Small business owners work hard. They are often the first ones there in the morning and the last to leave at night. Even then, they likely bring their work home with them. During that time, everything they do is aimed at making their business as successful as possible.

Because of this, many business owners don’t take vacations, and if they do, they spend a lot of time worrying about their business while they’re away. In both cases, the potential for burnout is tremendously high.

The primary concern for these individuals is loss, whether from theft, waste, vandalism or other causes. Depending on the degree of the loss, it can have a devastating effect on small business. Therefore, professional security solutions must be top of mind for these businesses.

Small business owners can take advantage of advanced technology that can help them work smarter, not harder

Video surveillance for small businesses

One technology that can address loss, the feeling of helplessness that comes from not being on site and more is video surveillance. Sadly, it’s not always on the radar for small business owners, many of whom think video surveillance is very expensive and out of reach.

But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. There are high-quality, relatively inexpensive solutions that don’t require much, if any, configuration, allowing an installer to place cameras, run cable, plug cameras into the recorder and use software to get end users up to speed on remote access.

Best of all, almost all of these solutions come with a mobile app or other means of accessing video—both live and recorded—remotely from a smartphone or tablet. In a world where our phones have become our lifeline to a lot of information, including email, banking, inventory management and more, a security system simply has to provide this type of access.

Given the availability of cost-effective video surveillance solutions and their ease of use, small business owners can take advantage of advanced technology that can help them work smarter, not harder in a few key areas.

Small business owners can take advantage of advanced technology to work smarter
Video surveillance solutions come with a mobile app for accessing video remotely from a smartphone or tablet

Efficient incident monitoring

Having a high-quality video surveillance system with proper coverage means that any time an incident or loss occurs, a small business owner can go back and find it on the video and identify exactly what happened.

For example, if something goes missing from a retail store, reviewing the video will reveal exactly what happened, when it happened, how it happened and—depending on lighting, camera resolution and field of view—possibly who took it.

Video systems can also be valuable from a liability perspective. Slip-and-fall claims are not uncommon, but in many cases they turn out to be false. Thankfully, cameras can provide video that will support or refute a claim. Without video, such incidents could be costly for small businesses.

A simple review of recorded videos will solve any mystery and eliminate the potential for a long argument with no evidence

Video recording for incident verification

Another example would be a customer who claims they were shorted on the change they received from a cashier. Rather than taking the time to count the money in the drawer and reconcile that with receipts, a small business owner could simply review video from a camera placed above the point of sale to determine if the customer’s claim is correct or if they may have been mistaken.

This feature can also help alleviate or avoid a potentially awkward or difficult situation when there’s a difference of opinion with a supplier. Say for instance a delivery driver claims he or she brought three cases of product to the back door, but there are only two cases in the stockroom.

A simple review of the video that’s been recorded will solve the mystery once and for all and eliminate the potential for a long, drawn-out argument with no evidence one way or the other.

Smartphones for remote monitoring

It’s natural for small business owners to feel stressed when they’re not at their physical location. After all, they’re the ones who have invested in the business and are responsible for making sure it runs smoothly and profitably from day to day.

For small business owners with surveillance systems, vacations can become not only a reality but also the relaxing time they are supposed to be.

For small business owners with surveillance systems, vacations can become not only a reality but also the relaxing time

Rather than sitting on a beach and worrying about whether the store opened on time or if employees are doing what they’re supposed to be doing, an owner can pull out his or her smartphone, log in to remotely to the video system and know for sure. That peace of mind is invaluable for small business owners.

This is also helpful for business owners with multiple locations. Because no one can be in two—or more—places at once, a video surveillance system can provide eyes and in some cases ears at a location, which can be accessed at the click of a button.

Video surveillance for training

For a small business, it’s imperative that employees follow established policies and that staffing levels are maintained at the most efficient level possible. These are two other areas where video surveillance can help.

If a small business owner sees that something isn’t being done properly, whether by a single employee or if the problem is more widespread, he or she can use video for training purposes.

They can sit down with the employee or employees to review the video and explain the proper policies and procedures. Conversely, video can be used to demonstrate proper techniques or even to recognise employees for a job well done.

From a staffing standpoint, reviewing video could reveal unexpectedly busy or down times

Maintaining staffing levels

From a staffing standpoint, reviewing video could reveal unexpectedly busy or down times. A business owner can review video from 3 p.m. on a Saturday to see how many customers are in a location and determine the ratio of employees to customers.

