The cloud is revolutionising the way we run our lives.
We store our documents in the cloud, we store our photos in the cloud. Our finance systems, our billing systems, our key client data. None of this is now kept in files and folders in a locked cupboard in our offices.
Now, even the most critical client data is stored in systems like Dropbox, iCloud, Azure, Googledocs and AWS.
And this is now also true, for the physical security sector. Access control and CCTV systems, items that have only ever been hosted locally, are now making their way into the cloud.
What is a cloud-based security system and how does it work?
If you use a cloud-based system, you don’t need to install software locally to manage either your access control or your CCTV. This can all be managed through an internet connection and no physical server is required on the premises.
Why do companies go cloud? Generally, it is for a variety of practical and infrastructure reasons. These include:
Organisations with multiple offices, or retailers with lots of stores, have unique challenges, due to the quantity of locations they are dealing with. A cloud system enables facilities managers to manage the security of each site without needing to visit. It gives you back time to run your business.
Whether you have one site or many, the facilities manager can’t be present 24 hours a day. Having cloud security enables people to manage their business remotely, for example, tracking staff attendance, and services.
Conveniently, you can control user access remotely with one touch, assign access to contractors and visitors, provide access outside normal working hours, without needing to be there and easily assign access rights to managers, the authorities or anyone else might need it.
The founder of a long-established property management agency was telling me how each night before he goes to bed, one of the last things he does before switching off the lights is to do a virtual tour each of his sites.
He scrolls through the main cameras on his iPhone to make sure that his buildings are nicely “tucked in” for the night, safe and secure.
Risk of theft
We’ve all heard of stories where burglars break in and steal the CCTV system to remove any evidence of their identity. Having a cloud based system makes this impossible because everything is streamed into the cloud.
For some businesses, this is a crucial benefit. One of our clients operates in hostile countries where they are vulnerable to potential government interference. Having their data stored in the cloud means that sensitive CCTV cannot be taken and used against staff in those countries.
If a business is growing fast, cloud security means they only pay for the infrastructure they need, when they need it, and can expand capacity as they scale.
When specifying traditional systems, consultants need to make allowances for future requirements, meaning clients pay for capacity they may not use for some time.
The staffing at one of our clients, a fast-growing global tech firm, is projected to grow from 8,000 to 19,000 over the next three years. Using cloud security means they can flexibly scale their system as they take on these staff and open new offices.
Shrinking infrastructure and personnel
Similar to FM, IT resources were once delivered in-house. Now for cost-cutting and efficiency reasons, companies are increasingly,
deciding to outsource this non-core part of the business, so internal IT teams have shrunk.
The impact of this on security is that there aren’t the staff on site to manage the systems, so they have migrated infrastructure to the cloud.
One advantage of the cloud is that it reduces ongoing infrastructure costs, including the capital expenditure and investment required in the purchase of the equipment, the cost of keeping systems up to date e.g. software updates, and labour involved in checking and managing updates.
With Office 365, CRM, Finance and HR systems in the cloud, companies now lack the physical server infrastructure normally required to host traditional security systems, as these are still server based.
Using the cloud is becoming the norm, so it makes sense to migrate your security infrastructure as well.
These can now be integrated so that instead of needing to enter the details of a new employee in three different systems (email/I.T., payroll and security access), you can now easily enter these once and the security system is automatically updated.
Apple now has a significant penetration in the corporate environment, particularly within the fast-growing tech sector. This makes many traditional security systems difficult to implement as they still require Windows programmes to control them.
With a cloud based system, all you need is access to a website.
If you are considering moving to a cloud-based system, there are a few things every FM should bear in mind.
1. Facilities managers will need to work more closely with I.T. than ever before, both for infrastructure and for cyber–security.
2. The new GDPR regulations coming into force next year mean it is essential to know what data is being stored, where it is being stored, and the purpose.
3. Advances in the Internet of Things (IOT), mean there are a lot of security products are coming onto the market. It is important to ensure they meet the right security standards.
4. If your critical data is stored in the cloud, it is essential to understand what security that service has and what backups are in place, because if that centre is compromised, your information may be lost.
5. You need to factor in an ongoing licence cost to keep the system operational.
6. Now security systems are connected to the network, they open your organisation to potential cyber-attack, if your installer doesn’t understand I.T. security. Manufacture updates include critical security patches and you must continually update your system to ensure your network is protected.
7. You need the right levels of connectivity to have your system online at all times. Data intensive systems such as CCTV will need a sufficiently fast internet connection at each location to ensure you don’t impede your other business systems.
Having delivered cloud based security systems for our global clients, the feedback we receive is that remote management provides efficiency gains and budget savings, and frees FMs up to be more effective.