Cloud Security: An Introduction
The cloud. It's THE greatest trend in physical security, but there’s still some misinformed taboo around its use. Migration. Cybersecurity. Device compatibility. Despite trusting the cloud in all forms of our lives, businesses are still relying on outdated legacy technology to keep them safe. And, ignoring the attractive advantages that cloud-based security has to offer them.
If you’re serious about keeping your multi-site business safe, or you have a business that is scaling its operations, you need to look at a cloud-based solution. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about cloud security systems. We'll explore what they are and how they can play a role in your business.
The Ultimate Cloud Security Guide
What are Cloud-Based Security Systems?
A cloud security system is a network of physical and digital security devices that are connected through the internet. With data, footage and archives being stored digitally - rather than on-premise. They're designed to get rid of the management, security and hardware limitations linked with the physical security devices that business owners keep in their buildings. With a number of key additional perks.
Why Choose Cloud Security?
Cloud security ties all of your devices into a single interface. This means you don’t need multiple operating systems and security controls to manage various systems. It also lowers the amount of training needed and means integration between the different disciplines is reliable and supported by the single vendor solution. This technology is able to access every part of your security system for review and control from an internet connected device. This flexibility lets you check your cameras out of hours, monitor staff sign-in, give visitor/contractor access with two clicks or even disarm/arm your intruder alarm from afar or on-the-go.
Traditionally, CCTV and Access Control Systems have required a server or NVR installed on-site. Cloud security systems do away with this old tech. The cameras and access controllers connect directly with the cloud or data centers through the internet. An NVR is limited by the number of output ports or the power required to store and process your CCTV images. With cloud the system scales up or down with your needs. If you have a hardware failure for example, unexpected repair bills can run into thousands for replacement NVRs or servers. This is also a single point of failure for your system. With cloud systems you are often guaranteed 99.9% uptime or better and there are no unexpected repair costs as you pay for the service monthly.
Cloud-based security is also highly-secure in terms of data security. Every business owner has a duty to protect the privacy of their staff and customers under GDPR and data protection law. With data being stored in the cloud, with password-gated control and multi-factor logins, operators have that extra peace of mind that their data is hidden from prying eyes.
What is Cloud CCTV?
Cloud CCTV refers to video surveillance systems that store CCTV footage in an off-site data centre rather than in a server or NVR. This means the system is endlessly scalable. It's ever improving and far more secure than on-site internet connected systems.
By storing video data in the cloud, operators can access their systems from any internet-connected device using simple to use, constantly improving user interfaces. Unlike older CCTV, there’s no need for bulky on-premise NVRs. This saves costs on expensive storage, maintenance, energy use, space and reduces the risks linked with keeping security data on-site (more on that later).
Paired with powerful video analytics like facial recognition and ANPR, cloud CCTV instantly offers a far more reliable option for business owners looking to boost their security strategy.
Features of Cloud CCTV
With its remote accessibility features, cloud CCTV packages are designed to enable operators to proactively protect their business against crime, so that they may respond quickly, rather than just reviewing the footage after the event has already taken place.
Systems from manufacturers like Verkada and AVA are powered with real-time activity alerts, sent straight to the operator's phone. These can be programmed for specific AI-based rules like geofence perimeter monitoring or movement detection out of hours, or even facial recognition alerts for repeat offenders.
With no DVR or NVR on-site, cloud CCTV also actively prohibits the vast majority of internal crimes as well. Historically, with storage held on-premise, employees have been able to damage on-premise harddrives to remove any evidence of their crimes. With a cloud-based system, this is no longer possible as everything is backed up in the remote server.
For businesses that require multiple log-ins and access to their CCTV system (large scale security and HR teams), operators will be able to monitor audit trailing of changes made in the footage archive. Essentially, if any member of staff tries to tamper with or share surveillance footage, this is automatically recorded on the system.
By storing recorded data in the cloud, operators gain quick, easy access to their CCTV footage from anywhere with an internet connection. Usually offered as part of a SaaS package, all CCTV footage is stored securely, without risks of data being overwritten or corrupted. It also means that if your internet is down or power is off at your property you can still access the archived footage in the cloud, giving you an insight as to what happened before the power outage.
With more sophisticated platforms, users are therefore able to search across their entire archive for specific events or persons of interest with quick, easy and detailed Smart Search features such as date, number plate or even specific clothing colours. Everything your cameras have ever recorded is right there at your fingertips for use as evidence in criminal trials, insurance claims or else.
As a modern IP-based video surveillance solution, cloud CCTV can be enhanced to send notifications for specific triggers on your premises, with intelligent programming to gather data and track every movement made in and around your building.
