Some think IP video is like a high-performance luxury car. It is powerful and beautiful to look at, but too costly and complicated to own. But similar to how car dealers have lowered the investment bar with leasing options, a hosted video surveillance model has made top-of-the-line IP technology affordable by eliminating upfront investment.
You have probably heard the hosted video story before: Network cameras are installed onsite while the video data streams over the Internet to a highly secure hosted data center. This model eliminates the need for digital video recorders (DVR) prevalent in analog installations or even a centralized network video recording (NVR) server, which lowers a customer’s capital investment and total overall cost of ownership. The hosting provider creates a customized web portal that allows properly credentialed users to access the video at any time from any Internet-connected device — a desktop, a laptop or even a smartphone.
Hosted video is billed as a great solution for business owners who need 10 or fewer cameras per site, especially for owners of multiple dispersed locations. The solution is also intriguing for large enterprises that need to satisfy internal policies or compliance issues — as well as those with critical camera locations (cash room, stock room, pharmacy, etc.) that must record 24/7 or are at risk for employee tampering.
In theory, hosted video makes perfect sense for many end-users. But some have questions about technical challenges — specifically installation, maintenance, bandwidth and scalability.
Installation is a Snap
Hosted platforms are designed specifically to eliminate the complexity of installation, operation and ongoing maintenance. Since smaller systems today are predominantly analog, the typical hosted video candidate might be intimidated by the perceived complication of moving to IP.
Fortunately, IP cameras no longer require port forwarding or fixed IP addressing to communicate with the hosted server. An integrator can auto-configure a network camera for a specific host communication link before even going to the job site. Once on site, the camera is plugged into the network like any other peripheral device. As soon as it powers up, the camera is automatically recognized by the hosting service, a secure “handshake” is created, and the system can start streaming video. This shortens installation time on site, which minimizes disruption to a business. The integrator can even pre-set each camera’s recording and retention parameters, which not only reduces installation time but also results in fewer installation helpdesk calls.
Some IP cameras can also be focused and adjusted remotely over the Internet, speeding up the process of fine-tuning surveillance video settings at each site. The hosting provider can remotely diagnose system problems, which helps to expedite service calls and maximize uptime. As part of the Service Level Agreement (SLA), the financial onus and responsibility of software/hardware maintenance should fall to the hosting provider and is typically rolled into the monthly service fee — which is what makes hosted video an operating expense as opposed to a capital one.
Once the hosted system is installed, it should look and feel like any regular, in-house surveillance system. The system has the same pipes, just a different storage mechanism. Users can readily access live and archived video through a secure viewing portal to their hosting provider, which often includes an intuitive graphic user interface with pull-down menus, simple icons and point-and-click operations to minimize the learning curve and help users quickly gain proficiency.
Some hosting providers also program location maps overlaid with camera icons to make it easy for customers to quickly find and click on a specific camera’s field of view. Customers have the option of downloading these simple-to-use applications to their tablets and smartphones as well, enabling them to view live and recorded video wherever there is an Internet connection.