hybrid, with videos stored both locally and in the cloud. At the other end of the spectrum relative to hosted VSaaS, there are cloud-managed systems. Video management software In this case, video is stored on-site on DVRs, NVRs, video management software servers, or even locally on cameras, with an option of storing short portions of footage (like alarm videos) in the cloud for quick access. A cloud service can be used for remote viewing live video feeds and recorded footage, as well as for system configuration and health monitoring. Cloud management services often come bundled with security cameras, NVRs, and video management software, whereas other VSaaS generally require subscriptions. Keep in mind that the system, in this case, remains on-premises, and the advantages of the cloud are limited to remote monitoring and configuring. It’s a good choice for businesses that are spread across several locations or branches, especially if they have systems in place at each site. On-site infrastructure All that needs to be changed is the NVRs or VMS with a cloud-compatible model or version All locations and devices can be remotely monitored using the cloud while keeping most of the existing on-site infrastructure. All that needs to be changed is the NVRs or VMS with a cloud-compatible model or version. Other methods are more costly and/or require more resources to implement. Hosted VSaaS helps leverage the cloud for the highest number of benefits in terms of cost and technological advantages. In this case, the on-site infrastructure consists of only IP cameras and network equipment. This reduces maintenance costs substantially and also sets the foundation for another advantage of VSaaS: extreme and rapid scalability. At the same time, the outgoing connection at each site is critical for hosted VSaaS. Video quality and the number of cameras directly depend on bandwidth. Broadband-connected locations Because the system does not work offline, a stable connection is required to stream videos. In addition, cloud storage can be expensive when many cameras are involved, or when video archives are retained for an extended period. The hosted VSaaS is a great choice for a small broadband-connected location The hosted VSaaS is a great choice for small broadband-connected locations and is also the most efficient way to centralise video surveillance for multiple sites of the same type, provided they do not have a legacy system. Since it is easy to implement and maintain, this cloud technology is especially popular in countries with high labour costs. Using different software and hardware platforms, integrators can implement various types of VSaaS solutions. Quick remote access For those who adhere to the classic on-premises approach, adding a cloud-based monitoring service can grow their value proposition for clients with out-of-the-box capabilities of quick remote access to multiple widely dispersed sites and devices. For small true-cloud setups, there is a possibility to rent a virtual machine and storage capacity in a public cloud (such as Amazon, Google, or Microsoft) and deploy the cloud-based VMS server that can handle dozens of cameras. In terms of features, such a system may include anything from plain video monitoring via a web interface to GPU-accelerated AI video analytics and smart search in recorded footage, depending on the particular software platform. Optimising internet connection Hybrid VSaaS is the most flexible approach that enables tailoring the system to the users’ needs High-scale installations, such as VSaaS for public use or large private systems for major clients, involve multiple parts like a virtual VMS server cluster, web portal, report subsystem, etc. Such systems can also utilise either own or rented infrastructure. Some vendors offer software for complex installations of this kind, though there are not as many options as for cloud-managed systems. Finally, hybrid VSaaS is the most flexible approach that enables tailoring the system to the users’ unique needs while optimising internet connection bandwidth, cloud storage costs, and infrastructure complexity. It’s high time for integrators to gain experience, choose the right hardware and software, and explore different ways of building systems that will suit evolving customer demands in the future.

Is hybrid working a red flag for business security?
Is hybrid working a red flag for business security?