Looking at a variety of times over a period of weeks or months could help determine optimal staffing levels, which may lead to the decision to increase staffing on Saturday afternoons when a store is busy. This will help improve customer experience and potentially increase sales.

Motion detection for accurate access control

Cameras can be deployed with motion-detection sensors to alert business owners when someone enters a certain area, whether during or after business hours. In many cases, detected motion can trigger an alert and/or a video clip to be sent to the business owner’s smartphone so they can review and verify whether something is out of the ordinary.

These deployments could be set up to monitor a variety of locations, such as an office, safe, doors and other sensitive areas at all times or just during specific hours. If motion is detected during off hours, the business owner can view video and alert police that an unauthorised individual is at their business.

For a small business, it’s imperative that employees follow established policies
Surveillance videos can be used to demonstrate proper techniques or even to recognise employees for a job well done

Cybersecure video surveillance systems

From a cybersecurity perspective, manufacturers are constantly releasing firmware updates to protect cameras from malware and/or unauthorised intrusion. Once someone has accessed any device, all systems and devices connected to the same network become vulnerable.

Updating these devices tends to be an afterthought for small business owners, who may either forget or simply not have the time to do it. So it should come as no surprise that these important updates often go uninstalled.

Today’s advanced video systems overcome this obstacle with easy updating, which can be performed by small business owners or installers to ensure constant protection. Other systems are available with auto-updating capabilities, which remove the onus from small business owners completely.

Today’s advanced video systems overcome cyberthreats with easy updating

Cost-effective surveillance solutions

These are just a few of the many benefits video surveillance systems offer small business owners. What’s important to note is that for each to be successful requires having to have the right camera for the right environment.

For instance, a camera positioned at the back door of a business has to have wide dynamic range to deal with changing light levels throughout the day. A camera used to monitor transactions must offer high enough resolution to identify bill denominations.

Today’s solutions are cost-effective, easy to use and offer the flexibility to monitor operations from anywhere at any time – giving small business owners the power to work smarter, not harder to grow their bottom line.

Download PDF version

Author profile

Larry Chay Small Business Program Manager, Axis Communications

In case you missed it

Enhance traditional security systems within your smart home
Enhance traditional security systems within your smart home

