Eye on Video: Security as a Service

Why video surveillance is following in the footsteps of hosted IT applications

Software as a Service (SaaS) – also called ASP (application service provider) or cloud computing – has become so commonplace in today’s business model that we rarely give thought anymore to the underlying management of activity such as email, online banking, payroll and benefits management and even customer relationship management. SaaS has proven itself to be a reliable and secure outsourcing option for many companies that want to reduce on-site infrastructure costs, while at the same time, have ubiquitous access to information over the Internet. The number of businesses turning to hosted solutions has been steadily rising, with CRM SaaS leaders like Salesforce.com reaching $1B in revenue and posting more than a 30 percent growth in the last quarter, at a time when financial turmoil was causing most other companies’ revenue to shrink.

The escalating adoption of SaaS as a business model

What makes the business model so appealing is that it frees companies from the complexities and high cost of managing sophisticated hardware and software so they can focus on their core strengths – leveraging business intelligence and managing business processes. In a traditional on-site implementation, the IT department oversees every permutation in the application stack: the user interface, the business application, the web/application server, the database, the operating system and all the associated hardware. In a SaaS implementation, the vendor takes full responsibility for system-wide upgrades and maintenance as well as all the storage technology. By shifting the burden to SaaS vendors who are better equipped to run the applications, companies can cut capital and staff expenditures, lower maintain costs and increase system uptime because availability is contractually guaranteed. For small to mid-size business or small remote offices that lack the internal core competency to manage such complex systems, SaaS gives them a way to reap the same benefits from the latest advances as their larger counterparts.

Ever increasing bandwidth as well as tighter Internet security and greater reliability have contributed to the widespread success of SaaS in the IT world. In fact, the Internet has become so robust that nowadays businesses worldwide have come to rely on it to support their day-to-day operations. HTTPS protocol with SSL encryption and virtual private network (VPN) tunnels have enabled financial institutions, commercial enterprises as well as consumers to conduct even their most sensitive transactions over the Internet with confidence in its security. And with the migration from dial-up to cable/DSL access, bandwidth has finally reached a level commensurate with the transmission needs of high-consumption applications like IP-based video monitoring. In fact, adoption of the hosted model has become so prolific that according to the Gartner Group, an analyst firm for the IT industry, the SaaS market is growing by 22 percent a year and by 2011 will be the delivery model for 25 percent of all new software systems.

Drawbacks of early remote video monitoring services

As surveillance technology improved, customers soon wanted more than simple alarm monitoring. They demanded video verification as a reliable means to limit the number of false alarms. They wanted to see who was actually on their property and track what was happening before calling in law enforcement. This was challenging to accomplish because early remote monitoring solutions used analog cameras connected to a local DVR. Customers were locked into a fixed number of cameras (4, 8, 16, etc.), depending on the number of channels supported by the DVR. Most DVR-based video systems relied on costly leased phone lines. At the time, security was high but bandwidth was quite low. Many DVR systems compensated for the slow data transfer rate by using proprietary compression algorithms. As a result, companies couldn’t always remotely monitor their video transmissions from a standard web browser, although that has improved.

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