IP surveillance cameras and software are putting comprehensive network security within reach for SMBs. By Jenny Donelan
March 10, 2009
IP surveillance cameras and software are putting comprehensive network security within reach for SMBs.
By Jenny Donelan
Thanks in large part to the advent of IP cameras, video surveillance is coming on strong in the SMB space. According to a recent report from ABI Research, the overall video surveillance market will expand from $13.5 billion in 2006 to approximately $46 billion in 2013. Fueling the fire of growth for SMBs is not only new technology, but increased awareness of security, along with recognition of the need to comply with government regulations such as HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) or Sarbanes-Oxley (the Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act).
Consequently, security is not such a hard sell these days. "Customers are asking for it," says Jeffrey Kunzler, national account manager for IP network cameras at D-Link Systems Inc., with U.S. headquarters in Fountain Valley, Calif. "Especially in retail and smaller businesses, they want to protect their assets. Every day we get calls."
"Digital video surveillance is seeing an explosion of interest," says Charles King, president and principal analyst with research firm Pund-IT. The primary reason for that popularity is the relative ease of use with IP video. Traditional analog video, by contrast, is "more complicated to manage," says King. And users may find it harder to make an analog camera setup secure. King describes this scenario: A crime takes place at a local convenience store, where low-quality analog cameras are feeding into a couple of VCRs in the back of the store. "The thieves can break into the back and steal the tapes," he says. With an IP video setup, however, the footage is streamed over the Internet for viewing wherever the security administrator likes. Unless the thieves are somehow able to destroy the cameras preemptively, they’re caught in a video stream.
SERVER SECURITY, COURTESY OF IP
The benefits of IP security cameras in a retail setting are obvious, but increasing numbers of SMBs are using these security setups for their electronic assets as well. The most logical area of first defense is the server room. If someone enters the room or tries to access a server rack without authorization, that activity can trigger a camera that will send the appropriate feed to, say, the security chief’s BlackBerry. To determine whether the intruder is a stranger or just an employee who has stumbled into the wrong area, the security chief can zoom, pan, and tilt the camera for a better look without having to leave his or her office—or the comfort of the recliner, if he or she happens to be at home.
Many vendors make cameras that can be maneuvered remotely by multiple as well as single users. Video analytics are also becoming popular, according to Kunzler. "People-counting is a trend," he says. Analytic software might allow clients to count customers as they pass through a particular area of a showroom, for example. And surveillance cameras can bolster employee safety in areas such as lobbies or parking garages.
For channel partners, there is a certain appeal to IP video surveillance because it is a logical add-on to their offerings. As Kunzler puts it, "Most people have a network already. Just add software and cameras." So depending on the application, the learning curve is not that steep for most IT companies. Not so for traditional security providers, who have a background in analog and general security but must ramp up their technical know-how to become, in essence, IT professionals who can sell IP surveillance systems (see "Breaking into IP Security," March 2008). "In the next three years," says Kunzler, "video surveillance companies will be migrating to IP. By 2010, they all will have to migrate to it."
In all the excitement over IP security, it can be easy to overlook the less sexy but equally important aspects of physical security: locked doors, alarms, security badges, access codes. Some of the latter are actually quite sophisticated: Facial, retinal, and fingerprint recognition technologies are all options for those with the needs and the means. The physical environment—ongoing temperature and humidity, as well as more immediate dangers such as fire and flooding—is also a vital part of keeping a server room safe. And, all these security features can be incorporated over IP.
But not every SMB thinks such security is necessary, despite the fact that it’s not usually a hard sell. The secret for a channel partner, says King, is getting clients to think about security in a new way. A security risk analysis is a must for companies of any size, he notes, and channel players can assist their customers in creating such an analysis. "It involves determining where the risks are coming from and matching that up against [the] resources you have in house," says King. "What can’t you afford to lose? How well is it secured?"
Clients might also have to enlarge their definition of security. People tend to focus on hackers and industrial espionage, notes King, but in fact most break-ins are internal. "And many of those are accidental," he says. A zealous, late-working employee, for example, might decide to reset the server and inadvertently do as much damage as an intentional intruder. Most important, don’t forget the basics. "Consider server and storage cabinets with locks," says King.
In other words, after the cameras are installed and the access cards programmed, don’t forget to lock the door.
JENNY DONELAN is a writer and editor based in Peterborough, N.H.