Hosted access control and video surveillance platforms have gained a lot of traction in the security industry for the cost savings they provide
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Though they have been around for a number of years, hosted security services, sometimes referred to as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), are starting to gain more traction in the industry.
In fact, IMS Research predicted earlier this year that Video-Surveillance-as-a-Service (VSaaS) would be one of the biggest trends driving growth in the video marketplace in 2010.
Given the recent economic downturn, the flexibility and potential cost savings benefits of a hosted access control or video surveillance platform are too strong for security managers to ignore. Companies using SaaS do not have to worry about maintenance issues such as software upgrades or future scalability. Many hosted access control and surveillance platforms have the ability to support residences and small businesses with just a few access points and cameras up to enterprise-class systems.
However, there are still reservations among some in the industry about moving some or all of their security operations to the cloud. Hosted service providers say most of those fears stem from a misunderstanding about how SaaS works or just simply fear of the unknown.
"I think it is a fear of not owning (the data) and not having that computer sitting in your server room or back office. There is a perception that the Internet is not secure and there is a misunderstanding about the things that can be done to secure Internet transmissions," said ADT Chief Technology Officer Jay Hauhn.
Despite those fears, most believe that hosted services are the future of security and will become more widely adopted across the spectrum.
"The move to put information in or deliver a software application from the cloud is actually not revolutionary, it is evolutionary," said Steve Surfaro, business development manager and industry liaison for Axis Communications.
Considering this evolution of hosted service, SIW takes at look several companies who are making their mark in the industry.
Offering both hosted video and access control platforms, Brivo is one of the largest SaaS companies in the security industry today. According to Brivo President and CEO Steve Van Till, the company is probably best known for its access control offering, which has been on the market since 2001. The company launched its hosted video offering at ISC West in 2009.
"Everything is moving to the cloud," Van Till said. "It is inevitable, just like using the Internet for business was inevitable."
All of the applications are hosted online by the company, which operates three different hosting facilities across the country. Van Till said that the majority of the company's business is in property management realm followed closely by retail. Brivo sells directly to the dealer channel and its prices are confidential.
Secure-i offers a hosted video services platform through the dealer channel. According to Secure-i Director of Business Development Brian Lohse, the company's dealer channel consists of systems integrators, central monitoring stations and IT firms/telecommunications providers.
As far as the company's market focus is concerned, Lohse said that Secure-i is more focused on enterprise-class, high-end applications. The company provides a couple of service levels to its dealers. The "White Label" service involves branding the entire Secure-i solution into the customer's website. Above just video, Secure-i also provides a full e-commerce system to dealers, which gives them their own Web portal to oversee customer accounts.
"We are certainly not the cheapest and don't ever intend to be, but we strive to be the best in terms of offering a platform that is a feasible replacement and/or supplement to enterprise NVRs for Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies," he said.
For the past six years, ADT has offered end-users both a hosted card access service and a managed access control solution. As opposed to its hosted solution which provides the customer with head-end infrastructure and the ability to manage the system themselves, the managed service offering enables users to have ADT setup and manage their access control system.
According to Hauhn, both services have been deployed across a range of vertical markets.
"The biggest advantage of (having a hosted solution) is it lowers the total cost of ownership," he said. "Ideally, it reduces the capital expenditure required to implement (an access control system) and to implement a very robust entry level-type system."
The company is also looking at hosted/managed video services as a potential offering for its customers as well, Hauhn said.
Systems integrator Niscayah provides both hosted access control and video surveillance in 18 of the 19 countries in which it operates, according to Bob Stockwell, the company's director of system operations for North America. A new standalone, hosted video solution was launched earlier this year.
In the last 24 months, the company has increased video capabilities at its monitoring center in Boston, Mass., according to Stockwell.
"Some examples of (this increased capability) are video verification of alarm signaling and customer DVRs being replaced with a hosted, cloud format," he said.
A majority of the company's hosted services have been used by customers in the healthcare, retail and banking sectors, but Stockwell says that petrochemical facilities are also becoming big adopters.
Though they do not actually host the video themselves, Axis is one of the major providers of video hosting software.
According to Surfaro, one of the big differences between the Axis Video Hosting System software and some of its competitors is in Internet connectivity. Rather than having to pay for a static IP address or use network address translation in conjunction with a dynamic domain service which tracks the static IP address, Axis' software tells the camera exactly where it needs to be streaming without the need for these additional services.
"It is an automated, binding method for (to link) your camera to the server," he said.
The end users of this software range from small businesses like real estate and law firms to much larger entities such as government agencies and healthcare providers.
Initially established as a Web development company, byRemote entered the surveillance industry in 2002 after it got the idea to transmit video over an IP address, according to the Dave Bedford, the company's director of business development. After exploring the marketplace for a while, the company eventually wrote its own video hosting software.
Until 2009 the company engaged in direct sales of its software, at which point they switched to the channel reseller model. The company's vertical markets range from homeowners with multiple houses up to a large retail chain. As with some other companies in the industry, Bedford said byRemote allows its dealers to rebrand their hosting software to make it their own.
More focused on the residential and small business markets, Alarm.com provides hosted video and alarm monitoring services. Alison Slavin, vice president of product management for Alarm.com, says the company's services are sold to dealers who then bundle them with other monitoring services.
The company currently has over one million customers. According to Slavin, the company has seen an uptick in its alarm monitoring services due to the reduction in use of landline telephone services. Alarm.com launched its video solution about a year and a half ago and recently released an updated version. Slavin said that many customers now expect a hosted video solution and that innovations in surveillance technology have made that easier.
Though they don't offer a traditional hosted solution, March Networks does provide a managed video service that can provide security managers with peace of mind.
According to Peter Wilenius, vice president of product management for March Networks, the company's managed video offering has several elements.
"Our network operation center in Ottawa does daily monitoring of the health status of all the devices (on the customer's network), ensuring that they are functioning properly," he said. "If a disk drive fails, we can diagnose that in real time and can dispatch a service tech to correct issues before they become problematic."
Wilenius said that the majority of customers for their managed video service tend to be large, enterprise-class organizations such as bank and retailers who have camera deployments in the thousands.