There are several disadvantages to using cloud storage for security surveillance. Here are some of the major issues to consider.
Even as I sit down to write a list of reasons why security customers should avoid the use of cloud technology, I know the effort is futile. There are no two ways of looking at it – the cloud will be an inevitable part of modern security surveillance systems.
But that's precisely where it should stop – "a part." Relying entirely on cloud-based storage and management is not the best choice for security systems. As Sean Foley, Senior VP at Interface Security Systems
, puts it, "hybrid" is what customers must consider.
There are several reasons to use a mix of on-premises and cloud-based systems. These range from over-reliance on network technology and cost to cybersecurity concerns and even being locked in proprietary systems. Here we list some of the main issues of relying entirely on the cloud.
Issue 1: Internet speed or downtime can impact security
The most obvious issue is the over-reliance on the internet. This is not just about having a steady connection. For flawless remote monitoring, you need high upload speed at the premise. Most internet service providers offer higher download speeds because that's what most customers want.
"Storing video to the cloud means transporting that video from the premise to a cloud-based server," Foley pointed out. "And that takes bandwidth. Certain last-mile networks to the premise might not be optimized to move that much data from the premise to the cloud. Costs can also be a concern here, particularly if using wireless connections like 4G instead of a terrestrial connection. Wireless connections are often metered. The end user and the systems integrator must consider these matters."
If the customer does not already have a robust network in place, the cost of upgrade becomes a concern as well.
Issue 2: Lack of flexibility in storage
Not every customer's storage requirements are the same. The size of a business and its nature would decide how much storage space they would require. Governments worldwide have also brought regulations mandating video retention periods in certain industries.
For many businesses, increasing storage capacity by adding a couple of extra hard disks is easier and more cost-effective than increasing storage on the cloud. This becomes even more cumbersome as camera resolutions continue to go up and video file sizes increase.
"For instance, if a business needs 30 or 90 days of storage, a cloud-based solution may not be the right fit," Foley explained. "Most folks are not going to be able cost-effectively to store that much video in the cloud."
Regulations in the US require 30 days of storage for several industries. This increases to 90 days for industries like pharmaceuticals. The emerging cannabis industry, for example, has to store video for 90 days as per regulations, and you're just not going to be able to do that cost-effectively if using cloud storage alone.
Alan Stoddard, VP and GM for Situational Intelligence Solutions at Cognyte
, agreed that cost is indeed a major concern as storage requirements vary.
"The higher the FPS/resolution, the better the video, but the cost is much higher," Stoddard pointed out. "For example, on certain days, you might need longer-term storage, but if you need to play video from offline storage, it can take a day to retrieve the video."
Issue 3: Cybersecurity and related concerns
A breach of physical security data is not acceptable. Most large cloud storage solution providers claim to offer strong cybersecurity protection using state-of-the-art technology. To be fair, most of them are good at this - else we would have seen a lot more successful hacking attempts, given the amount of data that services like AWS hold.
But the problem is that the customer is still relying on a third party to store their sensitive information. And although supporters of cloud would say that incidents like the Verkada breach
are rare, a single disgruntled employee or flaw in the management is enough to cause irreversible damage through data leak.
"When the video is stored locally on a network video recorder, that video is protected on my network, behind routers and firewalls that I configure, that I manage, and I'm responsible for," Foley said. "When you delegate that protection, you are delegating that security to a third party, and there are risks to that."
Issue 4: Analytics on the cloud alone is not enough
Cloud-based video management offers analytic solutions that service providers claim as easy to deploy and operate. But more and more cameras are equipped with edge-based analytics that can provide instant insights or prompt action.
For example, a license plate recognition system that automatically opens gates to identifiable cars has to work on the edge. If you are using cloud-based analytics alone, cars will have to wait far too long for the process.
"Most robust video analytic capabilities require some processing power at the edge, either on the camera itself or on a network video recorder," Foley added. "Some of that is happening at the premise, in conjunction with the cloud. Both must work together, but a lot of that processing is happening at the edge."
Issue 5: The problem of getting locked in with certain vendors
You can argue that this will happen only with some companies. But it still happens. The fact that some of the largest "closed" VSaaS providers have such a large clientele is enough to assume that many security managers are enamored by the concept of just hooking up cameras to the cloud and forgetting all about it.
But these proprietary systems can turn your cameras into useless, ugly showpieces the moment you don't pay monthly subscription fees. They also limit the expansion of your security system because you cannot integrate any third-party solution.
Many startups (and even large companies) are competing to bring in new technologies to the market, and some of them are proving to be extremely useful in the right circumstances. However, you cannot use most of them if you are locked in with a single company.
Issue 6: Calculating cost-efficiency is not so simple
This final point is linked to all the others mentioned above. Proponents of cloud storage and management for video surveillance
may argue that the cloud is cost-efficient from an OPEX perspective. But this is a relatively narrow view that does not consider the different kinds of customers out there.
The size of the organization, nature of its business, and even location decide if the expenses are lower when using the cloud. For example, as I have mentioned above, the cannabis industry needs to retain video longer. Wouldn't storing such large amounts of data on the cloud be costlier than doing it on-premise?
If your business is located in a remote area where broadband connections are not good, you will need to spend a considerable sum on upgrading them before using storage. What's the cost-efficient choice here?
"It really depends on the business," Foley suggests. "And that's why I'm a huge fan of what I would call a hybrid approach to storage. How much storage do you need? How many cameras have you got? How much are you required to have from a business, legal, and regulatory standpoint? If you need to store video for 30 days or more, I'd recommend some degree of on-premises storage in conjunction with some degree of cloud-based storage."
At the end of the day, you cannot avoid the cloud. But at the same time, it cannot replace on-premises storage entirely. A decision on how much data you should store on the cloud and how much you should store on the premise would definitely depend on the business, but these two systems must work together. Perhaps there is only one matter we can fully agree on – try not to get locked into proprietary systems unless you are completely sure it works best for you.