Caroline Bullock

Communication consultant & technology writer, NSPR

Author Bio ▼

Caroline Bullock is a communication consultant and technology writer with a passion for unearthing the business issues and human interest angle. With a journalism career that has included stints as a business editor of a regional broadsheet and editor of a national transport publication, she has driven the news agenda for a wide range of publications. More recently she has focused on content strategy for a variety of sectors and major brands as well as indulging another journalist passion – food and restaurant writing, with her articles appearing in the Independent, Telegraph and Delicious magazine.
September 29, 2015

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In Defence of CCTV in the ‘Cloud’: Cloudview Founder James Wickes Hits Back in Video Surveillance Debate

Published on 3 August my article, Social Housing, CCTV and Cloud Storage: Challenging the Myths about IP Video Surveillance, centred on the explosion of cloud-based video surveillance systems.

Citing the example of Cloudview, the world’s first corporate grade, cloud-based surveillance solution, the piece explored how this approach is remedying some of the long-standing cost and efficiency issues that have blighted the performance of its analogue counterparts.

Its purpose was to a raise a long overdue debate on the role of cloud technology as a component in security systems and this has undoubtedly been achieved with occasional IFSEC Global contributor and consultant Simon Lambert throwing his hat in the ring with a follow-up commentary.

In challenging much of the core sentiments expressed, Lambert has asserted that the argument was framed too simplistically, by pitting binary, analogue vs an IP choice, which, in his opinion, is a misguided focus.

But amid the (good natured) argument there are actually several points on which Cloudview and Lambert are in agreement. But where a difference of opinion prevailed it seemed worthwhile giving a right of reply to Cloudview’s CEO James Wickes. Below, he addresses some of Lambert’s points.

Simon Lambert: Anyone who is concerned about the difference between ‘digital’ and ‘analogue’ is wasting their energy. Use the most appropriate to meet your purposes. Don’t worry what others are doing. They might be idiots who are easily misled.

James Wickes

James Wickes of Cloudview

James Wickes: The ‘cloud’ has irreversibly entered the security lexicon and it’s a good thing to have a grown-up debate about the use of cloud services as a component in security systems.

I’m sure that everyone wants to understand the differences between the various technologies involved so they can make informed purchasing decisions – that does not make them idiots. It’s sensible that the most appropriate solution should be used to meet the intended purpose of the system.

SL: I have yet to have explained to me by cloud proponents how anything but a hugely fast uplink (thereby expensive and fallible) from their client’s premises can give high-quality, real-time footage from many cameras. Video compression is the quality killer.

JW: The ‘cloud’ should not be confused with remote access. Whilst cloud-based systems will provide remote access they also provide many other useful features including secure, resilient offsite storage and access to footage from any device from anywhere. Visual data generated from either analogue or IP cameras can be easily and securely stored offsite in the cloud whilst remaining attached to legacy hardware. This means that cloud based systems can work on their own or as peripherals to on-site DVR / NVRs

Everyone wants hugely fast uplinks but, as you point out they are not always available. They are not required for all cloud systems and video quality should be selected at the discretion of the user.

In areas where bandwidth is scarce connectivity can be easily and inexpensively provided by either satellite or 3G/4G.

Cloudview_box_web

Cloudview’s Visual Network Adapter (VNA), which connects analogue video cameras to an IP network

SL: Pretty much all analogue CCTV has been recorded digitally for years now. So, it could easily be connected to the Internet for ‘monitoring the bins’. Maybe people who appear to be “firmly attached to their analogue counterparts” are the ones not easily hoodwinked. They know that, in reality, IP cameras are clearly not essential if you want remote viewing.

 If analogue cameras have a “tendency to be vandalised”, what makes digital cameras immune?

JW: Digital cameras and systems are certainly not immune. CCTV systems of all types that record data locally are exposed to tampering, vandalism and theft by nature. Connecting legacy hardware to cloud-based systems significantly reduces the risk of data loss and makes such systems and the data they contain more accessible and therefore more useful to their users.

Simon Lambert, CCTV consultant

Simon Lambert delivers a presentation at IFSEC 2014

SL: Why did anyone have a “jumbled assortment of incompatible cameras” except through making their own poor buying decisions? Analogue’s 1Vpp signal has always been far more universal than the proprietary streams created by different makes of IP camera. ONVIF? Don’t be fooled by that.

