Who could have predicted two years ago that a global pandemic would bring such unprecedented change to our working culture?
As COVID-19-19 swept the globe in 2020, remote working became the new norm and organizations were forced to adapt their practices almost overnight to ensure the business could continue. The ability to manage employees, access documents and applications from anywhere and collaborate with colleagues and customers seamlessly and securely became essential.
In the IT space, the pandemic only accelerated a shift that was already well underway. Since the mid-‘90s, organizations have been gradually moving IT services and infrastructure to the cloud. From Microsoft Office 365 to document management, collaboration tools, CRM, HR or payroll — much of IT already runs seamlessly and securely in the cloud. In fact, according to a recent Accenture report, 50% of all corporate data is now stored in the cloud.
For physical security, the picture is quite different. Whilst there has been much written about the many benefits of the cloud, there is still a slow uptake when it comes to using the cloud for physical security applications. Traditionally, security applications have been built on hardware housed on-site, designed to be locked down with limited access, reduced remote capabilities and in many cases hidden from the internet altogether. When speaking to clients, the most common concerns around adopting cloud tend to be around migration and infrastructure challenges, cybersecurity and compatibility.
However, COVID-19 has been a wake-up call: the future is uncertain and it’s essential to be prepared for any eventuality, especially when it comes to our most crucial systems. The cloud is the agile solution that lets organizations scale and adapt as needed.
Key benefits of the cloud
As workforce locations change either by design or through circumstances — such as in the case of the pandemic lockdowns — fluidity and agility in any solution are key. First and foremost, the cloud is always on and easily accessible from anywhere you have internet access, so the ability to connect remains unaffected. Add to this that many cloud security solutions can be viewed via a web browser or mobile device, so you are no longer tied to a desktop with dedicated applications, again removing the accessibility restrictions of an on-premise solution. Security or administration personnel can continue to monitor and manage the system from anywhere.
Of course, with the ability to access security systems over the internet thoughts often turn to the risks and cybersecurity threats. Cybercrime continues to grow at an alarming rate and over the pandemic, it increased dramatically. However, cloud architecture providers will typically observe the latest best practices when it comes to cybersecurity threats. Patches, hotfixes, updates etc. are all automatically done and kept up to date, providing assurance that backdoors or breach points are not introduced. In many cases, this makes them more secure than most on-premise solutions.
As the fallout of the pandemic subsides and the dust starts to settle, many organizations are starting to review their working location practices and potentially offering more home or remote working options for staff. This allows for reducing or better utilizing their real estate and, whilst there will still be requirements for security hardware such as cameras or access control readers, moving the backend to the cloud means a dedicated location for housing racks, along with power, cooling systems and all the rest will no longer be required. This space can then also be repurposed as part of these changes.
With all these changes and uncertainty, you may already be considering taking the steps to move to the cloud. As the market for cloud-based physical security solutions and applications continues to grow, there are many manufacturers with lots of offerings and it can be somewhat confusing to determine which may be right for you. There are however a couple of key areas you may want to consider when making your assessments.
1. There are different types of cloud implementation
Firstly, when considering a cloud migration it is important to understand the different options available. There’s a difference between true cloud, cloud-managed and hybrid cloud. For example, from a CCTV perspective, true cloud would mean all video and software was hosted in the cloud, cloud-managed would typically mean the video was stored on the camera, but the software was in the cloud and lastly hybrid cloud would mean the video is stored on an on-site box with the software in the cloud.
Which is right for you will depend on how you are looking to adapt to the changes that COVID-19 has presented to your business. For instance, if you are looking to reduce real estate, then you might want to consider a true cloud solution. Moving all backend recording and storage hardware into the cloud will mean that you will only require the cameras and network infrastructure on site.
2. The right manufacturer is essential
Due diligence in the manufacturer’s assessment and selection is vital to the success of any cloud deployment. Whether you are looking for a Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), or Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering, it is vital to select a provider that has a security-by-design approach, a reputation of trust and that provides transparency on how your data is managed and protected in their systems.
Will they highlight potential risks and vulnerabilities rather than hide them? What levels of penetration testing do they undergo and how frequently? Do they provide clear detail on the data communication flows? Do they require you to open multiple firewalls ports or ways of injecting potential exploits and what level of encryption do they employ for your connectivity and data in transit or at rest? These are just a few questions you may look to ask in order to understand how they protect you from cyber risks and threats.
3. Small steps can make a large difference in migrating physical security to the cloud
You may have been impacted by some of the challenges mentioned above during the pandemic and come face to face with the task of migration but are concerned that a project of such scale may require a huge uplift and therefore a huge budget. It is important to note that a migration to the cloud doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach—you do not have to move your whole system from day one. It is possible to migrate slowly and to break the deployment into chunks.
For example, take footage from low-priority cameras first, or if you have a multi-site deployment and are looking at reducing space moving one site across first and then scaling as need or budget dictates. This approach not only provides a step change but allows you to build confidence and comfort and manage the budgets.
4. Legacy systems don’t need to hold you back
If your current provider does not have a secure cloud solution or a near-term strategy, this does not have to be a limiting factor. Again, you do not need to consider a rip-and-replace approach. There are products on the market that will sit alongside your existing physical security system and take video feeds and records to the cloud without impact, providing both on-premise and cloud functionality with a migration path as and when budget or demand allows.
It is impossible to predict what the next change might be and where it may come from or the impacts it could have. Hopefully, we will not see something of this scale again but migrating your security platform to a cloud-based architecture gives you a futureproof platform that will offer you the ability to adapt and change as demand dictates. It will provide security, agility, flexibility and assurance so that, come what may, operations can continue unaffected.
Read more about cloud tech via Professional Security Magazine