Typically, these analytics include ANPR recognition, facial recognition for persons of interest and movement detection for out-of-hours alerts or unauthorised staff activity in prohibited areas like a server room.
Video analytics are by no means exclusive to cloud CCTV, but with cloud, you access the latest and greatest AI innovations and algorithm improvements as they happen, without expensive hardware upgrades or replacements. These are simply installed remotely as part of your SaaS subscription. Whereas, at the current rate of innovation, by the time you install a standalone NVR/DVR system, it’s already become outdated.
Aside from the clear security benefits, cloud security can also be used to optimise operations, management and business performance across your premises.
Using video analytics, operators and marketing teams can gain situational insights into key performance areas of their business; count vehicles and people on site, view visual heat maps to understand hot spots and dwell times, or manage occupancy for shift scheduling.
Cloud CCTV users also benefit from specific use-case scenarios where video analytics and proactive alerts can play a role. For example, in warehouses or construction sites, operators can trigger an immediate notification for anyone on site not wearing a Hi-Viz vest or hard hat, offering greater visibility over your operations and accountability should something go wrong.
A major advantage to cloud-based CCTV systems is that they’re infinitely scalable and perfect for multi-site application as users aren’t limited by the hardware on site recording. Generally NVR’s come in 4, 8 or 16 channels so you’re often purchasing more than you need up front or limited by the components you choose to install at the time
Operators are able to monitor every single property under their umbrella from one single interface, rather than having a complex VPN system set up for each site. For growing businesses, this is a major bonus. As you expand your portfolio with new locations, adding CCTV becomes a simple plug-and-play process where you can just bolt on additional cameras, storage and resources to your system as you need.
Leveraging the power of cloud control, high-standard cloud CCTV systems update automatically and remotely with 24/7 firmware updates to ensure your cameras are running at peak performance and protected against the latest threats.
From a troubleshooting perspective, problems with a cloud based CCTV system can be dealt with in a way that we’re entirely used to. Like on most SaaS platforms, there’s embedded chat as a support service, meaning users can simply request a ticket for remote maintenance or troubleshooting. Most issues can be resolved remotely, removing the need for costly on-site technician support.
With pro-active notifications and live health monitoring, users will also be able to be alerted to any faults that may result in security downtime, like a camera outage or programming error.
Cloud CCTV: What can it do for me?
Security systems have come a long way since the days of heavily-wired, monochrome cameras and titanic racks of VCRs requiring daily tape changes record footage.
Cloud-based access control solves lots of the modern challenges linked with door control. These systems give operators the ability to remotely control and manage all access control doors on their property via an internet-enabled device.
Unlike traditional access control systems, cloud doesn’t require its own VPN or private server to store data. Everything from employee credentials to access information is stored in the cloud and available on a smartphone or browser. This makes it less weak to corruption or physical damage.
Just imagine if the harddrive storing all of your employee access credentials were to corrupt. You’d have to physically re-enroll every single member of your company. With the cloud hosting the software, this is no longer a concern. Building owners enjoy added convenience, security, removing the expense and hassle of housing rack storage, power and hardware on-site. It’s for this reason that cloud access control is adopted by businesses with a high number of employees. It offers a quick means of editing and distributing access permissions for members of staff and editing door schedules on the go. All from a single software or device. Rather than editing credentials each time a permission needs to be changed.
Cloud access control also improves and enhances the operation of door, identity and access management control. Access alerts, heatmaps, entry event timelines and occupancy monitoring are all features of most modern cloud systems.
Analytical, Data-Driven Door Control
- Full Door Schedule Control.
- Quickly Find & Respond to Access Alerts in Real-Time.
- Detect & Verify People Based on Face ID Data.
Features of Cloud Access Control
With remote monitoring and live access reports, cloud access control systems enable operators to respond to entry threats, tailgating or security breaches as they happen. If an unregistered user attempts to gain access to the property, or if a door is being propped open, a signal will be raised and a warning notification issued to the business owner on a remote device.
With dynamic visual reports on access activity stored in an intuitive interface, users can also assess the historical timeline and audit trailing of events from their device, increasing readiness to respond and helping to make more informed decisions on site security.
With access event timelines being stored entirely digitally, cloud access control presents a unique opportunity for businesses to actively monitor their occupancy and capacity. From a HR perspective, businesses can keep an eye on staff arrival times and occupancy percentage, to identify unreported absences that may have slipped under the radar.
Occupancy monitoring can also be used to proactively monitor capacity in specific zones of your building that require occupancy management such as car parks, staff cafeterias or gyms. In some situations, the readers can even be remotely programmed to automatically deny new entries until capacity falls below a set number.
