SIW Roundtable: The reliability of cloud security services

Experts say built-in redundancies protect hosted access and video users

Last month, an outage suffered by Amazon Web Services at one of its data centers near Washington, D.C., brought down several large websites including Reddit and Foursquare, for an extended period of time.

Though the outage was only a blip in the world of cloud computing, it does make many people concerned about the reliability of hosted services. As more and more security end-users switch to hosted video and access control for their numerous benefits, such as reduced maintenance and infrastructure costs, outages like this have the potential to negatively impact people's perception about the cloud.

To address some of the concerns raised from this outage, SIW spoke with some of the leading providers of hosted security services to get there take on the outage and how similar incidents could impact end-users.

How would a cloud outage like this impact hosted security services offered by your company?

Steve Van Till, president and CEO of Brivo Systems: (Amazon) divides up their system into what are called availability zones and they have a bunch of different availability zones throughout the Unites States and the way it works is that if you are hosting with them, you can pay to be in one availability zone for one price or if you want redundancy and protection against failure, you can pay to be in two zones, or three zones or five zones. All the people that were affected (by the outage) paid to be in one zone and that just violates the principal of system design forever in engineering which is redundancy. The kind of outage that Amazon had would not affect Brivo or companies like us because we have multiple data centers, any one of which can go down and the service keeps running.

Brian Lohse, director of business development for Secure-i: Generally speaking, we are always planning based on failure. That happens at multiple levels. It happens at the user level where all of our systems are going to use some form of a NAS (network attached storage) drive or SD card locally, so that if whether it's an Internet connection that is failing or the entire cloud that's failing or anything in between, they still have recording locally. Level two is hardware redundancy. Even within a data center, within a single rack of equipment, you have servers and hard drives that are prone to failure. Switches, cables, all of those things can go bad, so there is a hardware redundancy. In our case, its end-plus-two, which means there are essentially three of everything from the hardware level. Towards the top of that, there is the data center itself and you can build redundancy at that level too.

Matt Krebs, business development manager for hosted services at Axis Communications: I think you could take a couple of different perspectives. Most of the partners we work with, in today's cloud world, a lot of folks just assume there are redundancies and backup plans in place with most cloud data centers and it's not always the case. What we've done is the folks we've selected for our hosted video program we make sure that they do have redundancies, backups and contingency plans in place in case any of their primary centers do fail. We rely on our partners to have that kind of redundancy and backup. In the case where we don't have those kinds of redundancies and we have some partners that don't necessarily have those capabilities, we've made provision for local onsite backup storage in the form of a network attached storage device. If anything does fail in the cloud, the customer or end-user that's consuming these hosted services will still have the ability to retrieve that video from a local drive. A third stop gap to make sure our customers don't experience data loss, we also have a number of our cameras that carry SD card slots onboard in the camera.

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