Physical Security Moves to the Cloud

Business IT and Security on Demand

Physical Security Moves to the Cloud

Traditionally, security systems such as access control and closed circuit television have involved the installation of software at the protected site in order for the end user to manage the system. With the growth of the internet, Software as a Service (SaaS) is seeing increased acceptance in applications such as CRM, ERP and Accounting. Today’s security customers now have the option of choosing between quality on-site software and off-site hosted applications. Since applications and requirements differ from customer to customer, the decision of which method to choose will depend on several factors.

System Features

The average access control system consists of eight readers or less and the typical closed circuit television system consists of less than sixteen cameras. Most on-site software applications include features that are not yet found in the off-site hosted arena. These would include threat levels for access control, active directory integration and the ability to interface with third party systems. While most off-site hosted applications do not provide these features, they do provide basic features of the on-site software systems. These includes the ability for restricted access, implementing scheduled actions and generating reports as well as the ability to view live and recorded images.

Network- IT Requirements

Regardless of the type of system, most security systems today are in some way connected to either the internet or a corporate network. Normally an on-site software based system will have more interfacing with the network and IT staff. This will include the providing of computers to install the software as well as the appropriate number of network connections and IP addresses. An off-site hosted system will require at least one network connection that is opened to the internet. A lot of the hosted services today require a little or no IT experience in order to configure the system.


A hosted system is accessible from any web-enabled computer. Additionally most hosted systems can be accessed via smart phones. This makes remote access to the information easy and convenient. While on-site systems can be configured for remote access, they typically require more IT support.


The costs of installing an access control and closed circuit television system vary by installation. Both system types have upfront costs for materials and installation. Since the hosted model does not require any software to be provided, the upfront cost for this option is usually a little less than the on-site option. The hosted model has a monthly charge for hosting services that includes software upgrades. Most on-site software providers include one year software support with the initial installation. After the first year, support costs are either covered via a contracted support agreements or on a time and material basis.

Today, most hosted security systems are in the small to medium size system. The feature set of most of the hosted systems are focusing on addressing the requirements of small and medium size applications. They are not yet robust enough for the needs of large enterprise applications. It will be interesting to watch the growth of the hosted security system as more and more systems move to the cloud.