Are you ready to outsource?

Why outsourcing video surveillance is a smart business strategy


Outsourcing has become quite commonplace in corporate America. One of the driving forces behind this growing trend has been the potential cost-savings that come from relying on third parties to deliver services that lie outside a company's core competencies. Within the IT world, adopting the software-as-a-service (SaaS) business model has helped companies cut capital and staff expenditures and focus resources on those core competencies that drive growth. This has been especially true for small to mid-size businesses that lack the internal expertise required to manage and maintain complex software. Today's tough economic business climate has also accelerated the outsourcing trend.

Cost savings is not the only factor driving this trend. An increasingly mobile workforce has also caused companies to jump on the outsourcing bandwagon. Today, more employees are remotely accessing their companies' computing power and business applications - whether from home or on the road. Technology is also making the shift possible. With SSL protocols and Virtual Private Networks (VPN), companies routinely rely on robust Internet security to protect even their most mission-critical data communications activities, including Internet banking services that many people use. And with the latest DSL, cable and fiber optics technology expanding bandwidth to 10 or even 100MBits/s, networks can easily handle multiple data-intensive applications simultaneously with no performance degradation.

These very same factors that provide the necessary foundation for successfully outsourcing business applications also hold true for outsourcing video surveillance. Yet when it comes to security and surveillance, many security professionals are reluctant to relinquish control to a third party. Their prevailing perception is that outsourcing somehow increases a company's risk. But with all the modern safeguards now in place, that assumption is outmoded.

When Does Outsourcing Surveillance Make Sense?

To answer that question, security managers need to step back and ask themselves where the core competency of their departments lies. Most security departments pride themselves on their expertise in establishing policies to ensure the safety and security of their organization's people and property, and specifying the tools and system to be used to most effectively achieve those goals. But it is highly unlikely that they would put storing video at the top of their core competency list.

In the era of VCRs and DVRs, the physical limitations of the coax infrastructure made it necessary to keep recordings within the building. Managing and maintaining video tapes or upgrading DVR systems and updating virus protection were both time-consuming and costly activities. Additionally, you needed to provide space for all the banks of DVRs, as well as archived recordings. While it was a necessary function, few security departments would consider those tasks core competencies.

Today, with IP-based video, infrastructure is no longer a limiting factor. Networks are more robust, fiber optic cables support greater bandwidths, and advanced Internet security protocols shield video streams from prying eyes. So the recording device no longer needs to be in close proximity to the camera. Once this restriction was lifted, outsourcing the management and storage of video became a viable alternative.

A second question security managers need to ask themselves is whether video monitoring is a core competency. For high-risk centers of activity like casinos and airports, that might be the case. Even some large retail chains have their own corporate investigation centers that remotely monitor video from the local outlets. But for many others, such as small boutiques, bank branches and convenience stores, it might make more sense to outsource video monitoring to those with greater resources and expertise.

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