Using mobile credentials, cloud-based access control systems make user set-up and distribution particularly user friendly and accessible. With this technology, there’s no need to print keycards or issue RFID fobs for each and every user added to the database, which can be time-consuming and expensive.
With cloud control, operators can send a user credential through to their phone, have them download an app and register for immediate access through bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 4G or the phone’s built-in NFC chip, making it near impossible to duplicate, clone or forget.
Once logged into the interface on a browser or smartphone, all your credentials, information and access activity is right at your fingertips. Even if you have thousands of employees and unique permissions for each.
Through remote access to the credential database, admins are able to issue or edit permissions to users quickly and efficiently. Whether that be through key fob, biometric access or mobile phone credentials, operators can simply add, edit or assign permissions and have these configured and activated instantly, without needing to be on-site or connected to the local area network (LAN).
A major plus for cloud access control is that it’s endlessly scalable and can grow alongside your business. Using plug-and-play ‘Access Controllers’, users are able to instantly connect new and existing door readers on multiple sites to their cloud system through internet connection, without needing to configure new VPNs, firewalls or additional servers across multiple sites.
This technology also gives business owners the freedom to expand their workforce without hesitation. With a private cloud server, businesses are not being limited to server hardware or storage, meaning cloud access control is infinitely scalable from a credential perspective. You can start with a system holding 50 access credentials and scale up to unlimited without having to replace any onsite hardware.
Cloud-based access control can be taken the extra-mile with CCTV integration, giving users 24/7 visual access to their controlled doors. With the right setup, users can arm their access control with facial recognition and visual confirmation of every user that passes through the entrance, backing up the audit trailing with cold-hard video evidence.
Cameras can also be used to proactively detect user tailgating or doors being held open. By intelligently recognising these events using video analytics, the system will alert the admin on their mobile device, allowing them to respond to access alerts safely and proactively.
Best Cloud Access Control Systems
Access control has come a long way since the days of keypads and card readers. Now, businesses across the globe are being accessed with a wide range of different credentials - from mobile phones, to fingerprints and facial recognition.
What are Cloud Intruder Alarms?
Cloud-based intruder alarms provide businesses with the tools to detect and respond to threats, as they happen. Linked to a control app on a smart device, cloud alarms connect users straight to their security system. They instantly raise an alert for suspicious activity on the premises - giving users the chance to respond proactively, rather than after the fact.
Using data taken from a range of security devices like CCTV video intelligence, access control and sensors, cloud alarms identify important events. They provide full visibility over the building as incidents unfold, rapidly alerting ARCs (Alarm Receiving Centre), emergency services and the owner in real-time.
Paired with a cloud CCTV surveillance system, users get event-based video feeds, triggered by perimeter monitoring or geofencing, giving them the tools to confirm threats, identify alerts, prevent false alarms and provide essential context during emergencies. All from a single device. Add on wireless, paired devices like door, motion, panic button, glass break and water leak sensors, and these alarms offer one of the most complete and proactive security systems available on the market. Especially when compared to a traditional “bells-only” alarm, which only raise an alert after the building has already been breached.
On Demand Alarm Control
When your alarm is activated by a door sensor or motion detector, you’ll get a push alert to your mobile phone, showing exactly when and where it was triggered. You can even sync a camera to the app to show direct video footage of the activation.
- Real-Time Alerts
- CCTV Visual Verification
- Fewer False Alarms
Features of Cloud Access Control
Cloud-based alarm systems offer complete visibility over your business premises, with dynamic colour-coded dashboards showing the status of the alarm, whether in one location or multiple. This feature is ideal for travelling business owners who entrust staff to lock up the premises each evening, allowing the operator to actively check their alarms are set on-the-go, or from any worldwide location with an internet connection.
The alarm interface can also be used to monitor fire escapes and delivery bays during the working hours, sending real-time alerts and notifications if they’re left open or compromised.
Using the control interface on a smartphone or other internet-connected device, property managers will gain full-view access to their alarms, enabling them to deactivate and reactivate as they need.
This feature is particularly useful for instances with out-of-hours cleaners, late-night deliveries or staff working late, as the operator can arm/disarm as approved visitors come and go - preventing unnecessary alarm activations without needing to be physically on-site. Paired with a cloud-based access control system, you’ll be able to monitor the occupancy of the building and re-set the alarm once there is no one left inside.
Powered with AI-based threat detection, custom alarm conditions and video verification, cloud-based alarms dramatically reduce the chance of false alarms on your premises. If a suspicious breach is detected, the alarm will alert the Site Admin, and connect them to the integrated camera to verify the threat on a connected device. This limits the chance of wind or wildlife causing a false-positive, reducing the risk of wasting police time or needlessly disturbing surrounding residents.
