The hybrid future of cloud in surveillance networks

Cloud’s continued expansion into every vertical is inevitable. Already a predominant and essential part of many businesses, it will expand rapidly, predicted to grow to $2.5 trillion by 2031. Anyone with an eye on the cloud market will be unsurprised by such figures. But for those interested in introducing such technology to their business – whatever that business may be – it is important to act with a certain amount of caution. On-demand, distributed computing, for all its benefits, is not a drop-in solution for every business need. 

The security and surveillance space greatly benefits from the power offered by the cloud. Cloud tools make hardware like networked cameras more flexible, scalable, and efficient. Yet integrators must consider whether cloud is the correct choice at every step. In many individual cases, a transition to cloud may be entirely appropriate, making for a more cost-effective and optimal solution; in others, the cloud may prove far more expensive and complex than the function demands. 

Given the variance between solutions and situations in regards to surveillance systems, there is no clear route to follow when transitioning to the cloud. In truth, installers and integrators are best served by employing a hybrid approach which finds a balance between what cloud services can offer and the benefits of keeping certain technology in-house.

Physical difficulties 

Whatever the industry, the decision to lean on the cloud is never a black-or-white choice. But it is particularly grey in the physical security space. Trust, regulation, and heavy bandwidth and latency demands contend with the potential benefits of connected platforms and the unique specifics of every company’s security needs. Even where cloud technology can be justified and offer a significant upgrade to existing functionality, it will not always fit neatly into the environs offered to it.

Locations with slow or unstable internet connections, for example, cannot transfer video data reliably – and a loss of connection could mean the loss of vital evidence or the inability to remotely control a system when it is most required. Other locations may wish to upgrade a system and incorporate existing legacy hardware which does not offer the level of connectivity that cloud requires, or they might operate a data storage strategy which is incompatible with cloud technology. There are cloud functions which could still suit such sites, but it is important to be cognisant of the potential pitfalls and opt for local solutions where appropriate.

Barriers to cloud use

IT professionals may find it tempting to take the easy route; indeed security, as with every other digital field, benefits from a number of as-a-service cloud models which can be moulded to assist with everything from infrastructure and platforms to software and, in the case of Video Surveillance-as-a-Service (VSaaS), even core camera functionality. Cloud technology places the burden of processing, storage and administration outside of one’s organisation, which can minimise many of the challenges that security systems raise and lower the bar of administration. But that extraction creates challenges of its own. 

Storing data in the cloud may prove to go against confidentiality principles or data regulations in certain industries, for example. Through increased bandwidth demands and additional charges, it can also vastly increase the cost and complexity over self-hosting that storage in-house. The link to a data centre creates a certain amount of lag, which hampers the reaction time of advanced analytics. These not only improve the security level of today’s surveillance systems, but also allow them to perform operational tasks beyond security, making analytics a core part of modern network camera installations. 

Maintaining the flexibility of a hybrid model shines in all of these cases. Managing one’s own hardware directly helps ensure security installations adhere to all relevant regulations. Administrators can easily expand, manage, and back up local storage, without a need to pay ongoing archiving or upload fees. The increasing power of edge processing, which places functions like object analytics directly within the camera, eliminates the need to send data back and forth to the cloud – or even over a local network – to actuate analytics. These are core functions, and sending them to the cloud does not, today, make a huge amount of sense.

Making the right choice

In the end, cost will be a deciding factor. For businesses with fewer devices, the simplicity and support of VSaaS plans could prove cheaper than administering local hardware. However, cloud’s scaling costs – as well as the potential for expensive and time-consuming refactoring should a cloud service be withdrawn – suggest that the larger the scale of a cloud transition, the higher its overheads. Narrowing one’s focus to those elements where cloud makes the biggest impact is the best way to keep its costs under control.

Realistically though there is no future for advanced surveillance networks which does not include the cloud in some fashion. There is also no future which eliminates on-site processing. The balance will change over time. As bandwidth increases and costs trend downwards, the opportunities cloud services offer will become greater and more accessible, all while endpoint hardware grows more efficient and powerful. 

For security and surveillance, cloud’s true value comes from its addition to a hybrid model which brings together the best of all worlds. Select those elements of the cloud which are most relevant and which create the most value, while also incorporating the powerful abilities found in edge processing and the control of closely administering one’s own IT environment. Mould the system around the site – not the other way around.

Find out more about Axis Solutions.

David Needham
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EMEA Business Development Manager at Axis Communications David has over 20 years’ experience in the security industry working for global companies operating in the network video, fibre optic and access control markets. With a background in electronics and electrical installation David has a broad range of experience in both the UK, Ireland and overseas markets. As Business Development Manager in EMEA David is responsible for directing, developing and supporting the sales team in this region.

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