Here at Check Your Security ltd, our expects have put together some Frequently Asked Questions to help navigate all the options to find the option solution.
Why would I need it?
This is the ultimate question, understanding why to make the move is of paramount importance before even considering pressing the green light on the investment. There are many pressures applied to the decision-makers, namely the security and facilities management teams, to both justify the cost and time required for the procurement process to update an existing security system.
To summarise the key benefits, cloud-based storage offers enhanced security, scalability and resilience over on-site infrastructure plus a reduced maintenance burden and lower cost.
With a cloud-based Video Management System (VMS) it would be possible to monitor all of your sites from a central location without the liability of effective site to site network connectivity.
Advanced analytics could run across your systems generating pre-configured alerts so that staff responsible for monitoring are able can focus on important events rather than attempting to watch everything. Read our feature on advanced video analytics using Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence to understand what is possible.
What storage capacity could I expect?
Cloud based storage is described as elastic - which means storage capacity and performance can expand or contract according to requirements. With traditional onsite server-based storage there is typically a trade-off between requirements and cost which results in a reduced number of days stored or video resolution and frame rate reductions to meet the budget. Cloud-based storage can overcome these constraints giving you ‘more for less’ than an onsite storage solution could offer in comparison.
The costs of increasing cloud-based storage are trivial compared to the costs associated with procuring servers, redundant storage, installation and running costs. Cloud-based storage is smart and responsive, with the capacity to can grow alongside your physical security needs. I
However, it should be remembered limitless storage comes at a cost so strategies to limit what is stored are still required as with your existing video management system otherwise costs can mount considerably so good practice and housekeeping is important.
Many cloud-based platforms minimize data that are stored on the cloud to keep costs low. The focus is on storing important event driven sequences, snapshots and metadata rather than hours of redundant video where nothing happens.
On board camera storage and smart gateway devices increase the storage capacity without using cloud storage until necessary. Strategies vary between vendors and it is important to understand the pros and cons of each offering before committing to a particular solution.
Is using cloud-based storage secure?
Again, one of the major concerns of moving to a cloud-based system is the security and worry surrounding a potential security breach.
Security is a major part of cloud-based services. Cloud-based storage solutions typically offer encryption in transit plus the option of the encryption of your data at rest. Access can be internet based or for enhanced security via a site-to-site VPN.
Cloud-based storage providers offer redundancy storing your data across multiple instances that prevent hardware failures from compromising your storage capability. Patching is considerably more rigorous and risk free versus ad-hoc patching performed on your onsite physical infrastructure.
Cloud-based solutions undertake constant cyber threat monitoring and are secure by design. A question to ask is;
Does your current on site physical security infrastructure meet the same level of security?
Consumer and SME systems may be directly accessible from the internet but we would typically choose a solution that utilizes a multi layered security model and a private VPN for enterprise systems.
Consider your existing security and redundancy strategy.
What happens if a power supply fails on your NVR?
Do you know the status of your storage devices?
Do you already have failed drives making any further failures critical?
Is your storage backed up in a separate location on or off site?
Is your video encrypted?
What would happen if an NVR were stolen?
Are you losing days of coverage due to storage capacity or failures?
These are just examples of problems with on-site storage that should be considered alongside any perceived risk of using cloud storage.
How much does cloud based CCTV storage cost?
In a similar manner to calculating the cost of physical storage the cost here is dependent on a number of factors such as:
- Camera resolution
- Frame rate
- Image quality and size
- Number of days of storage required
Other factors affecting costs depending upon the solution chosen, for example there is a balance between storage costs and access. The lowest priced storage solution may have additional costs if frequent retrievals are made however on a like for like comparison with physical hardware on site, it will typically work out much less expensive.
Some cloud-based licensing will offer a flat rate that gives you greater flexibility but flexible pricing based on actual usage could be a more suitable alternative depending upon your budgetary allocations and expected usage.
Cloud-based storage solutions are a subscription-based service but for this subscription you also get:
- Built in storage growth with no additional hardware costs
- Reduced carbon footprint
- No patching required for the bulk of your storage*
- No lifecycle charges for offsite storage capacity
- A system using infrastructure designed for 99.999999999% durability
- Low latency and high throughput storage
- Enhanced security with off premises storage
- Data encryption options at rest and in transit
*Onsite hybrid storage servers will still be maintained and patched but this may be managed remotely
The final thing to be considered is the total cost of ownership (TCO). With larger systems there are not only capital costs but lifecycle operations such as patching, upgrades and hardware refreshes.