The ‘new normal’ was all we heard about when it came to the working model shift after the pandemic hit. Businesses worldwide adopted working from home, and then the hybrid model: a balance of remote work and office work. And according to a recent survey by 451 Research, nearly 80% of organisations surveyed said they have implemented or expanded universal work-from-home policies as a result of COVID-19, whilst 67% expect these policies to remain in place either permanently or for the long-term. With more vacant office spaces, the question is: is hybrid working a red flag for business security? Empty-office days When buildings and office spaces are still active with advanced technology, equipment and assets on show, yet footfall is not as busy as it once was, opportunistic criminals are closely watching and taking note. But what are they learning? Security systems provider, Expert Security UK, investigates our new normal. Offices are nests for expensive, valuable equipment, with maybe the latest technology Instead of a packed, busy office five or six days a week, hybrid working means more empty-office days, which is music to the ears of burglars. Offices are nests for expensive, valuable equipment, with maybe the latest technology and safes sitting there, or potential stacks of cash or company cards. You may be thinking, well, who leaves company cards or cash out? You’d be surprised, especially when business owners think they’ll never be a victim, or sometimes, staff make mistakes. Hybrid working model And don’t forget, burglars don’t always know what’s been left and will take their chances. And when a hybrid working model is the ‘new normal’, that means a lapse in security - at least in a thief’s mind. So how worried should business owners be? Well, the latest figures are pretty worrying, but also, not massively shocking. Reiterating the temptation and lure the working model shift has on robbers, Statista recorded a 12-year high for robbery offences in the UK in 2019/2020. When more businesses either shut up shop or sent staff away to home offices, it’s not hard to make a connection. These figures reflect how, when given the opportunity, thieves will strike and take advantage. Handing vital information Whether you’ve decided to go fully remote, it’s crucial to review and rethink your business security However, it’s worth noting that the lockdowns and empty streets would also have played a part in this spike, and now that we’re out of lockdowns with a world back to flipping its sign to ‘open’, many businesses will be carrying on working from home, but towns, shops, and streets are busy again. Whether you’ve decided to go fully remote, or have adopted the hybrid model, it’s crucial to review and rethink your business security, starting with your social media presence. It’s a good idea to review your social media channels. We forget how open we can be on social media, and how our digital presence can actually work as a perfect guide and insight for criminals. All they have to do is follow your channels to pick up on clues. And if you’re not giving it a minute’s thought about what you're putting out there, you may even be just handing them vital information and helping their plans. Remote working shift Of course, there is information readily available such as your opening times, location etc. But, do you really want/need to show off the new, state-of-the-art tablets you’ve just kitted your office out with? It can be hard as a business, or even as a social person, to not want to share positive news on social media, but we really do have to stop and think, especially if people know a lot about the company and its remote working shift. It’s also a good idea to have a meeting with your staff about a social media policy Maybe share a post about that new, intelligent security system you've installed instead. It’s also a good idea to have a meeting with your staff about a social media policy or maybe just a casual chat about best practices, e.g. not to tag the business in a post about their new office gadget etc. Improving business security With fewer office days, you probably won’t need to take up as much work space anymore. Maybe some equipment has become more ornamental. Anything you don’t use or need, you could sell or donate. If you do have expensive equipment lying around that’s not being used, try and make money back from it or store it elsewhere. If you are keeping a lot of expensive equipment in vacant premises, especially fixed equipment and technology, then consider installing bars and shutters over the windows. Whatever your budget, you can improve your business security tenfold with key security measures. One of them being access control. Security gates with access control are incredibly effective at stopping unauthorised people from gaining entry. There are also car park barriers and bollards that are highly effective at keeping any potential getaway vehicles out. Easily portable technology High-quality CCTV is a best friend to any business, but you need to be reviewing it frequently High-quality CCTV is a best friend to any business, but you need to be reviewing it frequently, especially if you’ve done a perimeter check and noticed any signs of forced entry or damage. Don’t forget those signs either, let visitors or trespassers know they’re on camera. To fit in with the hybrid working model, static fixtures are becoming redundant. For instance, companies are switching to laptops instead of computers, so that workers can transport them easily to and from the office. This is not only more efficient and convenient, but it means assets are more guarded. It’s the same for any other gadgets. Having easily portable technology is good for business, hybrid working, and security. Don’t forget about your deterrents. Simple signs to warn people of alarms, CCTV, and even the fact that you don’t leave equipment inside overnight can go a long way. Best security technology Thieves are famous for taking their chances. Some will meticulously plan, and many strike at a convenient, opportune time. So having signs in place that show you have high-quality, intelligent security in place can work wonders, making them think twice. It’s also worth noting that you may not have the best security technology in place at the moment, but those on the outside don’t need to know that; they can be fooled. However, having the best physical security in place is vital, as criminals lurk and will take chances. Keep reviewing your security, especially as your business adapts and reshapes - whether you return back to full office days or carry on the hybrid working model. This guest post was contributed by Danny Scholfield, Managing Director of Expert Security UK.

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