Poor footage comes from sloppy design, installation and maintenance. IP CCTV installers are no less prone to this than analogue installers.

JW: Poor buying decisions can often be driven by poor advice and poor selling and it’s agreed that it does not really matter whether it is IP or otherwise. The point here is that if you happen to have a “jumbled assortment of incompatible cameras” across a broad estate of systems, whether they be IP or analogue, the data from these can be unified into one secure cloud-based account where it can be easily accessed via a web browser at relatively little cost.

SL: Paying a contractor £100 to come and retrieve footage shows a lamentable lack of training for the owner. This has absolutely nothing to do with the analogue vs digital debate. Better organized owners can do it for themselves at zero charge. Cloud operators will likely make owners pay for footage export too. Wherever they hide it, they’re not voluntary services, are they?

I am afraid it’s a fact of life that not everyone can be perfectly organised all the time and not all companies have dedicated, well trained security teams poised, ready to collect footage from dispersed DVRs at the drop of a hat. Retrieving footage from CCTV systems is a well- established income stream in the security market and it’s a bit naïve to think that there is no cost to retrieving footage if this is carried out by internal staff.

The analogue vs digital debate is only relevant to cloud services that will exclusively connect to one or the other. Cloudview as an example will connect to both.

Cloud “operators” are not charities. It takes very significant ongoing investment to deliver reliable, secure, high performance systems that are able to keep pace with more and bigger applications. As an example Cloudview charges a monthly all-inclusive service fee that ranges upwards from £5 month per site depending on usage.

cloudviewSL: Why is a cloud-based system easier to install? With the vulnerability and third-party telco issues of a connection to the Internet, I would suspect that it is not less complex than a standalone solution.

JW: I can only speak for Cloudview which provides a “plug and play” adapter that will connect IP or analogue cameras to the internet in minutes and is arguably less complex than setting up a DVR.

Like all other security products and services there are good and there are not so good cloud based CCTV systems. What’s for sure is that the performance of these services is improving quickly and new features are constantly being added. They should not be dismissed without serious consideration for most CCTV applications.

The debate didn’t stop there, with Lambert responding again…

SL: Hi James, thanks for taking take to reply at length. The number of points we’ve both raised here risks each reply turning into a tract to rival ‘War & Peace’ 😉  I agree with many of your philosophies above.

A couple of my points to clarify:

  • Folk researching purchases are not necessarily idiots. But idiots research too. So do one’s own, and don’t simply accept the conclusions strangers reach.
  • Internal staff retrieving footage does not increase costs if salaried (even an hour of overtime <£100).

I agree cloud options should be considered in an open-minded way. Can you give me an idea of what sort of connection to the storage in the cloud might be required? A very basic example might help. How about eight standard definition colour cameras in a convenience store?

JW: I see your point on costs and I think we are agreed that there is a below the line cost as well as an inconvenience factor associated with the use of internal staff for footage retrieval.

Taking your example, a standard broadband connection would support a convenience store with 8 cameras if Cloudview was the service of choice. I would add that the more bandwidth available the better the user experience.

(A standard broadband connection should be able to offer a 2Mbit uplink, this is sufficient for 8 cameras to capture events to Cloudview’s servers, a recent Cloudview installation has 100 cameras sharing a 20Mbit uplink to Cloudview)

A particular concern raised by other contributors has been that of the potential for hacking cloud services as well as the physical security of client data.

Cloudview is hosted within an extremely secure global cloud infrastructure with industry recognised certifications and audits such as SOC 1 Type 2, ISO 27001, PCI DSS, FISMA Moderate, HIPAA, and ITAR compliant controls.

Cloudview deploys protection against network security issues such as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, Man in the Middle (MITM) attacks, and packet sniffing. Redundant backups of all data are retained over multiple locations to prevent the remote possibility of data loss.

Client data is stored in several remote (European) large-scale data centres that use military grade perimeter control beams and professional security staff in order to remain physically secure.

Additionally, our adapters connect CCTV cameras to the Cloudview service via a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) for data transfer, which establishes a secure tunnel protected by AES 256- bit encryption. Once data has reached the Cloudview servers it is stored using the AES-256 standard, the same standard used by banks to secure customer data.

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