Eye on video: Are you ready to outsource?

Why outsourcing video surveillance is a smart business strategy


(Monitoring the video live, or after incidents, is a core competency for some security departments, but not for others.
Image courtesy of Golf Mill Shopping Center.)

The precedence for outsourcing already exists. Most companies today use a third party to monitor their alarm systems. So turning video monitoring over to a professional service is not such a quantum leap.

An All-or-Nothing Proposition?

One of the benefits with hosted video solutions is that some or all of the functions can be outsourced depending on the needs of the security department. You might decide to monitor the video in-house and outsource video storage to a secure location. Or you could opt to contract with an external central station to monitor the video. Either or both activities could be outsourced to the same company or to separate providers.

For some security managers, the thought of not having a physical bank of DVRs or a stack of VCR tapes close at hand might be stressful. But consider that hosted services today generally deliver a higher uptime and availability than traditional analog solutions. Furthermore, it is highly probable that much of your company's other important digital information - like CRM and HR data - already resides on secure servers outside of the physical walls of your organization. Also bear in mind your company's exposure if there is a fire in the facility in which the video surveillance recordings are being stored, or if there is break-in at a retail store where local recordings reside. Having offsite storage especially ruggedized to protect against disaster or theft might provide peace of mind for an already over-burdened security manager.

Outsourcing Options

When weighing your options for outsourcing, think about what aspects of your video surveillance operation you would like to optimize with third-party expertise.

Hosted video services: Choosing the hosted video services route limits your technology investment to onsite network cameras. The hosted services provider maintains the servers, storage and management system at their own facilities, handling any repairs and upgrades for you. Network cameras are easy to connect to your existing network, which can securely transmit the video to the hosted system. Many of today's cameras also come with onboard features that enable field of view and focus to be adjusted remotely, further reducing the installation time and cost. With advanced auto discovery technology, cameras can be quickly installed and later moved to new locations as needed without having to reinstall them into the hosted video system. Even existing analog cameras can be tied into the system using video encoders.

To most organizations, the ease of installation, the freedom and ease of moving cameras, as well as the lower upfront investment are an attractive value proposition. For investigative purposes, the video can still be monitored internally, or if desired, remotely by a monitoring service provider.

Centralized monitoring: One of the benefits of network video in general and hosted video in particular is that it can be remotely monitored from any location in the world that has an Internet connection and appropriate access to the surveillance system. Centralized monitoring can be an around-the-clock proposition or limited to non-business hours, such as nights, weekends and holidays. In the latter case, the in-house security staff would handle the daytime monitoring.

Central stations enable security departments to benefit from economies of scales. With their large customer bases, central stations are more likely to provide monitoring at a lower cost than if a company's own security department had to staff up to handle that same activity in-house.

Today, an increasing number of central stations that provide alarm monitoring have added video monitoring to their service offerings. The central station responds to an incident and only involves the police as necessary. By using video verification - i.e. video along with the alarm monitoring - the number of false alarms can be reduced. When audio support is also implemented, the cameras can provide two-way communication at the site, further improving the central station's ability to correctly respond to different situations.