Market dynamics are changing the U.S. residential security market, creating new business models that better appeal to the approximately 70% of households without a security system. Smart home adjacencies have helped revitalise the traditional security industry, and alternative approaches to systems and monitoring for the security industry are emerging, including a new batch of DIY systems. Growth in the residential security market and its position as the channel for smart home solutions have attracted numerous new entrants. Telecoms, cable operators, and CE (consumer electronics) manufacturers are joining traditional security players as they compete to fulfill consumer demand for safety and security. Connected products also provide a layer of competition as consumers must decide whether having category devices such as doorbell video cameras, networked cameras, and other products suffice for their security. Increasingly competitive landscape Smart home services can provide additional revenue streams for the security industry For instance, IP cameras are a highly popular smart home device rooted in security, and Parks Associates estimates 7.7 million standalone and all-in-one networked/IP cameras will be sold in the U.S. in 2018, with $889M in revenues. Product owners may feel their security needs are fulfilled with this single purchase, as such dealers and service providers are under increasing pressure to communicate their value proposition to consumers. Categorically, each type of player is facing competition uniquely—national, regional, and local dealers all have a different strategy for overcoming the increasingly competitive landscape. Smart home services can provide additional revenue streams for the security industry. In Parks Associates’ 2017 survey of U.S. security dealers, 58% report that smart home service capabilities enable extra monthly revenue. Almost half of dealers also note they have to offer smart home devices and services in order to keep up with their competition. While white-label devices are acceptable in some instances, dealers need to integrate with hero products whenever possible when those exist for a category. For dealers who have added smart home devices and services are all potential benefits and good for business Improved customer engagement That 2017 survey also revealed 36% of security dealers that offer interactive services report security system sales with a networked camera and 16% report sales with a smart thermostat. For dealers who have added smart home devices and services, enhanced system utility, increased daily value, and improved customer engagement with the system are all potential benefits and good for business. Security has served as the most productive channel for smart home solutions, mainly because the products create natural extensions of a security system’s functions and benefits, but as smart home devices, subsystems, and controllers expand their functionality, availability, and DIY capabilities, many standalone devices constitute competition to classical security. Particularly viable substitute devices include IP cameras, smart door locks, smart garage doors, or a combination of these devices. Products that are self-installed offer both convenience and cost savings, and these drivers are significant among DIY consumers—among the 6% of broadband households that installed a security system themselves, 39% did it to save money. Enhance traditional security Self-installable smart home devices may resonate with a segment of the market who want security While many security dealers believe substitute offerings are a threat, some dealers do not find such devices an existential threat but instead view them as another path to consumer awareness. They argue that the difference between smart product substitutes and traditional security is that of a solution that provides knowledge versus a system that gives one the ability to act on that knowledge. A common theme among professional monitoring providers is that a homeowner who is aware of events happening in the home does not necessarily have a secure and protected household. For example, a Nest camera, a DIY product, notifies a consumer via smartphone about events in the home when it detects motion, but only when the notification is opened and identified will a consumer be able to act on the related event. Self-installable smart home devices may resonate with a segment of the market who want security but are unwilling to adopt professional monitoring; however, providers can leverage these devices to enhance traditional security features and communicate the value of professional monitoring. Smart home devices and features, while posing a threat to some security companies, are a potential way forward to increased market growth Increased market growth A key counterstrategy for security dealers and companies is to leverage their current, powerful role as the prime channel for smart home devices. Many security dealers now include smart home devices with their security systems to complement their offerings and increase system engagement. For example, as of Q4 2017, nearly 70% of U.S. broadband households that were very likely to purchase a security system in the next 12 months reported that they want a camera to be included as part of their security system purchase. In response, many security system providers now offer IP cameras as optional enhancements for their systems. Smart home devices and features, while posing a threat to some security companies, are a potential way forward to increased market growth. Security dealers have an opportunity to become more than a security provider but a smart home solutions provider rooted in safety. Provide status updates Comcast has entered both the professionally monitored security market and the market for smart home services The alternative is to position as a provider of basic security with low price as the key differentiator. Comcast has entered both the professionally monitored security market and the market for smart home services independent of security. It has discovered that monetising smart home value propositions through recurring revenue becomes increasingly challenging as the value extends further away from life safety. Since the security industry remains the main channel for smart home services, security dealers are in a unique position to leverage that strength. Value propositions must shift from the traditional arming and disarming of a system to peace-of-mind experiences that builds off the benefits of smart devices in the home to provide status updates (e.g., if the kids arrived home safely) and monitoring at will (e.g., checking home status at any time to see a pet or monitor a package delivery). These types of clear value propositions and compelling use cases, which resonate with consumer and motivate them to expand beyond standalone products, will help expand the home security market.

What is the value of "free" video management systems?
What is the value of "free" video management systems?

They say that every choice has a cost. It's a basic principle that, economically speaking, nothing is free. If it doesn't cost actual money, it may be expensive in terms of time, attention and/or effort. These are interesting observations to keep in mind as one peruses the various "free" video management system (VMS) offerings available on the market. Some are provided by camera companies to unify their products into a "system", even if it's a small one. Other free VMS offerings are entry-level versions offered by software companies with the intent of the customer upgrading later to a paid version. For more insights, we asked this week's Expert Panel Roundtable: What is the value of “free” video management systems (VMSs) and how can a customer decide whether “free” is the right price for them?

The ongoing challenge of IT and data risk management
The ongoing challenge of IT and data risk management

