In an era where cybersecurity is at the top of every CIO’s list of business concerns, it can be easy to overlook the importance of physical security in protecting legacy hardware solutions and ensuring critical assets remain safe.

Michael Cusanelli, Associate Editor

July 28, 2015

10 Min Read
Physical Security in Enterprise IT: A Renaissance for Cloud-Based Security

In an era where cybersecurity is at the top of every CIO’s list of business concerns, it can be easy to overlook the importance of physical security in protecting legacy hardware solutions and ensuring critical assets remain safe. But despite the lack of industry enthusiasm surrounding physical security solutions, advances in cloud technology and digital cameras have created somewhat of a renaissance in the physical security world.

From cloud-based cameras to motion detectors and even IoT-connected monitoring solutions, never have there been more options available to enterprises and consumers alike when it comes to protecting their most precious resources. Even better, many of these options are relatively simple to set up and deploy, even without a strong technology background.

New Solutions for New Problems

With the increase of targeted attacks against both virtual and physical assets, it’s only natural that the means by which we protect these resources become more advanced to prevent theft or property destruction.  And while many people still think of physical surveillance solutions as a standard video camera connected to a CCTV network, the breadth and depth of available options for monitoring infrastructure and protecting hardware has changed rapidly within the past decade.

Some of the most commonly seen devices are cloud-based IP cameras, which take the old-fashioned CCTV model and add a persistent Internet connection, so data is stored in a remote database instead of in a dusty hard drive in the manager’s office. This not only allows companies to access their data from anywhere and at any time, but it also ensures that data is preserved in case of a fire, flood or other natural disaster.

IoT-connected cameras also are finding their place in  the world of physical security and surveillance. Like their cloud-based brethren, these cameras store data remotely in a public or private server, but also allow users to control the pan, tilt and zoom of said devices remotely from a computer or smart phone. Currently, these devices are most commonly used for personal security in homes and in small businesses, but the rapid growth of IoT solutions is bound to make these security devices more prevalent throughout midmarket and enterprise companies.

The Rise of Cloud-Based IP Solutions

There’s no doubt cloud technology has played a critical role in the evolution of physical surveillance, especially in terms of protecting enterprise assets. But before we look at how cloud-based IP solutions have taken over the market, it’s important to understand what trends have influenced the mass migration of compute resources to the cloud in the first place.

Prior to the more widespread use of modern surveillance solutions, cameras had severe limitations, including resolution problems, limited storage and issues with light flare and, subsequently, dark areas. However, the new breed of security solutions are more like computers than traditional surveillance equipment, and feature built in solutions to compensate for such issues, said Duston Miller, founder and vice president of engineering at NDM Technologies, a Spokane, WA-based security provider.

“When we first got into it [physical surveillance] it was a lot of retrofitting existing coaxial systems into IP-based video,” said Miller. “But now it’s pretty much all IP from point to point.”

With the steady increase of reliability in cloud services over the past several years, enterprises have continued to utilize public, private and hybrid clouds to house critical customer and company data as a way of protecting it from theft or loss. Currently, about 51 percent of all compute information is housed within the cloud, as more people begin to realize the benefit of storing their information outside of the physical location, said Dean Drako, CEO and founder of Eagle Eye Networks.

“There’s an argument saying [that data] isn’t as secure in the cloud as it is onsite, and the reality is that it’s actually false. It’s actually more secure in the cloud,” said Drako. “And the reason it’s more secure in the cloud is because the cloud provider can’t afford a data breach, so they actually spend money and get the proper personnel and put the energy and focus into making sure that they are really secure.”

And despite a minimal amount of physical security data currently being stored in the cloud, customers are increasingly showing greater interest in storing their data remotely, according to a recent survey from Eagle Eye Networks. The study of 250 respondents showed about 65 percent expressed interest in some cloud recording, with only 35 percent of respondents wishing to keep their physical security data entirely on premises, Drako said.

“This actually gets me really excited because it basically expands the market for physical surveillance and provides more value than just security, and I think that’s actually great for the industry,” said Drako.

The Pros (and Cons) of IP-based Physical Surveillance

Despite the promise of IP-based physical surveillance, companies that fail to take responsibility for the back-end protection of their systems can, and have, experienced massive breaches from bad actors and other malicious parties. With the growth of connected cameras, companies must also utilize their IT departments to protect data flowing their infrastructure, lest it be compromised. And for companies that haven’t clearly defined these roles, a resulting failure can be disastrous.

There’s a lot of concern around bad guys using these physical security systems, and there’s been a number of cases where door controllers and HVAC systems have been used as a point of entry into systems, and that’s a scary thing for people,” said Drako. “It was much safer when there was no Internet connection and it was a closed loop system.”

This issue is compounded by the fact that modern surveillance equipment is more technical than ever before, said Duston Miller of NDM Technologies. This poses a particular problem for surveillance providers who don’t have an IT background. As a result, the need for IT experience when selling and deploying surveillance solutions is larger than ever.

