VSaaS From the Integrator and User Perspective
Technology based on the cloud has become a popular trend. Most IT systems now operate within the cloud or offer cloud capabilities, and video surveillance is no exception: today, virtually every major hardware and software vendor offers cloud-based services. Users benefit from the cloud due to its numerous advantages, such as ease of implementation, scalability, low maintenance costs, etc. Video surveillance as a service (VSaaS) offers many choices, so there is an optimal solution for each user.
However, what about integrators? For them, VSaaS is also a game-changer. Integrators are now incentivized to think about how they can maintain their markets and take advantage of the new business opportunities that the cloud model provides.
Integrators and the Cloud
The cloud service model has drastically changed the role of an integrator. Traditionally, integrators provided a variety of services including system installation, support, and maintenance, as well as served as a bridge between vendors and end-users. In contrast, hosted video surveillance as a service requires a security system installer to simply install cameras and connect them to the network, while the provider is in direct contact with each end-user.
There is no end to on-premises systems. However, the percentage of systems where the integrator’s role is eliminated or considerably reduced will continue to increase. How can integrators sustain their markets and stay profitable? A prospective business model might be to become a provider of VSaaS (“cloud integrator”) in partnership with software platform vendors.
Solutions for VSaaS Providers
Some VMS vendors offer software VSaaS platforms that form the basis for cloud-based surveillance systems. Using these solutions, a data center operator, integrator, or telecom service provider can design a public VSaaS or VSaaS in a private cloud to service a large customer.
The infrastructure can be built on any generic cloud platform or data center, as well as resources owned by the provider or client. So, VSaaS providers have the choice between renting infrastructure from a public cloud service like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud or using their own or clients’ computing infrastructure (virtual machines or physical servers).
As an example, a telecom carrier could deploy VSaaS on their own infrastructure to expand their service offering for clients, gaining a competitive advantage and enhancing profits per user. Using a public cloud, a smaller integrator can host the computing infrastructure immediately, without incurring up-front costs and with no need to maintain the system. These cloud services provide scalability, security, and reliability with zero initial investment. When integrators purchase commitment use contracts for several years, they can achieve significant savings.
Next, let’s examine VSaaS options available in the market from an end-user’s point of view.
Hosted and Hybrid VSaaS
With hosted (or cloud-first, or true-cloud) VSaaS solutions, all the video feeds are transmitted directly from cameras to the cloud. Optionally, video can be buffered to SD cards installed on cameras to prevent data losses in case of Internet connection failures. There are many providers of such services that offer their own brand cameras. Connecting these devices to the cloud should only take a few clicks. Firmware updates are usually centralized, so users don’t have to worry about security breaches.
Service providers may offer dedicated hardware bridges for buffering video footage and secure connections to the cloud for their branded and third-party cameras. Typical bridges are inexpensive, basic NVRs that receive video feeds from cameras, record on HDD, and send video streams to the cloud. The most feature-rich bridges include those with video analytics, data encryption, etc.
Introducing a bridge or NVR makes the system hybrid, with videos stored both locally and in the cloud. At the other end of the spectrum relative to hosted VSaaS, there are cloud-managed systems. In this case, video is stored on-site on DVRs, NVRs, video management software servers, or even locally on cameras, with an option of storing short portions of footage (like alarm videos) in the cloud for quick access. A cloud service can be used for remote viewing live video feeds and recorded footage, as well as for system configuration and health monitoring.
Cloud-Managed or True-Cloud — What to Choose?
Cloud management services often come bundled with security cameras, NVRs, and video management software, whereas other VSaaS generally require subscriptions. Keep in mind that the system in this case remains on-premises, and the advantages of the cloud are limited to remote monitoring and configuring.
It’s a good choice for businesses that are spread across several locations or branches, especially if they have systems in place at each site. All locations and devices can be remotely monitored using the cloud while keeping most of the existing on-site infrastructure. All that needs to be changed is the NVRs or VMS with a cloud-compatible model or version. Other methods are more costly and/or require more resources to implement.
Hosted VSaaS helps leverage the cloud for the highest number of benefits in terms of cost and technological advantages. In this case, the on-site infrastructure consists of only IP cameras and network equipment. This reduces maintenance costs substantially and also sets the foundation for another advantage of VSaaS: extreme and rapid scalability.
At the same time, the outgoing connection at each site is critical for hosted VSaaS. Video quality and the number of cameras directly depend on bandwidth. Because the system does not work offline, a stable connection is required to stream videos. In addition, cloud storage can be expensive when many cameras are involved, or when video archives are retained for an extended period.
The hosted VSaaS is a great choice for small broadband-connected locations and is also the most efficient way to centralize video surveillance for multiple sites of the same type, provided they do not have a legacy system. Since it is easy to implement and maintain, this cloud technology is especially popular in countries with high labor costs.
Options for Integrators
Using different software and hardware platforms, integrators can implement various types of VSaaS solutions. For those who adhere to the classic on-premises approach, adding a cloud-based monitoring service can grow their value proposition for clients with out-of-the-box capabilities of quick remote access to multiple widely dispersed sites and devices.
For small true-cloud setups, there is a possibility to rent a virtual machine and storage capacity in a public cloud (such as Amazon, Google, or Microsoft) and deploy the cloud-based VMS server that can handle dozens of cameras. In terms of features, such a system may include anything from plain video monitoring via a web interface to GPU-accelerated AI video analytics and smart search in recorded footage, depending on the particular software platform.
High-scale installations, such as VSaaS for public use or large private systems for major clients, involve multiple parts like a virtual VMS server cluster, web portal, report subsystem, etc. Such systems can also utilize either own or rented infrastructure. Some vendors offer software for complex installations of this kind, though there are not as many options as for cloud-managed systems.
Finally, hybrid VSaaS is the most flexible approach that enables tailoring the system to the users’ unique needs while optimizing Internet connection bandwidth, cloud storage costs, and infrastructure complexity. It’s high time for integrators to gain experience, choose the right hardware and software, and explore different ways of building systems that will suit evolving customer demands in the future.
This article was published on securityinformed.com