Talk to any IT leader in a business, and you will quickly learn that cloud computing has become the norm. A good number of companies now call themselves “cloud-first,” but how realistic is it to move your video surveillance system into the cloud?

Here is an example, our whole accounting server, including software and database, is 18GB in total. If we wanted to move it to the cloud, we could put that on an Amazon AWS storage server for $0.023/GB per month. That would cost us less than $0.50 per month. Access control has been in the cloud for over a decade, and similar to our accounting system, there is not much data to store. But can video surveillance be moved to the cloud as easily as other business and security applications?

Read on to find out what factors you should keep in mind before moving to cloud-based video surveillance solutions.

Is Cloud Video Surveillance Better?

So what’s the difference between cloud-based video surveillance solutions and a traditional on-premise security camera network – which uses a DVR, NVR, or VMS with a server? Well, a true cloud video surveillance system, or VSaaS (Video surveillance as a service), is very different from an on-premise video surveillance system.

Cloud-based video management systems are designed with simplicity in mind, making them an ideal option for companies without the IT expertise to carry out system maintenance. The system is ready to use after plugging in and can be accessed via a central website or app on any device.  No further hardware and software are needed. You go to a web browser, put in your username and password and start using your cameras. To add users to your system, it’s as easy as adding the person’s email address, assigning them permission levels, and pressing enter.

On the other hand, an on-premise or local security camera system comprising of some digital or network video recorder comes with a more complex installation process. This system setup is generally most suitable for users who want true flexibility, more features or specific customization, higher megapixel or image quality, and larger storage amounts. A business searching for traditional video security would need to configure things manually and feel comfortable with network setup and opening ports on their corporate network. It’s ideal for a business that wants to connect many security cameras and carry out a wider range of monitoring applications.

More Cloud = Less Maintenance

Another major difference between the two systems is the maintenance procedure. A cloud-based video surveillance system is automatically updated by the service provider and is generally protected from any security breach through bank-level security measures. This way, the system is always updated, and any new feature is immediately available to the end-user at the click of a button.

For an on-premise video surveillance system, the maintenance responsibility lies with the end-user. They are responsible for opening ports to monitor remotely, ensuring all software is updated as required, buying additional storage as existing ones fill up or the system grows, and ensuring the system is not vulnerable to unauthorized external access.

Does reading so far make you wonder why you have not switched to cloud video surveillance yet? Read up on the next factors where on-premise security camera systems fare much better than a cloud video surveillance review.

Is Cloud Really Better?

The first major limitation of cloud video systems is that it is fully dependent on your internet bandwidth to transfer recorded footage between your site and the cloud. A single-camera in an average traffic zone can generate a good amount of data that needs to be transferred through the internet. Multiply that by the number of cameras, and obviously, your internet will slow down. For a small number of cameras, this may not be a major problem. You may get away with 10-15 cameras or up to 20 even, but after that, bandwidth may become a limiting factor. This also means when you have too many cameras that exceed your bandwidth, viewing recorded footage in real-time may be an issue.

Let’s use an example to see the real-life implication: say you have thirty-seven (37) 3MP cameras generating relatively fluid motion footage (10fps) with 18-hour days. Your system can easily generate 2TB of data daily. This huge data volume can give poor footage streaming quality, generate choppy audio and video, or lag time when viewing footage.

For an on-premise video surveillance system, the footage is stored locally on a server, and there are no such limitations.

On-premise Video Storage

Hoard as much storage and megapixels as you want

Data storage capacity is the next factor to be brought into the equation. How long does your company need to store footage for?

For an on-premise security system, the standard is typically 30 days, while some companies store it up to 60 days or more. It all depends on your company’s requirements – if you need to store footage for longer, you need to purchase a larger storage device or add hard drives.

For a cloud surveillance system, the standard storage duration is 14 days. You can increase this time period, but that addition comes with a higher price tag.

Evaluate your company’s needs – do you really use footage that is 15+ days old? If not, the cloud may be a better option for you. But if your operational procedures or insurance/compliance terms require you to store footage for longer, then an on-premise video surveillance system may be a more cost-effective solution for your business.

Integration with Other Systems

Another factor that may or may not be relevant for your business is integration with other solutions, e.g. building automation, access control systems or any other system you already have in your building. On-premise video surveillance systems, especially higher-end video management software, integrate much more easily with 3rd party applications than the cloud.

If you don’t have any additional systems in place and are not likely to opt for one in the future, cloud surveillance may work for you. Otherwise, on-premise video surveillance will give you a lot more flexibility and scalability.

What are the costs?

And finally, one of the most important factors to consider is what it will cost. There could be lower upfront costs for a cloud-based system as you are not purchasing as much equipment. All your payment comes in the form of monthly maintenance fees calculated based upon the quantity and types of cameras, as well as the duration of storage and a few other factors. There would be a higher initial investment for an on-premise video surveillance system where you pay for the equipment (more storage, more configuration, DVR/NVR, etc.). Still, once your equipment is in place, you should be able to get away with minimal maintenance for a few years.

From a cost point of view, an on-premise security camera system will often be cheaper than a cloud video surveillance solution. For a comparable system with the same number of cameras, an on-premise video surveillance system can cost you a fraction of what cloud video will cost you over the years.

Now that you have heard both sides of the story, you will have to decide which system will be more suitable for your business. Here is a recap of cloud VMS’s pros and cons to help you decide if it is the right solution for your business.

Cloud Video Surveillance – ProsCloud Video Surveillance – Cons
Easy installation – less network headaches,
no software to install
Fewer features and sacrifice on video quality
Dependable security and IT support,
no need to worry about hacking or data loss
Duration of video storage reduced
Optimal performance – always has
the latest software upgrades.
Slows down internet
Easy to setup features such as mobile
phone notifications, remote access, additional users, etc.
Monthly on-going cloud fees

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