On top of this there may also be periodic licensing costs which vary in nature depending on the vendor. Against these costs Video Surveillance as a Service (VSaaS) providers will typically have lower capital costs due to storage hardware and no ongoing lifecycle costs attributed but there will be ongoing charges for the cloud service.
Should you wish to change suppliers, a hybrid cloud connection appliance may not work with other service providers whereas a VMS server could be rebuilt with a different VMS product installed.
These cost-based comparisons should not be taken in isolation, you should also consider the benefits in terms of increased resilience, enhanced cyber threat protection monitoring, encrypted storage, flexibility in remote viewing and monitoring, advanced analytics and more. You should factor these into your on-site only costings to give you a balanced comparison of the options.
Will I need to replace my existing servers and cameras?
Check Your Security ltd understand the level of change particularly in control rooms and CCTV monitoring teams is a challenge, particularly if your system already has integrations with other security systems and hardware devices.
Whilst a number of companies are selling pre-packaged VSaaS, at Check Your Security ltd we can also offer enhancement of your current solution with secure cloud-based storage to supplement your existing infrastructure in many instances.
We are solution agnostic and work with a number of suppliers and as such can build a trial solution in our workshops to demonstrate the compatibility of your preferred product with a cloud-storage back end. We also offer a consultancy service and can help you decide which solution is best for your business regardless of whether you chose us to carry out the installation.
What upgrade paths are available for my current CCTV system?
There are broadly two types of cloud connectivity models for CCTV to consider, direct to cloud and hybrid.
Direct to cloud requires no additional hardware other than the cameras and associated network components. There will be no DVR’s, NVR’s or video management servers. For a small installation this solution may be ideal but it is entirely dependent on internet connectivity and on-board camera storage for resilience if fitted. This may also be an option for small or remote sites with few cameras as part of a larger hybrid installation. Flexibility and choice of cameras may depend on your chosen product line.
Hybrid solutions can be more flexible and offer onsite storage in NVR’s, DVR’s or even existing Video Management Systems (VMS) and connect to your cloud storage via an on-site cloud connector or gateway device that could be provisioned as a physical or virtual appliance. This cloud connector could be vendor specific or simply a gateway to cloud storage capacity. Depending on your chosen supplier this could allow you to use your existing cameras as many systems are compatible with 100’s of devices.
Onsite storage will offer more flexibility in terms of monitoring and retrieval of recent events and gives you options on bandwidth utilization for example archive video may be uploaded to the cloud outside of office hours minimizing bandwidth requirements during the day. For some this additional resilience of onsite storage and remote archiving offers the best of both systems and is not wholly dependent on internet connectivity 100% of the time to maintain security operations.
What about remote sites?
Currently your enterprise CCTV system may manage a number of small sites each with dedicated storage capacity, the ongoing costs for support, maintenance and high-capacity site to site data links.
With cloud-based storage it is possible to use the cloud for all of your CCTV requirements for small or remote sites and integrate this storage with your main CCTV storage. Resilience at remote sites in the event of network outages can still be achieved by choosing cameras with on board storage.
What other benefits are there with cloud-based systems?
A number of vendors offer enhanced video analytics using machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to offer a wide range of additional services using your CCTV images and other integrated security products see our feature on AI & ML technologies [link].
Some of the key benefits are:
- There will no longer be a requirement for remote access into the corporate network for accessing or monitoring CCTV systems from offsite.
- The dedicated hardware for running the ML & AI processes is run in the cloud on your behalf by the vendor
- New features, patches and enhancements are often available at no cost to existing customers
- The availability of APIs that allow custom or out of the box integrations to other components in your physical security systems.
- The ability to adapt to the latest technologies without the requirement for any lifecycle upgrades of existing hardware
How secure is the connection from the camera to the cloud?
Your CCTV image traffic to cloud-based storage will be encrypted using Transport Layer Security (TLS) the same standard as used with online payments. Depending on the implementation strategy chosen for your CCTV i.e., camera direct to cloud or via an on-site video server with a secure connection to the cloud, any traffic leaving your premises will be encrypted.
How are licenses and updates managed?
This depends on the solution chosen and should be factored into your calculations for total cost of ownership or how much the system will cost for its projected lifetime.
Using your existing Video Management System with archive storage in the cloud you will still need to pay the standard licensing costs and manage upgrades on your onsite servers. The cloud storage will be a separate subscription model but considerably less expensive than maintaining additional storage servers onsite together with lifecycle upgrades. All update costs on the cloud storage as a managed service, are not passed on to the end user.
