IT has slowly but increasingly procured, supported and managed IP-based video camera networks since the late 1990s. Now, it's time for IT to truly master video surveillance technology -- especially as the worlds of corporate compliance, physical security, data retention and analytics converge. Here's why.

Among organizations currently using video surveillance technology, 91 percent indicate that IT manages or supports those deployments, according to a research survey by Enterprise Strategy Group. (Note: My company, Axis Communications, commissioned the survey.)

Of the final survey pool of IT professionals involved with video surveillance at mid- to enterprise-sized organizations, 47 percent claim their department is the group most responsible for setting surveillance strategy and making final infrastructure purchasing decisions. Our team was surprised at the perception IT has regarding their involvement. New responsibilities for IT typically also come with implications and unknowns.

These unfamiliar territories are quickly experienced by IT, according to further evidence within ESG’s research: Half of the top 10 challenges cited with current surveillance implementations are IT-related. Of those 10, the top three challenges most commonly faced by IT professionals involve network bandwidth, the difficulty of IT to manage growing volumes of video surveillance, and the search and retrieval of footage. IT needs to know how to navigate the storage and bandwidth requirements when managing video on the network. Let’s take a closer look at how IT can solve these issues to keep networks operating smoothly and efficiently on a constant basis

The impact on network bandwidth

Surveillance video on the corporate network gives real-time intelligence to security, operations and the C-suite when a situation is happening (or has happened) and an investigation has begun.  As such, calculating a system’s bandwidth load is a vital task, but it doesn’t have to be a daunting one. Most networks today within organizations have ample bandwidth for most applications.

Still, a high-end IP camera can consume tens of megabits of bandwidth. If you have hundreds of IP cameras on a network, it is wise to understand the potential system load. First, IT must identify bandwidth usage at various locations on the network. Command centers, workstations and telecom workspaces might each have different video bandwidth consumption and varying network requirements. Make sure all users have the video data they need (with room for expansion), and ensure all appropriate bandwidth management protocols are followed by good “network citizens” who make sure the network is properly segmented and that quality of service (QoS) is properly configured according to specific organizational needs.

Managing growing volumes of video surveillance

In larger IT departments that have IT specialists (such as storage specialists), it's a safe bet they already support network video and should care which cameras and applications are pushing content to their storage. IT must also understand storage requirements and limits, as well as process orchestration in syncing storage systems. Understanding details of camera technologies and applications helps IT influence good decisions based on bandwidth, storage and management capabilities of cameras. And if you ask the security managers how long video should be stored, you might hear 30 days, 60 days, and in some cases one year! (Be sure to check for potential compliance mandates in your vertical market.)

Search, find, retrieve

Video analytics generated through IP networks ensures that only relevant video footage is stored, depending on compliance requirements of the organization. This enables IT to search through recordings when the need arises and retrieve only the video that could potentially include the event in question, instead of sifting through countless video clips for hours on end.

Generally speaking, the physical security team is responsible for leveraging video for safety and monitoring purposes. But it is up to IT to manage the network in order to ease the search and retrieval of such footage -- especially when requests from the C-suite or law enforcement arrive.

IT experts and new use cases

Still, some pundits wonder why IT must learn video management skills -- especially when the physical security team is the application's true user.

The answer is coming into focus. IP surveillance camera technology has evolved and matured beyond safety, security and loss prevention. A new generation of IP surveillance applications -- delivering business intelligence through analytics -- has emerged. Using IP cameras and analytics, retailers can now track foot traffic and wait times at registers. And in the transportation industry, businesses can identify damage and theft of vehicles. 

Access to this type of information is transforming businesses – boosting bottom lines and delivering significant ROI of these technologies. Within a typical company, video cameras have multiple stakeholders. IT has a real opportunity to get involved in the benefits that come from enabling these actionable insights – more access, more budget, and increased support for other projects and innovation close to their department’s heart.

When physical security, loss prevention and IT collaborate, they can consolidate infrastructure costs. If they don’t collaborate, physical security departments, for example, will take a slice of the budget for their own network, cutting out IT’s opportunity to control those dollars

As a result, IT should do its best to learn all they can about IP cameras through training, trade shows, manufacturer websites and more. Here is how IT can make a difference, and leverage IP cameras to make important impacts on the organization:

Data retention

In a world in which far too much video is being recorded for anyone to monitor or search, IT can use intelligent video captured on the network to retrieve specific information at a moment’s notice. Network cameras, through their built-in and optional analytics, can decide when to send video, at what frame rate and resolution, and when to alert a specific operator for monitoring and/or response.

Integrate physical and information security

Successful IT departments will push for a collaboration between themselves, facility managers and information security teams (or CISOs). By making surveillance video another aspect of the organization’s big data, insider attacks will be much easier to investigate given the incredible amount of information and access to forensic data. As such, they will need to take into consideration the strategies required to mitigate against both cyber and physical security threats as video surveillance increasingly becomes accessible and integrated with the cloud. Starting with risk management, cyber security and other emerging executive management responsibilities, video surveillance and other physical security practices become a component of the data center and cloud strategies audit points. 

Internet of Things (IoT)

In an increasingly IoT-connected world where data can be collected and analyzed through IP video networks, it is imperative for IT to be involved in today’s IP-connected physical security infrastructure to ensure proper policies and procedures are in place. By locking down devices and applications as entry points to the network and corporate assets, IT is an invaluable resource in helping companies to process data right at the edge of the network and share actionable information across the network for various business needs.

The bottom line for IT: There is an increasing cross departmental need for network infrastructure and support for IP video and adjacent network attached devices and applications. As IP video adoption continues to accelerate, IT and surveillance teams must collaborate more than ever and recognize the importance of their evolving roles to ensure business needs are met, whether for security or business intelligence needs.

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