What is driving the growth of cloud systems in physical security?
7 Sep 2018
The physical security industry is embracing the cloud in a big way. Cloud-based systems – which involve accessing a shared pool of information technology resources via the Internet – are much higher-profile in the video and access control markets, and large and small companies are getting on the cloud bandwagon. We asked this week's Expert Panel Roundtable: What factors are contributing to growth in cloud systems in the security market?
More and more businesses are realising that leveraging the cloud is the most efficient way to solve emerging challenges. Cloud-based applications offer significant financial savings by enabling more cost-effective scaling, as well as a reduction in hardware maintenance and management costs, more resilience, ease of mobile support, flexibility, and greater user experience. All of these elements are making the cloud an attractive option for customers. As a result, these solutions are contributing to the push from a more reactive approach to the protection of assets to a more proactive security plan for end users.
A big growth driver for the cloud is demand from enterprises that no longer look at access control simply for securing doors, data and other assets. They want to create trusted environments within which they can deliver valuable new experiences to users. Cloud technologies make this possible by enabling people to use mobile devices for new applications and capabilities, while creating smarter, more data-driven workplaces. For example, cloud-based platforms will provide the backbone for quickly adding complementary applications like biometrics, secure print, virtual photo IDs, and vending as well as other access control use cases and emerging permission-based capabilities yet to be developed. Cloud-based platforms facilitate new managed service models for mobile IDs and secure issuance and will fuel simplified development environments and easy integration into vertical solutions. They have the potential to give organisations greater flexibility to upgrade and scale security infrastructure, improve maintenance and efficiency, and accelerate ROI.
There are two key factors when it comes to the growth of cloud systems in the security market – end users and installers. This symbiotic relationship creates a “push me, pull you” effect on demand and supply. On the one side, end users have become accustomed to purchasing and booking services online from the dominance of the online economy and broader retail industry. Cloud-based service delivery is already proven to work well. The wider online economy has also influenced security providers, who know they must cater for online business to compete. Using a cloud-based approach allows them to provide products and services whilst reducing overheads and delivery costs. Both sides have come to trust the cloud-based approach to providing security systems. It is a win-win. End users can rely on a service that is always up to date, whilst security installers are making considerable savings on their costs and infrastructure needs.
The simplicity of the set-up! Setting up cloud solutions on site can be as simple as the purchase transaction itself. All you need to get started is a username and password. Contrast this with the lengthy, complex, and sometimes extensive setup and configuration period for some on-premise applications. And when it comes down to software updates, instead of pushing updates to the client and requiring the channel to update the system, the end customer remains on the latest version and no longer has a risk of getting bugs or an update being done incorrectly. With flexible pricing models, cloud platforms also eliminate the cost of acquiring, provisioning, and maintaining the hardware needed to host business-critical software. From the installer’s perspective, this means they have the chance to create recurring revenue opportunities.
Cloud adoption continues to accelerate across multiple industries including the security market. The rapid deployment of cloud-based solutions ensures that organisations can be up and running quickly, whilst providing standardised and relatively secure global access. Often little or no infrastructure investment is required, thereby reducing the need to procure, manage and maintain expensive data centre computer resources. Software maintenance, support and remediation are handled by the cloud provider rather than internal support teams and often with a higher system uptime rate than in-house infrastructure can offer. This can free up technology and security teams to focus on delivering superior security services rather than spending time and resources managing technology infrastructure. Finally, organisations may see financial benefit from moving traditional capital-based investment in security technology infrastructure into a predominately OPEX model, allowing for accurate budgeting over time and without the need for major capital investment every 3-5 years for technology refresh.
Physical security systems generate valuable operational data, and lots of it. If the physical security system operator must be compliant to an audit standard (PCI, NERC, NIST, etc.), that data is their “entry-fee” for being in business. If the physical security system is there to fulfill a mission (e.g. capture video evidence), then knowing how often it accomplishes that is a measure of system ROI (a $1M system working 70% of the time is the same as a $1.43M system working 100% of the time). And there is the value that comes from benchmarking, to guide operational improvements based on key performance indicators tracked over time. Lifecycle management and forecasting replacements can be based on such data. Cyber-security vulnerabilities in physical security systems have brought renewed focus on specific system data; abnormal bandwidth utilisation, default passwords being in use, and whether the firmware on the system is current and compliant.
One of the key contributing factors in the growth of the cloud in our industry is security: cloud service providers offer the highest levels of physical security for their data centres. Replicating similar security and redundancy practises would be cost-prohibitive for most businesses. Using the cloud to deploy any workload allows you to only pay for your actual usage. You benefit from the elasticity and scalability of the cloud while reducing CAPEX. It is also a step in implementing an appropriate backup plan by having your data stored offsite and in multiple copies. It could also help in your recovery plans in case of a disaster. Also, since the cloud and its solutions are fully maintained by the service providers, it means that you always have the most up to date version of the service without having to go through manual updates.
The security market is seeing a growth in cloud systems due to the safety and operational benefits the cloud provides, specifically when integrated with other building systems. Implementing cloud-based solutions into a security strategy can not only help safeguard facilities but also limit associated on site management costs. For example, 24/7 video surveillance monitoring and data analysis can be connected to the cloud, enabling one remote location to be responsible for managing surveillance footage from multiple cameras across multiple geographies, while gathering important information around site activity. This efficient and holistic cloud-based solution provides facility owners and managers access to their business insights anytime from anywhere and can ensure the safety of a building and its occupants.
The security industry tends to follow (albeit slowly) the general IT industry, so the maturation and adoption of cloud systems in general has made cloud security solutions more acceptable. Users now start with the expectation that their security system will be accessible from anywhere, and cloud systems fit this requirement by default. With a browser-based user interface and proper IoT devices such as IP cameras and IP door controllers at the edge, a cloud solution dramatically simplifies the installation, thus eliminating required hardware and substantially reducing installation costs.
Cloud-based systems are gaining traction in the small- to medium-sized businesses market as a way to implement a robust security solution at a lower price point and with less maintenance overall. It saves the SMB market with the reduction of expenses like installing, maintaining and upgrading on-premises IT infrastructure, versus the operational cost of a Security-as-a-Service (SaaS) cloud-based subscription. For integrators, cloud is still gaining traction as a source for recurring monthly revenue (RMR), but we've seen the struggle of trying to shift the entire industry toward a service-based model rather than a per-project basis. There's still room for improvement and a lot of work that needs to be done before cloud-based/SaaS gains even more momentum with customers across industries.
Systems that are simpler to install and can be deployed rapidly. Lower cost and more efficient operation. Expanding capabilities. These are just a few of the benefits of cloud-based systems pointed out by our Expert Roundtable Panellists. Cloud-based systems are even changing the way security systems are configured and sold: They are a major factor in the industry transition to a recurring monthly revenue (RMR) model. Best of all, the cloud is helping to expand the capabilities of systems and providing additional useable data that yields greater value to end user customers. It’s no wonder you hear so much about the cloud in the physical security market.
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