Considering Offering Video Hosting As A Reseller For Small To Medium Business

Was considering offering video hosting as a reseller for small to medium business any thoughts or recomendations


Michael, thanks for the question.

Video hosting, or VSaaS as the acronym it often goes by, has never really taken off. For a good overview of the issues, limitations and integrator preferences, see: VSaaS 2014 Adoption Measured.

One big distinction is whether you want the video recorded only in the cloud (like the Dropcam approach, e.g.) or if it can be stored on site but accessed via the cloud. For businesses, with more than a few cameras, recording only in the cloud is often an issue (though I am not sure how much upstream bandwidth NZ smbs have).

What is interesting you about video hosting? Making recurring revenue or customer demand for simplicyity or?

Just curious to find out who thinks whom has done the best job of this so far, and what portion of their solution makes them the best?

Bob, it's a good question but kind of a tough one.

On the hosted side (direct uploading to cloud), no one on the SMB / commercial side has done a good job (Axis AVHS and their various partners is the most notable but there's tons of smaller startups who have struggled).

The only clear 'winner' in hosted video is Dropcam but that's in the home / baby monitor / pet cam market.

On the managed video side, there's not a lot of companies focusing on this. In the QSR / retail space, Envysion seems to have carved out a niche. Eagle Eye, a startup, is the most notable company focusing in this space. March has added a managed / cloud option.

Btw, Genetec is sort of the middle, with cloud recording but an option to add it on to their VMS software / systems. Exacq and Milestone have nothing really in this space.

Your region may be different (I'm in the US) but you may find many small businesses don't have the bandwidth for more than a couple streams, particularly if using higher resolution cameras at native resolution. Dropcam has been successful because they target a market where only a couple streams will be used per ISP connection. Even Medium size businesses have limited bandwidth. Keep in mind that most internet access has asynchronous bandwidth. The customer may be paying for a 20 Mbps (download) connection but they're only getting 1.5 Mbps on the upload side, which is what video streaming offsite will be making use of.

If your customer(s) either have the bandwidth to share, purchase an additional connection, or expand their existing connection then you should be ok.

Axis AVHS seems to be the product of choice with the people I've spoken to.

Thanks for the comments everyone I was intrested from the point of view of being a small business myself dependant on sales the idea of a recurring revenue is attractive. As well here in New Zealand I'm not aware of anyone offering it and thought there my be a niche in the small business market especially now that IP is much more prevelant than before but from what the comments are so far it may be an area to sit back and wait and let someone with deeper pockets take the risk. I had seen Axis website which prompts for people who are intrested in being re sellers to contact them which is what sparked my intrest

I have had experience with this and can reccommend theat you contact Salient , Milestone, and ipConfigure. Each of these has a version of hosting available. Each has a different approach to the solution. I have had the most success with Salient with a midsized and a regional intgrator using their product, but the others may work for you as well.

When you say Milestone, what do you mean? They don't have a true hosted video offering beyond Milestone / axis one click.

Yes John that is part of it...however there are other options available if you know where to ask. They have a more solution than the simple Axis integration. John, if you want more details contact me offline and I can elaborate.

Ok, I'll contact you offline.

For the record, the other thing I have seen done is third parties hosting XProtect Corporate in a data center / cloud and offering their own home grown 'hosted video' service, which I think is a bad deal and not real hosted video for a number of reasons (starting with the fact of manual provisioning / setup of cameras connected in).

The decision for "hosting" needs to have a reason. And the specifics of the solution's implementation need to make sense in addressing that reason (whatever it may be).

When cloud based services became practical a few years ago, a lot of people jumped on the idea that video stored in the cloud could save money on disk space and enjoy better durability. Both of these are non-functional requirements, BTW (meaning, the customer doesn't get any new features/functionality because of them, they only get an indirect benefit). As John points out, the idea quickly runs into trouble due to bandwidth limitations--at least today.

If you accept that video should be stored on-site, but can enjoy some benefits from being cloud connected, then there are different benefits like easier remote accessibility, and the ability to remotely monitor and maintain systems.

I understand that in the mix of surveillance's typical way to market (via reseller and integrator channels) there's much desire for the illustrious 'recurring revenue' that those channels would love to dip into. The problem is if the benefits are not clear to the customer, they're not going to pay a monthly fee for service.

Hosted is an architecture, and as such doesn't give any value to customers in and of itself. If you want to sell hosting services, you're going to have to clearly identify and differentiate on benefits that may be aided by the architecture, but may still be indirect to your value proposition.

If anyone has a means to allow a camera to automatically connect through a customers firewall back to a "hosted" server, please share! Means being some sort of built in vpn or firmware/software app that can be preloaded with specific ports and IPs that are typically open and can allow and automatic punch through without having a tech onsite To program the router.

Yes, getting out through the customer's firewall and somehow facilitating communication from the host to the site is a key facet of a hosted service offering.

I don't know if it's the right solution, but there are things like Hamachi that might do what you're specifically asking.

I wouldn't recommend this approach because you're opening a network connection into the customer's network and exposing yourself to liability there (assuming the customer even agrees to it).

This is one of the difficulties of trying to use components designed for LAN operation (where all components are behind the same firewall) and spreading them across a wider network with firewall traversal. Since the components weren't designed to be used in this way you may find yourself opening the firewall in risky ways that defeat its purpose.

