Cloud-Based Security Cameras: Features to Consider, Benefits, and More

August 6, 2021

cloud based security cameras

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Key Takeaways

Cloud-based security camera systems have the same reliable features as traditional video surveillance coupled with the convenience of cloud computing. Learn more about how cloud-based security cameras work and why they’re a preferred option for IT teams.

As cloud technology has become more prevalent across all industries and business types, security cameras have also followed suit, with more options becoming cloud-based. Cloud home security systems have already been widely adopted by consumers who use Nest cams to monitor their property and Ring cameras to replace traditional doorbells. Businesses have been slower to adopt cloud technology, but adoption rates continue to climb as costs and bandwidth limitations decrease. However, instead of adopting solutions designed for home use, businesses need to consider enterprise-grade technologies for security, scalability, and to be bandwidth conscious.

This guide will give you an overview of cloud-based security cameras, discuss features to look for, and summarize the benefits of cloud-based security camera technology.

What are cloud-based security cameras?

Generally, security camera systems need three things to operate: 

  1. Cameras

  2. A place where video footage is stored 

  3. A connection that links all the cameras together 

Where things differ are the kinds of cameras used, how footage is stored, and the different kinds of connections between cameras and recorders, which provide different storage methods.

Cloud-based systems record and store footage in cloud storage using an internet connection. Traditional camera systems store their video data on a physical hard drive using wired connections. Instead of a physical device, cloud cameras plug into an edge gateway device or bridge, reducing bandwidth. Cloud-based security camera systems have the same benefits as other cloud services, such as a managed infrastructure for IT teams, easy customization and integrations, regular firmware updates, and remote access from anywhere.

Before we dig into the benefits of cloud-based security camera systems, let’s discuss how cloud-based systems are different from non-cloud systems. 

Digital video recorders (DVRs)

Before the cloud, there were digital video recorders (DVRs). DVRs are recording devices that connect to analog cameras. While still used today for some security systems like CCTV networks, they’re considered outdated technology. DVRs don’t support remote viewing and have limited storage capacity. One of the largest drawbacks to DVR systems is the cameras they’re paired with. Analog cameras need two cable connections: one for power and one for data. This limits where businesses can place cameras, making the system less flexible. Additionally, these types of cameras are incapable of capturing high-definition (HD) footage. 

Network video recorders (NVRs)

Next were traditional NVR systems, which were a step up from DVRs. An NVR records and stores video footage on a hard disk, a mass storage device, or cloud storage. They use digital surveillance cameras, also called internet protocol (IP) cameras. Whereas analog cameras use two cables to connect with the DVR, a popular type of IP camera known as a Power over Ethernet (PoE) camera only needs a single Ethernet cord to receive power and transmit data to the NVR. 

While traditional NVR systems have more advanced cameras and networking functionality than DVR systems, they still have some drawbacks. 

  • IT maintenance: Traditional NVRs still require  IT maintenance. IT will need to update software for the NVR and any issues with cameras. 

  • Difficulty of remote access: Traditional (or “on-premise”) NVRs typically require someone to be logged into the network (either onsite or through VPN) to access the camera feeds, making remote access to footage difficult.

  • Storage capacity: Both traditional NVR and DVR storage devices are limited by local storage. The capacity you purchase is what you’re limited to unless you pay for costly upgrades.

Cloud-based NVRs

By contrast, cloud-based NVRs have many of the same features as traditional NVRs but leverage cloud technology to give users better access and more options. For instance:

  • Web access: A cloud-based security camera system like Samsara Site Visibility gives you remote access to footage without a VPN. You can simply log into a cloud-based dashboard via a web browser or mobile app, and live video (as well as historical footage) is available for viewing. 

  • Cloud storage: Instead of a hard drive that could fill up or fail, video storage is all in the cloud, which you can easily expand. With a cloud-based system, you can have peace of mind that your footage is secure because you control access, camera, and recording settings all in one place. 

  • End-to-end management: IT gets a break and only has to manage cameras. With a cloud-based system, the cloud provider manages cloud NVRs, gateways, and all software involved.

But what about wireless camera options like home security cameras? Generally, wireless cameras that transmit data to the cloud directly via WiFi are not recommended for industrial business operations. This is because wired connections are more reliable than wireless connections. With a wired system, you don’t need to worry about a signal fading, dropping the feed, or a microSD card running out of space. Wireless security cameras often refer to the connection to the cloud being wireless, not the connection to the camera, which will still use an Ethernet cable.

What features should you look for in a cloud-based security camera system?

There are many cloud-based security camera systems on the market at a range of price points, so review the hardware specifications and determine what best suits your business needs. What’s critical during your evaluation of a video surveillance system is the features and functionality of the advanced video management software (VMS). 