Managing IT and data risk is a challenging job. When we outsource our IT, applications and data processing to third-parties more and more every day, managing that risk becomes almost impossible. No longer are our data and systems contained within an infrastructure that we have full control over. We now give vendors our data, and allow them to conduct operations on our behalf.  The problem is, we don’t control their infrastructure, and we can never fully look under the hood to understand and vet their ability to protect our data and operations. We have to fully understand how important this issue is, and ensure we have the right governance, processes and teams to identify and mitigate any risks found in our vendors. No longer are our data and systems contained within an infrastructure that we have full control over Today, everything is connected. Our own networks have Internet of Things (IoT) devices.  We have VPN connections coming in, and we aren’t always sure who is on the other end of that connection. It is a full-time job just to get a handle on our own risk. How much harder, and how much larger should our teams and budgets be, to truly know and trust that our vendors can secure those devices and external connections?  For every device and application we have internally, it is very difficult to even keep an accurate inventory. Do all of our vendors have some special sauce that allows them to overcome the traditional challenges of securing internal and vendor-connected networks? They are doing the same thing we are – doing our best with the limited human and financial resources allocated by our organisation. Risk stratification and control objectives  The benefits of outsourcing operations or using a vendor web application are clear. So how can we properly vet those vendors from an IT risk perspective?  The very first thing we need to put in place is Risk Stratification. Risk Stratification presents a few targeted questions in the purchasing process. These questions include – what type of data will be shared? How much of this data? Will the data be hosted by a vendor? Will this hosting be in the US or offshored? Has the vendor ever had a data breach? These questions allow you to quickly discern if a risk assessment is needed and if so, what depth and breadth.  Risk stratification allows you to make decisions that not only improve your team’s efficiency, but also ensure that you are not being a roadblock to the business Risk stratification allows you to make decisions that not only improve your team’s efficiency, but also ensure that you are not being a roadblock to the business. With risk stratification, you can justify the extra time needed to properly assess a vendor’s security.  And in the assessment of a vendor’s security, we have to consider what control objectives we will use. Control objectives are access controls, policies, encryption, etc. In healthcare, we often use the HITRUST set of control objectives. In assessing against those control objectives, we usually use a spreadsheet.  Today, there are many vendors who will sell us more automated ways to get that risk assessment completed, without passing spreadsheets back and forth. These solutions are great if you can get the additional budget approved.  Multi-factor authentication  Even if we are using old-fashioned spreadsheets, we can ensure that the questions asked of the vendor include a data flow and network/security architecture document.  We want to see the SOC2 report if they are hosting their solution in Amazon, etc. If they are hosting it within their own datacentre, we absolutely want to see a SOC2 Type II report. If they haven’t done that due diligence, should that be a risk for you?  Today, we really need to be requiring our vendors to have multi-factor authentication on both their Internet-facing access, as well as their privileged internal access to our sensitive data. I rate those vendors who do not have this control in place as a high risk. We’ve recently seen breaches that were able to happen because the company did not require administrators or DBAs to use a 2-factor authentication into sensitive customer data sources.  In the assessment of a vendor’s security, one has to consider what control objectives to use This situation brings up the issue of risk acceptance. Who in your organisation can accept a high risk? Are you simply doing qualitative risk assessment – high, medium and low risks? Or are you doing true quantitative risk analysis? The latter involves actually quantifying those risks in terms of likelihood and impact of a risk manifesting, and the dollar amount that could impact your organisation.   So is it a million dollars of risk? Who can accept that level of risk? Just the CEO? These are questions we need to entertain in our risk management programs, and socialised within your organisation.  This issue is so important – once we institute risk acceptance, our organisation suddenly starts caring about the vendors and applications we’re looking to engage.  If they are asked to accept a risk without some sort of mitigation, they suddenly care and think about that when they are vetting future outsourced solutions. Quantitative risk analysis involves quantifying risks in terms of likelihood and impact of a risk manifesting Risk management process  In this discussion, it is important to understand how we think of, and present, the gaps we identify in our risk management processes. A gap is not a risk. If I leave my front door unlocked, is that a control gap or a risk? It is a gap – an unlocked door. What is the risk?  The risk is the loss of property due to a burglary or the loss of life due to a violent criminal who got in because the door was unlocked. When we present risks, we can’t say the vendor doesn’t encrypt data. The risk of the lack of encryption is fines, loss of reputation, etc. due to the breach of data. A gap is not a risk.  Once we’ve conducted our risk analysis, we must then ensure that our contracts protect our organisation? If we’re in healthcare, we must determine if the vendor is, in fact, a true HIPAA Business Associate, and if so we get a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) in place. I also require my organisation to attach an IT Security Amendment to these contracts. The IT Security Amendment spells out those control objectives, and requires each vendor to sign off on those critical controls. We are responsible for protecting our organisation’s IT and data infrastructure – today that often means assessing a 3rd-party’s security controls One final note on risk assessments – we need to tier our vendors. We tier them in different ways – in healthcare a Tier 1 vendor is a vendor who will have our patient information on the Internet. Tiering allows us to subject our vendors to re-assessment. A tier 1 vendor should be re-assessed annually, and may require an actual onsite assessment vs. a desk audit. A tier 2 vendor is re-assessed every 2 years, etc. We are responsible for protecting our organisation’s IT and data infrastructure – today that often means assessing a 3rd-party’s security controls. We must be able to fully assess our vendors while not getting in the way of the business, which needs to ensure proper operations, financial productivity and customer satisfaction. If we truly understand our challenge of vendor risk management, we can tailor our operations to assess at the level needed, identify and report on risks, and follow-up on any risks that needed mitigated.