Cloudy, with a chance of hosted video

Cloud computing, Software as a Service (SaaS), hosting companies--what does it all mean? It's enough to make a person wish for the good old days. Which always seem good in retrospect, but seriously, who would give up their microwave oven, digital camera, TiVo, GPS or cell phone?

All these technologies once seemed out of the grasp of everyday users and as a relative of mine once said, "unnecessary...we're fine just the way we are without a cell phone." Resistance to change and "I feel a headache coming on" is understandable when integrators are facing the IP world where routers need configuring and firewalls need convincing in order to work.

When it comes to cloud computing, security resellers want to know: Exactly how much pain is involved in understanding and working with cloud computing and what's in it for me? It might certainly be worth implementing it, especially if it produces anything as good as microwave popcorn, or a steady stream of income on a monthly basis, i.e., recurring monthly revenue (RMR).

Let's start with the basics-the concept of cloud computing and the value of hosted services for your customers is really a pretty painless process to grasp. Here are five 'sunny' reasons cloud computing should be on your radar:

1. Hosted services are reliable-Chances are you are using cloud technology and don't even realize it. You are already in the clouds if you use online banking, Gmail, Facebook or YouTube and a myriad of other every day, safe and reliable services that store data in a database accessed through the Internet. Video that is not stored on a local server but instead in a remote data center which is accessible through any browser is "in the cloud." It is easy to explain to customers that they are using hosted services with confidence everyday in their lives and that there are benefits to remote storage.

2. Safety of data-Video that is not locally stored is video that is out of the danger of crooks, fire and bored employees. Secure-i uses several Tier 1 data centers with redundant N+2 power and data on enterprise equipment as well as facilities with 24/7 manned operation. In addition, biometric access control and 24/7 manned guard services allow us to provide the reliable and secure environment necessary to host mission critical data for your customers. If your customer wants local in addition to remote storage, cost-effective Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices can be used as a viable redundant archive.

3. Lower total cost of ownership-In addition to removing the local recorder, hosted solutions generally entail a more cost-effective installation, less training and minimal maintenance, reducing the total cost of ownership of the system. What end-user doesn't want to hear that? Professional surveillance or access control that removes the cost of a DVR or NVR peaks the interest of any customer. Organizations with multiple locations will sit up and pay attention at the possibility of having their surveillance out of their capital budgets and into their operating budget. Services in the cloud are purchased as subscriptions similar to cell phone plans or cable offerings where various services can be purchased depending on the needs of the customers. Secure-i is currently hosting Axis AVHS cameras that can be purchased one at a time and added to the system. No longer are you required to sell cameras in sets of four with expensive recording devices. Cameras can be sold to new markets, especially to the underserved small/medium business (think every convenience store, deli, bar or strip mall).

4. Recurring monthly revenue-Hosting companies offer security resellers a powerful recurring monthly revenue stream, which will supplement line-item sales. The monthly revenue continues to accrue while you continue to sell to new customers, allowing you to realize the lifetime value of your clients. Many cloud computing solutions providers can white label or brand the solution under your company name and logo on your Web site. This draws your customers to your Web site on a daily basis providing a valuable dynamic marketing space to promote new products and services. A customer base tied to long-term contracts provides a predictable revenue stream while increasing the value of the business for sale/investment.

5. Ease of use-Cloud computing solutions make life easier for security resellers and end-users alike. Much of the complexity takes place at the data center level, allowing end-users to benefit from pure functionality. Many hosted solutions are plug and play, meaning dealers don't have to have a network administrator on every installation. Auto-negotiation and remote firmware updates equal lower cost and less time per installation, which equates to more installations per day and more money in your pocket. Forget 300-page manuals and local software; hosted solutions are generally intuitive, allowing quick and easy access from anywhere. Increased accessibility to video footage drives business owners to pull up their smartphone or laptop on the fly. They can see when employees clocked in, out, and whether they were slacking the last hour of the day, as opposed to being able to only check the DVR or other recording solution when something has been stolen.

The forecast for you could be mostly sunny with easy, effective and affordable hosted video. When used effectively, those RMR dollars could come streaming in on your business as soon as today.

Head for the Clouds

Information technology research and advisory firm Gartner Inc., Stamford, Conn., recently forecast that revenue from Internet-based "cloud computing" will top $14 billion annually by the end of 2013.Revenue from businesses using software programs hosted online as services in the Internet "cloud" should tally $7.5 billion this year, a 17.7 percent increase from 2008, according to Gartner research director Sharon Mertz. "The trend toward cloud computing, or Software as a Service (SaaS), has accelerated during the economic crisis," she said.

Brian Lohse is the director of Business Development for Secure-i, a hosted video solutions provider based in Des Plaines, Ill. For more information, visit their Web site at