Advanced video management system (VMS) features

An advanced VMS offers features powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and intelligent search functionality. Advanced features are what help you extract the most value from your camera system. Not every traditional NVR or cloud-based NVR provider offers an intelligent VMS. Look for:

  • Customizable real-time alerts: Respond to incidents faster. Set up motion alerts and other alerts based on people or inactivity.

  • Artificial intelligence (AI) search tools: AI makes it possible to automatically identify relevant activities in a camera stream through motion detection, people detection, clothing detection, and more. No more searching through video recordings for hours to find a specific moment. Search footage by date, time, people detected, and more.

  • Remote access: There’s no need to be on-site to view footage and investigate issues. Check camera streams from home, on the go, or in a different region.

  • iOS and Android apps: Stay connected using mobile apps. Check if your provider has apps for iOS and Android mobile devices.

  • Ability to export and share clips: Security systems allow you to monitor the security and safety of your worksite. If an incident occurs, you’ll want to be able to export and share video clips with stakeholders or authorities fast. For example, if you see that workers have failed to secure items properly on shelves, you can export a video clip or still and share it with site managers to have the issue corrected. Not all NVR or VMS providers offer this capability, so check with the provider. 

  • Ability to save footage to a cloud library: Security cameras generate lots of data, so storage can get filled quickly depending on factors like recording setting, video resolution, compression, and more. Some NVRs have settings to delete older data to free up space. However, if there are clips or footage you want to keep for an extended period, look for a provider that gives you the ability to save footage to your cloud library. Once saved to your cloud library, you’ll have indefinite access.

What are the benefits of a cloud-based security camera system?

Cloud-based NVRs offer several distinct advantages over DVRs and traditional NVRs. Three main benefits include:

1. Remote access 

Cloud-based camera systems allow for remote visibility and on-the-go access to footage. You can always view your camera streams and videos anywhere via a cloud-based dashboard, which is accessible via desktop browser or mobile app—no VPN connection required.

2. Indefinite access

No need to worry about video footage accidentally getting deleted or overwritten by storage settings. Save and store specific footage to your cloud library if you need to access it beyond 30 days.

3. Over-the-air firmware upgrades

Always have the latest and greatest technology. Cloud-based NVRs eliminate the need to maintain multiple pieces of hardware and update software. The provider does all the heavy lifting. 

How Delta Constructors gained greater visibility and increased efficiency

Delta Constructors, a full-service oil and gas provider, was frustrated with their legacy video surveillance system. It was difficult to use, inflexible, and they could only access footage from a monitor at their front desk. Delta’s Director of IT, Aaron Schilling, often spent hours going through footage and could only share findings with leadership if they were physically present. Needing a flexible, reliable platform to monitor their operations, they selected Samsara’s cloud-based Site Visibility solution to replace their legacy system.

Now, with a cloud-based NVR security camera system that allows for remote viewing, Schilling can easily and remotely monitor what’s happening across multiple sites. Using Samsara’s cloud dashboard and mobile app, he can access live views and saved footage from miles away—with just a few clicks. Delta’s teams have gained more control and visibility over their operations, using cameras to check asset inventory across sites. In the process, they’ve also added a layer of security. “With Site Visibility, I can be everywhere at one time, especially when working remotely,” said Schilling. “We can manage our equipment, fleet, and sites all from a single pane of glass. One application can view the whole company across three regions.”

What is the best cloud-based security camera system?

Samsara’s Site Visibility solution combines reliable hardware with user-friendly software, making it an ideal cloud-based security camera system for organizations of all sizes.

Site Visibility: what’s under the hood

The brain of our security camera system is the Samsara Site Gateway. The Site Gateway is a cloud NVR, which connects up to 25 third-party security cameras to our cloud dashboard. You can easily deploy this plug-and-play device in under 10 minutes.

Try Samsara’s cloud-based security camera system for free

Samsara’s Site Visibility solution is a reliable, flexible, cloud-based security camera system that captures high-quality footage. Our cloud NVR allows customers remote access to footage anytime, from anywhere. Our intelligent VMS offering brings powerful AI to any third-party IP security camera for enhanced worksite visibility. Search for specific incidents faster and spend less time monitoring footage using intelligent detections and alerting. With Samsara’s Site Visibility solution, you can:

  • Monitor all locations remotely with cloud-based technology.

  • Gain actionable insights with AI-enhanced camera streams. 

  • Use intelligent search tools to spend less time investigating incidents.

  • Integrate existing, third-party camera infrastructure.

  • Track your fleet, equipment, sites, and more via a single dashboard via Samsara’s Connected Operations Platform.

Looking to learn more about how Samsara can benefit your on-site operations? Get in touch with our team today to learn more or get a free trial.

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