What’s happening in the Cloud?

Cloud computing has changed the way the physical security industry works. And the evolution is far from over, according to experts. The cloud is what delivers computer software, infrastructure and storage over the Internet as a service that is based on user demand. Expense and expertise are only two benefits that cloud solutions bring to the security industry. But how will the cloud change physical security in the future? The Future Lab decided to investigate.

“The cloud has an enormous impact on what could be termed traditional physical security products and services,” says Shayne Bates, who was, until recently a Washington D.C.-based security professional, expert in global security technologies and has relocated to the tech booming Austin Texas.

“We’ve been through the network revolution and we’ve been through the Internet revolution. Now, we’re in the cloud computing revolution,” he says. “Over the past 10 years, we’ve seen a progressive and determined effort to be able to improve, modify and enhance physical security products using the power and processes of IT.”

Shayne Bates

IT, has not only become an essential component in traditional access control solutions, it has become pervasive says Shayne Bates, a security professional and expert in global security technologies.

IT, says Bates, has not only become an essential component in traditional access control solutions, it has become pervasive.

But why move physical security into the cloud? What are the benefits?

Expense and expertise

Kapil Raina is director of marketing with Zscaler, a multi-tenant Saas security provider with what the company calls the world’s “largest security cloud”.

Why has the cloud come to dominate security applications? The answer is two-fold, according to Raina and Bates. Expense and expertise.

“These two trends are accelerating the movement to the cloud,” Raina says. “Of course you can buy all of these software and hardware solutions. But will you have the in-house expertise to run them?” he asks. “It’s a very expensive proposition.”

But when you shift to the cloud, costs go down and capabilities go up.

“Because of the economics and the horsepower of the cloud, you have highly elastic, infinite computer power at an affordable cost point,” says Bates.

But the shift toward the cloud isn’t only about dollars and cents. It allows companies to tap into specialized expertise.

Physical security in the cloud

An overview of security functions that can be managed by cloud applications as explained by Shayne Bates, expert in global security technologies.

“There’s a lack of the specific skill sets needed to maintain these systems,” Raina says. “That makes it hard for organisations to keep up on their own.” To illustrate his point, he explains how the previous undersecretary of Homeland Security in the United States said there was such a lack of IT security specialists that the agency would no longer look for classic degrees and work experience when recruiting. “Instead, they’re encouraging employers to put out hacker contests. Whoever won the contest had a job. That’s where we’re at.”

In the cloud, the cost point will change everything.

So what are innovative companies currently doing in the cloud? Bates cites a new tool being used by Microsoft’s global security team.

“In their security cloud, they can manage the travel record for every Microsoft employee. So, if bad things happen anywhere on the planet, they are very quickly able to determine where their people are,” says Bates. “That’s what you call a hybrid cloud. You have the travel record co-ordinated with geo-spatial data on who is traveling to what location, and another feed that’s identifying events around the world to be managed or avoided.”

Cloud based video surveillance

What might be the next security component to make its way to the cloud? Video security is a likely candidate.

Collection of data - CCTV

What might be the next security component to make its way to the cloud? Video security is a likely candidate says Kapil Raina, director of marketing with Zscaler. Image source: Wikimedia Commons (Hustvedt)

“When it comes to video analytics, it’s not feasible for a large majority of organisations to run all of their digital video through analytics,” says Bates. “But in the cloud, the cost point will change everything.”

“You see many startups looking at behavior analysis of video feeds,” says Raina. “Moving that to the cloud is natural.”

It would be difficult to achieve the computational power to monitor a high volume of video data. “But, if we could automate that video surveillance more reliably, then you cut down on the number of humans you need to review it.”

More importantly, the cloud could soon enable the correlation of video analysis and a physical response.

“If you could flag a behavior and then go to your digital elements and, for example, lock a door or send an email, that’s a correlated response,” says Raina. “We can already quarantine or isolate issues. But, in terms of that physical response, we’re not there yet. It’s still very manual.”

“I work with organisations that want to take everything they capture on video and run it through the cloud,” says Bates.

But, with talk of the pervasiveness of the cloud, come questions of privacy and the security of information.

“How secure is a cloud? A well-constructed cloud is more secure than a private computer network because of the significant amount of resources and best practices put toward protecting it,” says Bates. However, nothing is completely secure and there is no silver bullet. The degree and energy you put into protecting an IT asset should always be commensurate with the value of that asset, he explains.

By Rachel Sa


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