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Camera corner: Hybrid solutions rising


September 20, 2019
By Colin Bodbyl

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Traditional surveillance systems with network video recorders installed on the customer’s site (otherwise called on-premise) will someday be reserved for sites with only the most complex of needs.

Otherwise, off-site or cloud services will dominate the surveillance industry. This is not a new idea. The first cloud video management software companies were created more than five years ago. In an attempt to skip straight to the finish line, cloud VMS providers launched before the market was ready and without a transition plan for users of traditional surveillance products.

There are many reasons end users would not want to subscribe to a purely cloud-based VMS. Data security, bandwidth requirements, and costs associated with remote storage were obvious concerns for most. It was safe to assume these issues would improve with time but to capture early adopters willing to experiment with a cloud service, VMS providers had to start with a hybrid solution that minimized or eliminated these concerns. Today, it is this hybrid market where we are seeing success for solution providers looking to move users to the cloud.

Hybrid solutions mitigate many of the issues with the cloud by hosting only part of the software in the cloud with other key features staying on premise. Video recording and storage is performed on a small appliance that is installed on the customer site, with site management and video viewing tools hosted in the cloud. This allows users to access video from multiple sites through a web portal. They can also manage users and monitor the health of their surveillance systems through this same platform.

The advantage of storing video onsite is that it keeps costs down; it is far cheaper to store video onsite than in the cloud. This model also future proofs users who can switch to cloud recording at any time without the need to purchase new hardware. By simply subscribing to cloud backup, video from their onsite appliance can be uploaded or streamed to the cloud for off-site storage.

While hybrid solutions are the immediate future, over the long-term pure cloud VMS solutions will own the majority of the market. Unfortunately, that still will not simplify decisions. Even in the cloud, conflicting offerings exist. Cloud VMS solutions today can be divided into two types, open and closed.

Open systems allow users to integrate their existing cameras or third-party devices into a cloud VMS regardless of the camera manufacturer, as long as they support standard protocols like ONVIF and RTSP. Closed systems require users to purchase specific cameras (typically sold by the VMS provider) and restrict or prevent the integration of devices or software from other companies. While open systems allow users to mix and match the brands of camera they want to use, closed systems offer the ultimate in simplicity. It is due to this simplicity that closed systems are very popular in the consumer space where users are less tech savvy and prefer a plug and play solution.

It is difficult to predict who will own the most market share in the future between open and closed cloud VMS solutions and it may take many years before the majority of the industry makes the transition. During that transition hybrid solutions will enjoy the most success as wary users can experiment with the cloud while keeping costs low and without risking too much. The timelines may be unclear, but one thing is for certain, cloud solutions are the future and users need to start thinking more carefully about how long their on-premise VMS will remain relevant.  

Colin Bodbyl is the director of technology for Stealth Monitoring (https://stealthmonitoring.com/).

This story was featured in the August/September 2019 edition of SP&T News magazine.


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