Service-minded business models
As the business environment changes, so do the solutions being offered by the security industry. More service-oriented business models, such as hosting, are emerging to assist small and medium-sized business owners in meeting their access control needs.
There are a number of factors to consider when choosing an access control solution and many companies are opting to turn over at least part of the responsibility to an outside provider. For end users, there are three main options: Traditional, hosted and managed access control.
In a traditional access control solution, the end user purchases the hardware and access control software. They install the software on their own computer, manage and maintain the system themselves.
A managed solution involves a service provider installing hardware and providing an offsite server to run the software. The end user also turns over the responsibility for monitoring, maintaining and updating the system to the service provider.
With a hosted solution, a service provider installs the access control hardware and provides an offsite server for the software, but the user can log into and maintain the system. For this, users usually pay a monthly or annual fee.
RISCO Group is pioneering such a model. As a private security company with headquarters in Israel and offices in Europe, Asia and North America, RISCO Group manufactures access control software and hardware.
“We are in a very conservative market,” says Shai Sarig, vice president of marketing with RISCO Group. “The very strong trend now is to provide security as a service. We’re offering more solutions, more choice.”
That choice is coming in the form of an innovative new hosted service solution for access control systems.
Traditionally, if the owners of a company wished to implement an access control system, they were faced with a large upfront cost to purchase hardware and software. Now, RISCO Group is launching the RISCO Service Platform (RSP), a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) business model, together with Axes Plus Access Control system. This SaaS model allows companies to lease the access control hardware without having to be concerned about the computer servers, software setup, IT management, upgrades, etc. All the software is hosted within a secured hosting centre by RISCO or a Service Provider.
“Many small and medium-sized enterprises want to focus on their business,” says Sarig. “Perhaps they do not have the IT experts or they cannot perform maintenance and upgrades on such a system. Then, for the hardware, they often don’t want to invest a lot of money at the beginning of a project.”
As a result, customers are able to pay for the service they need, based on the number of access points, features and the functionality they require.
“With access control systems, you will have servers running the software that controls your hardware devices,” explains Michael Söderberg, director of business development at ASSA ABLOY. “So you have to invest in the hardware, the computers and the software, pay the licenses and then keep up-to-date on the platforms. With a service-oriented business model, the service provider takes care of all of it for you: They invest in the hardware required, they host the software so that you can access the information you need and, by bringing several customers onto this system, they achieve economies of scale. You, the customer, pay a monthly fee.”
Companies are then able to implement an access control system with a decreased initial investment, replaced by a rental fee, which then enables businesses to invest capital into their business, rather than in their access control system.
“Most companies don’t have excessive amounts of cash just lying around,” says Söderberg. “What they do have, they want to invest in their core business.”
The RISCO Service Platform will deliver video surveillance, alarm and access control as a service. It eliminates the overhead of technology and IT concerns and allows customers to focus on their security needs.
There are big benefits with multiple sites, says Sarig. “If the headquarters of a company sits in one country and you have multiple branches in different countries, you can use the same access control system to support all sites,” he says. “And if you are a security officer, you can also support all of your branches because you can access the system from everywhere and anywhere.”
Söderberg compares the new, service-oriented business model to the relationship between a building’s tenant and its owner.
“It’s similar,” he says. “The company occupying the building pays its monthly rent, they move in and everything in the building works: The electricity and the heating and so forth. It’s all there for them and administered by a property management company.”
The same can be true for electronic security systems.
RISCO customers are still free to purchase the hardware up front. Larger companies with their own hosting capabilities can also chose to host the software themselves. “We are offering several solutions so that you can use this platform in many business models,” says Sarig.
Another example of hosted access control is ASSA ABLOY’s CLIQ Remote solution, with servers currently hosted by ASSA ABLOY. It utilizes wireless technology to enable the remote programming of cylinders and keys and to grant access rights to remote, secure locations.
“The CLIQ Remote is an electro-mechanical solution whereby the keys and cylinders look like traditional mechanical cylinders,” says Anders Borg, director of CLIQ Platform at ASSA ABLOY. “But we have equipped the hardware with electronics that allow the keys to be updated remotely.”
Previously, keys had to be updated in person, costing time and money. “You had to go to an administrator, insert the key into the programmer and take the time to extend that access authority,” says Borg. “Now, your administrator can make the changes and the key holder can go to a remote updater and download their access.”
With this hosted solution, the end user saves the cost of the hardware and servers up front, but they take on the cost of administering the system themselves.
AMT Inc. Is a total security solutions provider that offers software, hardware, and system support. It manufactures WebBrix, hosting solution software designed to be re-branded by individual resellers. AMT offers WebBrix in three different ways. A reseller can purchase WebBrix, re-brand it and have it run on AMT’s own servers. Resellers can also purchase the software to run on servers within their own data centers. Finally, WebBrix is also available as a traditional, non-hosted solution, whereby an end user can purchase the software and run it on its own server.
Dean Forchas, director of business development at AMT, likens the ease of use and peace of mind that come with a hosted access control solution to using a web-based email account.
“If you’re using Gmail or Yahoo mail, that is Software as a Service (SaaS). So, if your computer dies, your data is safe and sound on an external server somewhere,” he says. But using an email program loaded directly onto your computer requires installation, configuration and maintenance and, if your computer crashes, you’re likely to lose data unless you have backed up with diligence.
Like a web mail account, a hosted access control solution gives users peace of mind, says Forchas. The customer does not have to worry about maintaining the server or backing up their data in case of a system failure.
“Right now, Dell forecasts a life cycle for their servers at three years,” Forchas says. “But in a hosted environment, such as ours, the database is backed up every hour. There are RAID ten arrays (Redundant Arrays of Inexpensive Disks) that protect against the loss of data from a failure of any single hard drive. You get a far better infrastructure and you’re paying a yearly service fee and that’s a fraction of the cost of doing it yourself. As a result, you’re getting a better system for less money.”
By Rachel Sa