Understanding managed video services, Part 1

Six ways businesses can use managed video for security and operations improvement

[Editor's note: This is part 1 of a 2-part series. Hauhn's second piece will examine the IT impacts and considerations end-users face when deciding to employ managed video services at their organization.]

Outsourcing can dramatically lower costs, even while improving service. That's why outsourcing of key corporate departments is gaining momentum with many large and small organizations. IT, human resources, legal, accounting and other functions are now being handled by outside providers. These providers specialize in supplying equal or superior service, typically at a lower cost than an organization can provide internally.

A recent survey of top chief executive officers by the consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers showed that nearly 70 percent had or were planning to outsource a business process or function in the past or coming 12 months. Outsourcing gives organizations the option of securing vital services as needed without the need to incur excessive overhead or, where systems are involved, without the requirement of a capital investment. Outsourcing provides organizations with a menu of services to select from, as well as tailoring the service level to their unique need. The chosen services can then be provided at a fixed fee.

This trend is now moving into the physical security sphere, where it continues to grow in popularity. Recently organizations with a need to protect a single door, as well as those needing to protect a large enterprise, have begun outsourcing access control services. In most cases these end users, while deeply concerned about security, don't install, monitor or maintain the system themselves. Managing the functional aspects of the system is a natural extension.

With a managed access control solution, the end user gets a system that requires minimal time commitment from its employees. The service provider installs all card readers and control panels. The system servers are housed, maintained and administered by the service provider. All data entry, including cardholder additions, deletions and edits, as well as access schedule definitions are managed by the service provider, who can then also monitor and respond to system events and alarms. The end user receives customized reports on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

Within this managed services scenario, vendors generally can provide customers with robust system capabilities that may have been out of reach with a purchased platform.

Now that same concept is coming to video services. Managed video services use interactive video and optional audio to interact with a customer's facility, staff and customers every day, often in real time. In a managed video services environment, the service provider creates and then maintains the infrastructure - the cameras, servers, software and other equipment - needed to supply a wide range of service options for the customer. The end user's business efficiency is enhanced by the monitoring and reporting capabilities provided by the managed services vendor.

Managed video services can reduce a customer's total cost of ownership as compared to the outright system purchase and operation model. The need for the end user to have employees to operate and maintain the equipment can be significantly reduced and may even be completely eliminated. The vendor can also be contracted to provide regular equipment and software updates. The customer has tremendous flexibility to add or subtract cameras and services as needs change. Those changes may be temporary, such as a government contract requiring additional security, or long term due to a business expansion. As with the access services, managed video services has appeal for small, single-site businesses to large multinational corporations.

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