What's your flavor?

As systems solutions continue to move to the network and foster integration, managed services will become the norm for users and a beautiful way for resellers to add value and new streams of recurring monthly revenue (RMR).
There's a flavor of managed services for everyone, from the boutique retail customers to enterprise end-users. There's video, access control and intrusion, energy management and even two-way audio as part of the portfolio. And the user can usually decide what they want to manage or what to outsource. There are so many opportunities and different ways to go and plenty of new and existing customers to grab with these services.

Shift your thinking to the service model

Managed services is part of the paradigm shift for systems integrators. No longer can hardware alone be the way to make money. Margins on equipment have dropped to paltry sums and commoditized across the board. Central station and third party monitoring RMR has plummeted, making it harder for resellers to garner needed margins from monitoring of signals alone.

All kinds of devices can be managed and hosted and the user may want to relinquish control altogether. Large access control systems are a perfect example. These users may not want to manage the cards and permission levels of security, but they may still have access to certain portions via the Web and a browser if necessary. There are all kinds of communications topologies to make managed services part of the fold. There's traditional network and Web-based control, cellular and GSM radio that can be managed; specific devices that enable control from equipment at the protected premises; as well as cloud-based and Software as a Service (SaaS).

According to Jonathan Ellis, vice president of Notification Systems of America Inc., Grapevine, Texas, his company has been tackling managed access control for some time and recently added video. "For us, the niche for managed services is our landlords and tenants. They are responsible for a lot of spaces and they can't be everywhere. Management companies are also using video services to remotely view contractors on site. Also, tenants are being held more accountable and the landlords are turning around and then offering the video services to their customers. Audio is also emerging strong, especially for people working late hours."
Notification Systems of America is also supplying managed video as a replacement to guards and while the $600 a month recurring charge to one customer may seem like a lot, "when the user compares that to the cost of a guard you can't touch it," Ellis added.

The list of different types of managed security services runs deep, according to Sharon Shaw, vice president of Integrator Support, LLC in Westminster, Colo. "The types of security services available include video verification; interactive video monitoring; remote video guarding; video business intelligence; hosted/managed access control; and non-emergency event monitoring (PDA Alert.) Becoming a service company is critical to all these models," she said. "You can successfully make managed services your differentiator but you need dedicated resources to make it work and staff has to be trained on the different service offerings, supporting technology and the return on investment for the customer. Managed services drive RMR and positively impacts the monthly cash flow for a company, which also leads to better credit worthiness and other benefits."

Just as we are getting accustomed to the concept of managed services, the model morphs into the clouds. Hosted video is emerging strong in the area of managed services, according to Jumbi Edulbehram, vice president of Business Development, Next Level Security Systems, Carlsbad, Calif. "I think there are three broad things happening-the first is hosted video, with it you don't have to store video on your customer's site. The second is the move to complete remote managed services-which saves money not having to send people out in the field. The third is the outsourcing of the entire service-including equipment, monitoring, responding and even the investigation of incidents."

John A. Smith, senior marketing manager for Honeywell Access Systems in Oak Creek, Wis., said that technically all managed services are hosted. "We look at it as being comprised of three different levels:

Dealer does 100 percent of data and info; Second is shared; dealer does heavy lifting; end-users have some sort of access; Third is wholly customer-managed. Dealer is incurring the costs at the head end."

The typical installation? "It's all over the board and every dealer should decide or help the customer decide what's best for them," Smith said.

The ability to retrofit legacy systems and remotely manage the premises also makes managed services an attractive revenue stream for resellers.

According to Barry E. Walker, chief executive officer of CelAccess(tm) Systems Inc., Dallas, the company offers hardware devices and a software as a service program that controls remote gates and doors using the cellular network for data transport.

"We allow you to control the uncontrollable, for example something that you had padlocks on before. Cellular offers a solution that is available in a lot of locations. Anytime there is access control that requires managing, we provide a reliable and cost-effective alternative."
CelAccess offers three RMR share program participation levels to PSA Security and Integrator Support affiliates, depending on the integrator's preferred billing method and whether or not they want to private label the Automated Control Center (ACC), the Web-based software program. The CelAccess Systems solutions are comprised of two basic components: the cellular device that connects to any gate, door or lock and the ACC accessed by users via the Internet or any phone.

"The system is a unique combination of cellular plus Internet functionality," Walker said. "It's also perfect for implementation in remote locations, or locations where a customer wants to put access control on the remote perimeter of the premises but they don't want to trench to secure entry points."

The world of legacy access control and intrusion detection is also driving integration through managed services. According to Paul Pishal, vice president of Marketing for Lantronix, Irvine, Calif., the company's secure device services are communications protocol agnostic.

"We are providing the connection to devices through the Internet or corporate networks," Pishal continued. "We can touch more things that are part of the security industry because we are networking-enabling more than we ever could before."

Lantronix developed its ManageLinx(r) application platform to specifically address the needs of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and managed service providers (MSPs) who wanted to create, expand or improve remote product service business offerings. Using Lantronix' Virtual Device Network (VDN) technology, ManageLinx enables users to create Virtual IP (VIP) connections between two points on the Internet without new network configurations or application software.

"This allows managed services on the network to go deeper into the security, such as panels and even devices hardwired and wireless," explained Pishal.

"When products are integrated, you can go back and do forensics like never before, with the ability to search and do time-stamping. Data can also be tied into the human resources system, for example. The more information the better if you can access it," he added.

Managed services are part of a new shift in the way resellers do business. Harnessed and properly implemented, they represent future profitability for all.

By Paul Smith

Systems integrators have long searched for a feasible way of incorporating recurring revenue into their business models-both to build a steady revenue stream for cash flow as well as to make their organizations more appealing to potential investors and buyers. Today, technology is enabling the addition of services that provide benefits to dealers and integrators and their customers by harnessing the capabilities of the Internet for hosted services-accessing the benefits of using a particular system without the headaches that can sometimes accompany system ownership and management.

Some manufacturers are beginning to offer integrators the platforms to provide hosted, managed video management system services to their customers. A hosted, managed video surveillance solution provides a network video management system, configured centrally by the integrator and hosted at an off-site location, that allows end-users to retain complete control and secure access to their video data.

The primary benefit of a hosted, managed network video surveillance solution is that management and maintenance of the surveillance system is centralized and handled by the integrator. Other benefits include better access to the application for remote workers, decreased risk of a failed or delayed deployment and instant access to the latest product enhancements of the particular system. Since the service is rented on a monthly basis, end-users can spread the expenditure for the system over a period of years, while at the same time building in a recurring revenue stream for the reseller at the time of the sale.

This approach also minimizes the impact on staff time typically taken up by training. Instead, a small staff of technicians from the systems integrator could be trained to exclusively handle system deployments. Since this group would be performing the same function centrally for many different customer sites, this reduces the number of technicians requiring training.

Hosted solutions also typically offer a variety of service levels for both the service and equipment, such as cameras, encoders and local archivers.

Gaining greater transparency to the real-time operation of a customer's surveillance system can also be beneficial to the working relationship between end-user and integrator. The remote system maintenance center will know of trouble with the system before it impacts the customer's investigation and response efforts. The ability to monitor the system first-hand will mean that integrators can offer a much higher level of systems availability to its remote management and system maintenance monitoring customers.

Paul Smith is executive vice president of DVTel Inc. He can be reached at psmith@dvtel.com.