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When and Why Should We Move to a Cloud-Based Security System?

When and Why Should We Move to a Cloud-Based Security System?

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by Ray Bernard PSP, CHS-III

Jul-Aug 2017

Increasingly I am hearing about IT departments asking what direction physical security system technology is moving in, and where cloud-based applications or systems fit on security’s technology roadmap.

Q:    Our IT department is asking where cloud-based security applications sit in our technology roadmap. How do I figure that out?

A:    There is a significant business alignment factor involved with cloud-based security applications, in addition to traditional risk-based technology planning.

Although technology is advancing at an increasingly rapid pace, the basic principles involved in security system design and selection remain unchanged. The foundation for design thinking is the statement of security’s primary purpose: Reduce security risks to acceptable levels, at an acceptable cost, in a manner harmonious to the business.

The third element—being in harmony with the business—comes into play from several perspectives. This column describes a few of them.

Facilities Perspective

Small retail stores find cloud-based security systems to fit well with their businesses, because the anywhere/anytime mobile access capabilities enable owners and managers to track store openings and closings, and use video to “keep an eye on things” during peak activity periods, regardless of where they are. The adoption of cloud-based security applications is a good fit, as most small businesses utilize cloud-based business applications. Cloud-based security applications, especially for video, are very helpful for multi-store operations, because no private wide-area network infrastructure is required.

Infrastructure Management

Infrastructure management is a key IT perspective involved in the move to cloud services. This reader’s question was promoted by this It perspective, as the company is shifting more and more of its business systems to the cloud. Business analytics and systems integration capabilities in the cloud have already surpassed what can be easily and affordably done in a traditional company data center.

Utilizing cloud infrastructure means that IT resources can focus on business applications and less on managing technology. Video storage is a good example where infrastructure management is drastically different in the cloud. Consider what it would take for a regional or global organization to double its video storage capabilities. It would be a significant project taking many months. Performing the same upgrade in the cloud would be a one-day affair, thanks to the elasticity of cloud storage. What’s more, if video storage requirements for outdoor cameras increase during a rainy season—due to motion-based recording—in the cloud storage can be increased just for the duration of the rainy season plus the video retention period, and then brought back down to normal levels for the rest of the year. With on-premises video storage, you are stuck with the excess capacity and its electrical bill all year round, or you have to compromise the retention period, which is often what happens.

Software and Firmware Updates

For IT departments of many large companies, physical security technology is a pain-in-the-neck. How do you perform firmware and application updates on 1,200 cameras? Who manages the passwords? It is rare to find a physical security system deployment that is compliant with Security’s technology management policies, especially when it comes to security video.

Axis Communications is in the process of rolling out an upgraded version of its Axis Video Hosting System (AVHS) platform, which formerly was hosted by third parties, but which Axis now hosts itself in the Amazon AWS cloud, in a data center appropriate for the customer site’s region. AVHS is provided through the Video-Surveillance-as-a-Service (VSaaS) model. The Axis Service Level Agreement (SLA) includes guaranteed uptime and around-the-clock AVHS platform support by Axis. The big news is that the service now includes automatic camera firmware upgrades as well as upgrades to the Axis Camera Application Platform (ACAP), which is the in-camera software that enables third-party video analytics applications to run on the camera. No action is needed on the part of the security integrator or the end user, who are relieved from the burden of camera firmware and software upgrades.

Eagle Eye Networks has simplified the deployment of its Cloud Security Camera Video Management System (VMS) with pre-hardened, self-configuring on-premise video appliances. From its cloud data center, Eagle Eye automatically takes care of security and feature updates for its appliances. No action is needed on the part of the security integrator or the end user.

Deploying cloud-based security applications can relieve an organization or its IT department of infrastructure management burdens. This parallels an established business trend, and thus will make sense for many businesses.

The next column will explore cyber security profiles of physical security systems, which is another IT consideration.

Write to Ray about this column at Ray Bernard, PSP CHS-III, is the principal consultant for Ray Bernard Consulting Services (RBCS), a firm that provides security consulting services for public and private facilities ( He is the author of the Elsevier book Security Technology Convergence Insights available on Amazon. Mr. Bernard is a Subject Matter Expert Faculty member of the Security Executive Council (SEC) and an active member of the ASIS International member councils for Physical Security and IT Security. Follow Ray on Twitter: @RayBernardRBCS

© 2017 Ray Bernard