With custom alarm conditions, admins can also set and define specific triggers for each alarm area. All received CCTV images are analysed by proprietary machine learning algorithms. An alarm is only activated when the artificial intelligence determines that the trigger is an actual intruder or threat, as per the set alarm conditions.
High quality cloud alarms come with highly-secure, password-gated user interfaces. These can only be controlled by pre-authorised individuals, making it near impossible for fob misplacement, theft or cloning,
Within the cloud interface, operators will be able to easily assign specific alarm permissions to their workforce - from Site viewers, Live-Only viewers to No Access users. Rather than assigning each necessary user a keycard or control fob, operators can grant remote or mobile control over their alarms to their trusted site managers, and edit these permissions as and when they need.
By connecting a cloud-based alarm with outdoor CCTV cameras, users can set-up virtual zones and video tripwires to trigger when a boundary is crossed. Using a motion search interface, users can mark specific areas of interest for each CCTV camera on their premises, adding filters to trigger an alert when people are in the scene or within a certain time window. With facial recognition, this can also be set-up to trigger for specific persons of interest, like known shoplifters, repeat offenders or former employees.
Using onboard analytics, the connected cloud cameras will record high resolution video when movement is detected, sending an image to the cloud for AI verification, ensuring users are only notified for actionable events rather than lighting changes or weather-related movement. If a human is detected in the frame, a rapid notification will be sent to the operator to view footage and take immediate action.
Responding to an alarm activation can be unsettling, stressful and frustrating - especially if it's a false alarm. With a cloud alarm system, your maintenance provider or Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) will be able to deactivate a false triggering alarm and resolve the issues entirely remotely, saving you the expenditure of a technician call-out.
Smart Alarms: Everything you Need to Know
If you’re concerned about the security of your burglar alarm, it may be time to consider a smart upgrade to protect your home. But what is a smart alarm? What can it do for you? How does it differ from a normal “bells-only” alarm?
What are Cloud Sensors?
Cloud sensors are powerful all-in-one units designed to monitor environmental, air-based or sensory changes in physical spaces. Loaded with a collection of high-spec sensors, products like Verkada’s SV11 measure air quality, humidity, temperature, motion and noise.
Sensors can be managed through a web-based platform in the same way as other cloud security devices like CCTV. They provide context to the change in environment instantly. Users can set custom alerts and quickly scan real-time data to see where people are and what’s happening at each location on a reactive meter-style reading.
These systems make a sensible addition to any serious security system. Natively integrated with cloud-based alarm systems, events such as motion and noise can be set up to trigger an alarm in off-limits zones. Or, even sensitive areas where video surveillance is non-permitted, like bathrooms and changing rooms.
In video-permitted zones, sensors can be paired with CCTV cameras to give video playback of sensor-based events. A sensor reading can trigger an alert on the user's phone, alerting the user to visually confirm the issue on a nearby connected camera.
From an environmental stance, sensors can offer valuable temperature and air quality insights for server rooms or controlled manufacturing facilities, helping site managers keep safety as a priority. These systems can also detect vaping and smoking events, allowing site managers or even school managers to keep a watchful eye over hard-to-reach corners.
Highly accurate temperature measurements have a number of advantages for businesses, from a safety and operational stance. Verkada’s SV11 sensor is accurate from -5°C to 50°C, giving operators custom temperature alerts for each specific sensor.
Monitor the relative humidity in each room. Detect changes to the amount of moisture in the air compared to the temperature and receive instant notifications for chemically-induced humidity changes that could threaten perishable stock or employee health.
Receive instant, automatic alerts for chemicals evaporating into the air including benzene, ethylene glycol and formaldehyde. Known as a ‘Total measure of Volatile Organic Compounds’, VOCs can be extremely dangerous on human health and wellbeing.
Monitor the total noise level in each area. Under GDPR law, private conversation cannot be recorded, so audio will not be saved by the sensor; however a decibel reading will be available in the interface or as an instant notification above a certain level. Operators will be alerted to shouting or loud, sudden jolts in decibel reading, allowing them to respond to accidents or emergencies quickly.
Particulate Matter 2.5 (PM 2.5) refers to tiny inhalable particles or airborne droplets that can have a dangerous effect on human health. These are usually caused by dust, vehicle exhaust, burning fuels, cooking, smoking and vaping in enclosed space.
Unique to Verkada sensors, the Vape Index is a score derived from multiple sensors that is strongly linked to vaping or smoking events. Vape Index measurements outside of the “green zone” suggest suspected smoking activity, but could also indicate dangerous fumes from other sources like gas fires or fuel burning.