“With surveillance solutions you have to know your wiring, you have to know your routing, you have to know IPs, you gotta know servers,” he said. “So it’s a perfect fit for IT solution providers as opposed to [traditional] surveillance companies or security companies.”

Despite the increased risk of data being breached, Drako said there are very few customers who would accept the reduced functionality of closed circuit surveillance over cloud-based surveillance to decrease the risk of a data breach. Furthermore, breaches are far less often the fault of major cloud service providers and often a case of oversight on the part of the information holder.

“There are some folks who say that the remote access will outweigh the risk of a security breach,” he said. “If you look at all the breaches that have been going on … all the breaches have basically been people doing their own security. It hasn’t been the cloud provider that has been breached and given up or lost data. I think we’re kind of entering an era where there is gonna be a lot of innovation driven by moving a lot of it [data] to the cloud.”

How Can Channel Partners Effectively Sell Physical Surveillance Solutions?

Selling physical surveillance offers the chance for channel partners to build long-term working relationships with customers and to create recurring revenue streams. But while initially this may seem like a simple process, selling physical security is more difficult than simply shipping cameras to a customer. Unlike other markets, physical security requires a lot of hands-on training and education for both the channel partner and the customer.

One of the greatest issues in the physical security market is a general lack of understanding of how devices work and what is needed to provide customers with effective solutions to fit customers’ individual business needs, said Michael Hughes, senior vice president of Worldwide Sales at Barracuda Networks. For channel partners looking to sell physical security solutions to their customers, an intimate understanding of each device is necessary to be truly efficient at selling solutions on a long-term basis—a skill many lack as they look to enter the physical surveillance industry.

Once again, the importance of communication between traditional IT and security is paramount to this success, especially as IT becomes more deeply involved in all aspects of an organization’s security assets.

“As IT has taken over, as cloud management has taken over, security is becoming one thing,” said Hughes. “And oftentimes it’s the same people we’re talking to [for both cybersecurity and physical security] because the same guy we’re talking to who manages the networks and the IT happens to be having physical security leverage those same assets and that same networking.”

While many surveillance vendors do not offer any kind of formal training for channel partners to learn more about physical security solutions, companies like Axis Communications, a cloud surveillance solution vendor, focus on educating and enabling channel partners on how to use and deploy the solutions they eventually will sell to customers.

And even though many resellers initially may not be interested in selling physical surveillance solutions, increasing customer demand for a one-stop-shop for all of their IT needs is forcing many partners to reconsider their options when it comes to entering the security market. This, in turn, leads to an increase in the number of partners selling security without the correct qualifications.

“The main issue we see with our IT partners is that they don’t know how to get started [selling the solutions],” said Bill Rhodes, director of Channel Sales at Buffalo Americas, an Austin, TX-based surveillance provider. “Most are standoffish about surveillance because it’s a new technology, but all are being asked about it by their customers.”

Departmental Divisions Are Hurting the Growth of Physical Security

In a situation very similar to the “walled garden” approach taken by traditional newspapers and their online departments, physical security and the data center often are two separate entities within a company, with each area being controlled by different administrators. Although the reason for this division is complex, the problem basically boils down to a lack of shared responsibility for protecting corporate assets among IT professionals. Although physical security and surveillance increasingly are becoming part of the everyday responsibilities of many IT managers, there is still a lack of concern among these professionals for the overall safety of these assets, said said Vince Ricco, technology partner manager at Axis Communications.

One market where this divide is less pronounced, however, is in the K-12 education market, according to Ricco. Education professionals better understand the importance of interdepartmental collaboration when it comes to protecting student information, because the consequences of a breach are particularly damaging—to both the students and the district.

So what can physical surveillance gurus do to convince their IT brethren of the importance of physical security? Training and education are the key to understanding the gravity of physical security, said Ricco, whose company runs a series of online and in-person training seminars for channel partners and professionals looking to boost their knowledge of surveillance equipment and protect critical assets.

“When you train to change a perspective it has to be about education,” he said. “That’s always been my message.”

Opportunity Abounds for Channel Partners

With the video surveillance market estimated at $13.48 billion in 2014 and an ever-increasing number of Internet-ready and smart surveillance solutions on the market, there has never been a better time for channel partners to begin selling surveillance solutions. For channel partners willing to put the time and resources into learning the ins and outs of physical surveillance, selling security solutions can be an incredibly lucrative market. But like surveillance itself, success depends not only on proper planning, but on delivering the right solutions at the right time to each specific customer.

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About the Author(s)

Michael  Cusanelli

Associate Editor, Penton Technology Group, Channel

Michael Cusanelli is the associate editor for Penton Technology’s channel properties, including The VAR Guy, MSPmentor and Talkin' Cloud. He has written articles and produced video for and is a graduate of Stony Brook University's School of Journalism in New York. In his spare time Michael likes to play video games, watch sci-fi movies and participate in all things nerdy. He can be reached at [email protected]


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