If you chose a complete offsite cloud storage and video management solution your subscription will cover the entire managed service not only the storage element. Updates and upgrades to cloud-based services may be included in your contract but new or enhanced functionality may be charged for.
Check Your Security ltd are happy to discuss the pros and cons of various solutions to meet your security, operational and budgetary needs.
Can I protect my initial investment in physical security system infrastructure, licenses and hardware?
The short answer is Yes.
Check Your Security are happy to discuss a number of options leaving you to decide on which strategy works for you.
Hybrid solutions that move archive storage offsite can bring considerable savings and additional resilience to your security systems. Particularly when you are looking to lifecycle your servers, we can reduce the number of physical servers you need to purchase, operate and patch whilst still having the flexibility, resilience and operational performance in your system with a smaller core of physical servers onsite.
Can I still use my analogue cameras?
For many years analogue cameras have been a key part of many installations. These have been future proofed by connecting them to Video Encoders that allow them to be connected to IP based Video Management Systems. The video encoders are equally capable of managing the camera telemetry as well.
Whilst these solutions work, they do not have the same level of features as cameras with a built-in operating system that can receive updates, perform on-board video analytics, store video and utilise advanced digital signal processing to work with difficult lighting situations and low light.
In summary yes you can use your analogue cameras but consider the pros and cons of upgrading to an IP camera unless the video encoder can perform everything you require of the analogue camera at a reasonable price.
Can I use cameras from different manufacturers?
Check your Security advocate open systems that do not lock you the client into a particular product and subscription that is difficult to extract yourself from. Many systems support a wide range of cameras in their hardware drivers and many cameras are built to open standards such as ONVIF.
Typically, consumer and some SME products have a built-in connector to the vendors own cloud-based video management and storage service. Careful consideration should be given to your current and future needs with this type of product as typically subscription prices can rise when they reach a certain level of market saturation. This is always a risk with any subscription service but it should be a consideration in your choice of vendor, i.e. can I switch services if a better offer emerges elsewhere from a rival vendor?
On the positive side some manufacturers offer very attractive cloud storage solutions because their business model is looking to the generate business from the provision of the hardware. Check Your Security can offer advice on what will work for your business.
Where are the data centres located?
Typically, we would recommend UK based data centres however there are choices and perhaps you may wish to replicate your data to other regions as well or your enterprise operates in more than one country.
Pre-packaged solutions may be UK based but it is a consideration to ensure you understand your data sovereignty when reviewing your options as it can affect latency and potentially legal requirements.
Is cloud storage GDPR compliant
Many businesses understand the information management implications involved with storing CCTV images. Cloud-based storage and management of security systems is no different to traditional on-site systems but there is still a responsibility data are processed and controlled in accordance with GDPR. The responsibility for data breaches still remains with you as a data controller, with that in mind Check Your Security are happy to discuss any concerns you may have.
Typically, you should consider if the following apply to the nature of your requirements and your business in terms of GDPR compliance:
- Data Sovereignty
- Where are your data stored?
- Which geographical regions are the data centres managing your security systems?
- GDPR principles relating to individuals
- Can you still fulfil subject access requests?
- Can data be permanently erased?
- Does the system meet the principal data protection by design?
- Access to security systems and archives is strictly controlled and audited
- Do AI and ML based analytics products compromise any of the above?
- Does the status of the service provider become a data controller in certain instances where decisions are made about what data to process and how?
Cloud-based physical security systems can demonstrate GDPR compliance which typically exceed standards achieved in house. Clients are advised to undertake a Data Protection Impact Assessment before any major changes in infrastructure of their physical security systems. Check Your Security ltd will be glad to assist in responding to questions relating to products and services we supply.
How do I know if cloud-based storage is right for my business?
At Check your Security ltd, we pride ourselves on providing tailored security solutions to their clients based on a number of factors that will be discussed during our initial engagement and consultation process.
For Cloud based solutions typical benefits will include secure off premises storage and reduced hardware costs however the critical point of failure could be your internet connection and the security of that service. We have experience in resilient internet service for security solutions and can advise on satellite or mobile network backup strategies.
For enterprise CCTV and other physical security solutions we would typically suggest a hybrid approach that maintains some onsite storage capability that will allow your security systems to continue working in isolation.
We will consider all of your physical security needs and advise toward informing your business continuity strategy but ultimately you need to consider if this is the right choice for your business and if the benefits match or exceed your current solution in terms of flexibility, growth, security, cost and ease of use.