Motion sensors are particularly useful in detecting suspicious activity in off-limit zones or out-of-hours. Measuring the changes in infrared light absorption, the sensor can raise an immediate alert for any movement on-site.
Hacking & Cybersecurity
With automatic firmware updates, cloud security devices are continually upgrading and improving alongside industry innovation. Put simply, when you install a cloud-based security system, that is the worst version of that system. It will only ever improve with the latest features and algorithms, making the solution even more secure as time passes.
Similarly, if a new wave of cybersecurity threats emerges, providers like Verkada are able to automate patches to combat these in rapid times, preventing hackers from remotely accessing cameras, data storage or other devices.
Providers like Verkada, AVA and Openpath are trusted cloud security manufacturers with a security by design approach. Reputable, well-known providers have the infrastructure behind them to penetrate test their systems, with developers continually working to further the security of their systems. Certain manufacturers will generally have their systems audited or “hacked” by third-party developers to test the security effectiveness.
Strong cloud-based security should feature encryption on all data in transit over the network. Encryption adds an extra layer of security to all data operations, preventing malicious interception or eavesdropping.
All cloud-based control interfaces are powered with foolproof audit trailing, to detect activity changes both as they happen and reactively. Using proprietary algorithms, users can observe physical and digital sabotage from a number of sources, both internally and obtrusive external data breaches. Essentially, for businesses with multiple access to their system, operators can monitor all changes made in the archive, adding an extra layer of security to their operations.
While cloud security systems do rely on internet connection for full functionality, hardware offered by brands like Verkada and AVA will continue to perform, even if the network connection drops.
Without a connection, users will lose out on phone notifications and alerts, but cameras, alarms, sensors and detectors with a connected power source will still record or trigger if a breach is detected, reducing security downtime and making them no less secure than a standard legacy system.
Cloud Security: Key Considerations
Switching to cloud can seem like a daunting change, brimming with uncertainty. Those who aren’t already moving towards a cloud-based future are at an increased risk of having their security become quickly outdated and inefficient.
Of course, cloud isn’t for everyone. While there are many huge advantages to cloud-based security and computing, in residential settings storing minimal data, a legacy or on-premise setup will likely do the job. That’s not to say cloud-based security isn’t a better choice for a home, it can often just seem a little excessive for residential security needs. For businesses, it’s a different story.
It’s your duty to protect your employees, customers and their data under GDPR law. If you’re looking for a system that can do this super efficiently whilst also helping to boost your business operations at the same time, cloud security is likely the right fit for your business. There are however a few key areas to consider before making the switch.
1. Look for Verified, Quality Manufacturers
2. Don't be Constrained by Legacy Systems
Switching to the cloud doesn’t need to be an immediate transition. Smaller businesses have reaped the rewards of scaling their security systems gradually. Rather than ripping and replacing all in one go.
There are cloud-based products on the market that can sit alongside your existing legacy systems. We call this a hybrid cloud system, and it's a perfectly viable security option. For example, you can buy a cloud connector to store your video data digitally from traditional IP-based or even analogue CCTV cameras. These provide the cloud benefits, allowing you to make that first step towards a fully cloud-managed system.
3. Take Small Steps
4. Work with the Right Installer
A robust, enterprise level Cloud security system is complex to install and specify. Business owners and site managers who attempt to install or specify/design these systems should be concerned that they might not be getting the most out of the very expensive system they are purchasing. Involving a professional will provide you with real world working experience as to what works and what doesn’t.
If you’re looking to get in the cloud, you need to work with a trusted, reliable and knowledgeable installer. A professional provider will be able to ensure your technology is running at peak performance and connected with all the other devices in your network, saving you from risking security downtime, or from missing a potentially fatal backdoor in your security. We cover everything you need to look out for in our comprehensive blog: Choosing a Commercial Security Provider.
Professional installers will also be able to support your business from an operational standpoint. Using their expertise, they’ll be able to set up video analytics, AI integration and custom settings that help your employees work smarter, rather than harder. From stock counting, queue monitoring, occupancy management or even site HI-VIZ detection, the right provider will be able to show you the full potential of this technology.
Looking to upgrade to cloud security? If you’re concerned about the reliability and sureness of your technology, now is the time to upgrade. Ignoring the attractive benefits cloud security has to offer your home or business could cause troublesome (and expensive!) issues.
At Chris Lewis Group, we understand the importance, reassurance and convenience cloud security can offer your building and occupants. Our installation experts are highly experienced in the specification, design, installation and aftercare of cloud security solutions.
Working with industry leading technology, we design bespoke security solutions that are unique to your building and needs.