CCTV systems becoming more sophisticated, stimulating greater collaboration between IT, FM and Security departments demanding more outside expertise
Migration of standalone analogue-based CCTV onto the network
The market study we carried out during September 2020, uncovered the fact that 61 percent of all medium and large-sized firms running CCTV systems across England have already migrated these systems onto IP networks.
Despite widescale migration of CCTV system onto an IP network over the last 15 years here, facilities management (FM) and security departments still manage a third of all medium and large-sized businesses’ CCTV systems, our research found. Only 27 percent of CCTV systems have been handed over to IT departments.
However, many IT departments are being forced to take a deeper interest in CCTV system management now that the technology and installer partner capability is readily available to move CCTV systems into the cloud.
CCTV within centralised ICT Support
Understandably, many of these firms have included CCTV system maintenance and management within centralised and unified ICT (Information and Communications Technology) service provision across the organisation.
By bringing all parts of ICT together, concentrating the network and IT infrastructure skills in one place, it’s possible to ensure the IP video surveillance system gets the attention it deserves to timetable relevant software and firmware updates as well as camera optimisation work.
However, it also needs to be acknowledged that IP video surveillance is a specialist field with many complexities. It’s experiencing rapid technological and market developments which can only be tracked and managed if sufficient resource is put in place.
However, our experience tells us that only the largest businesses, the ones with over 250 employees, tend to have sufficient capacity within their ICT, FM and/or security teams to keep up to speed with IP video systems over long periods of time.
Medium-sized firms more open to collaboration with external experts
Medium-sized firms with 50-249 employees (as well as even smaller firms) tend to struggle to keep IP video systems working optimally over long periods of time without external specialist help.
Understandably, we have much more experience of working with these sorts of businesses. When we get to a site managed by one of these organisations, we often find some cameras not working at all; others might need cleaning or rewiring. Sometimes new threats have emerged which demand installation of new or more modern, higher spec cameras. There is new regulation like GDPR to adhere to.
If there is a great deal of work to do, it’s common for us to work in tandem with ICT or Facilities Management (FM) staff to source, install, configure, and network different equipment. The key is to work with the skills and resources they already have on tap.
So, an engineering company might be very able to source and install a CCTV-ready mast for providing coverage of a fenced-in yard that holds high-value stock for example. However, we might install the right cameras for that mast, and then configure and network it. It’s important to be open to sharing out the work to keep upgrade and maintenance costs to a minimum, while not compromising on quality and effectiveness.
VSaaS or IaaS options
Right now, we are seeing strong demand for moving existing, on-premise-run CCTV systems into the cloud. Our England-wide study of medium and large-sized firms found 58 percent of medium and large-sized firms were preparing to migrate their existing CCTV systems into the cloud over the next 12 months. COVID-19 has served to accelerate these migration plans and given IT departments increased resources to complete them.
And the time is right for the market. Several Video Surveillance as a Service (VSaaS) providers have developed reasonably mature offerings and there is now genuine choice and competition in the market.
Understandably, the IT departments which are already in charge of 27 percent of CCTV systems today are proving to be early adopters of VSaaS. These services offer to reduce or eliminate the server and edge device management workload. VMS platform software updates and cybersecurity enhancements can also be managed via the cloud service provider or its partner integrator. IT managers understand the cost and value of outsourcing all this activity to a domain specialist.
However, many IT departments considering cloud migration of CCTV systems are instead simply moving VMS into existing IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) providers’ data centre servers – whether it be Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, or another. In this instance, configuration changes will be needed (see our previous blog post Eye in the Sky – Managing migration of CCTV into the cloud). However, they will still find themselves managing and updating the system in the cloud ongoing to keep it fully functioning.
Selecting a specialist partner for optimising your CCTV system or moving it into the cloud
Very often, ICT teams will want to gain specialist outsourced support to help expand, renovate, optimise, or even migrate their CCTV system into the cloud. What then are the key criteria for selection and how should these engagements work to best effect?
The key for me as one of those potential outsourced partners is to be able to build a relationship where we are treated as a genuine partner. It works least well when a ‘short-termist’, transactional, customer-supplier approach is taken from the start as this tends to set too rigid a tone for the agreement which tends not to work well for either party in the end.
Building a partnership
Partnerships are built on collaboration and a strong dose of ‘give and take’. So, for example, our project managers will encourage able in-house teams to manage routine physical on-site maintenance of cameras and video management software updates. When we do need to resolve a more complex issue, we recommend being open to diagnosing and fixing it remotely wherever possible.
Remote support first
Nine out of 10 support queries can be resolved through gaining remote access into your security system to perform a configuration setting check or change. Most security system problems are diagnosed quicker via remote access. We have all the IT tools we need on our helpdesk team’s PCs to diagnose and fix most issues within minutes, rather than waiting potentially several hours for us to get to site.
If they are comfortable with a remote-led support service, this can save clients considerable amounts of money if. It’s a service approach that has gained many followers since the pandemic broke, but we’ve been doing it this way for years to save the customer time and money while reducing our carbon footprint.
If, however, clients insist on untriaged physical attendance at site when there is a problem with the system and around the clock, we need to regard this as a premium service and must charge accordingly.
Specialist versus generalist
Be cautious about reaching out to a security installer that claims to have generalist security fitting capabilities. Do they offer CCTV, fire, smoke, intruder alarms and electronic lock fitting services? Find out which of these is their core competence by asking what they focused on at their foundation. This is more than likely to be still their core expertise today.
In addition, all security systems have demanded new skills as they have been networked. Have they got the IT and networking skills and the proven cybersecurity skills and relevant certifications and are they partnered with the vendors that you already have in place or planning to put in?
Look out for Cyber Essentials Plus, SSAIB certified company and WCS ISO 9001 quality management certification covering key services that you are interested in using.
In terms of specific skills that you will need to look out for in your outsourced team, you need to see evidence of the following:
- 1. Solution design capabilities
- 2. Command line configuration capability
- 3. IT Networking proficiency
- 4. Cyber security skills and following best practice for hardening systems
Optimising CCTV systems needs to start with getting the basics right and making sure you are correctly resourcing the support you have. This is always important. However, it is all the more important if you are looking to migrate from traditional CCTV infrastructure to IP video surveillance. It’s also critical if you are contemplating moving your CCTV system into the cloud as, according to our research, many firms are this year.
You must think hard about the credentials and service level agreement requirements governing the selection of any expert security integration and support partner. Exploring their background, credentials, certifications, and attitude to customer support is all critical if you decide to go down this route.