The solution is, in fact, to open an outbound connection that is kept open for bidirectional communication from the hosting services down to the site. But (in our case for example) we do it with narrowly defined, proprietary messaging protocols rather than general 'open ports' that can be used as an attack vector. This is similar to how a chat client will open a connection from behind the firewall to the chat services and keep that connection open for incoming messages. But since the messaging protocol is so narrowly defined, these clients are not seen as a security risk to the site's network.

Like Axis 1 click?
Pretty much any AVHS / Cloud partner has that function.

Correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think 1-click and AVHS are the same thing. I am no expert in Axis stuff but my understanding is 1-click is a Dynamic DNS solution. Whereas I seem to remember AVHS being more akin to the type of strategy I described in my previous reply (could be wrong about that too---I haven't looked at AVHS in a while). But I don't believe they're the same thing..

Your implication that the OP should look at AVHS is probably a good one though. I think that might be more technically sound than trying to us your own VPN unless you're doing some very one-off installation.

Steve,

1-click connect is a function of the AVHS ( Axis hosted solution)...But I hear others can accomplish the same 1-click connect type option???

You are looking for a P2P NVR. People still working on it.

Check out TUTK website for P2P. http://www.tutk.com/index.html

But (in our case for example) we do it with narrowly defined, proprietary messaging protocols rather than general 'open ports' that can be used as an attack vector.

You still have to open the firewall for a certain port number, don't you?

No. What he is describing (I think) is a manner for traversing firewalls that has been mostly attributed to Skype (though it existed before them).

A simple explanation here: http://www.h-online.com/security/features/How-Skype-Co-get-round-firewalls-747197.html

I am always 100% honest with my router.

There are few means to do this by way of cost effective start up. I believe axis AVHS and 1 click requires an initial investment in the program. And the key is this routerless configuration. If someone could write a VPN app for the cameras, hosting could start to take-off as integrators would not feel constrained to single management software, they could use there known platforms to support customers in this small business segment, would have a low start up cost, giving room to allow growth, test the market, etc etc.

Not to mention how easy it would be to give a customer a test/demo camera.

Yes there are companies that will co or private label "Hosted" solutions, if you wanted to get your feet wet with the market, but everyone I have seen is a lowsly HTMl5 or Flash viewer of the cameras, not a traditional Surveillance System.

Full disclosure - I work for Eagle Eye Networks. I've also been in the surveillance space for about 8 years (many of them before Eagle Eye) and I have seen this market mature. I'll try to stay as neutral as possible, but obviously I'm biased.

I see that there are about 4 different categories of 'cloud' video...

1) There is remote access to onsite video, which is not what you're talking about here, but a lot of people lump it into the cloud bucket.

2) There is the type of hosting you're asking about where you pay for the servers, bandwidth, software, etc and are responsible for integrating them together as well as all of the data center operations (either in house or utilizing Amazon, Rackspace, etc)

3) Service providers that run the datacenters and write the software and sell directly to end-users

4) Service providers that run the datacenters and write the software and sell through dealers/integrators

Based on what I've read - for you to build a business, you would want to stick with either #2 or #4. My personal opinion is #4 is a better approach (again I'm biased - but hear me out) because there is little to no upfront investment, experts do the job of managing the infrastructure, you're able to focus on what you do well - running your business.

If you look at other markets, #4 has emerged the clear winner (salesforce.com, dropbox.com, virtualpbx.com, etc...) Traditionally, enterprise software companies that try to pivot and move to a services based model (cloud) don't succeed as well as companies that start out focused on services (think about Netflix vs. Blockbuster.) This is a general rule, and of course there are exceptions, but generally speaking hardware companies struggle to build/sell software and software companies struggle to develop and deliver services.

If you take all of that into account, I would advise against trying to setup and run your own infrastructure. It's a lot of upfront cost, as well as ongoing maintenance. It takes a lot of customers to make that investment worthwhile. Some service providers allow you to rebrand/customize their offering so you can market it as your own. Based on the previous comments, it sounds like you're in New Zealand, I don't know of any companies that have dedicated operations there, but there may be some.

Disclosure: work with ControlByNet (small software company offering hosted video)

The Axis one-click function is completely separate from the AVHS application. The AVHS application is a very bare-bones hosting package. The one-click function (application) can be integrated into a software platform to enable it to utilize one-click. It is free, but of course you have the cost of implementing it into your system which we've done.

Bandwidth limitation, and camera-type limitation, is always a cloud issue. We have a 3-employee partner with ~$20k in MRR and most of those customers are using 640x480, 3-5fps or slightly higher/lower. They drive the installations and can use Axis at each location. It's all a tradeoff and it's the integrators job to decide/convince for the customer. How big a resolution do you need to see the lobby of a tire store? The tradeoff of megapixel is storage and time-to-view the video.

Next issue is are you only cloud, or integrating with a managed/onsite solution? That creeps in...the 4 retail stores also have a main office that needs more cameras than a hosted solution is meant to handle. Do you still remotely host the cameras, or have the cameras hosted at the main office....and then just, for safety, stream a couple key cameras offsite? There have been more than a few businesses that came because they were robbed and the DVR was stolen, the requirement was now video fully, and instantly, offsite.

So who hosts the video? Depends....as Hans mentions it takes more resources to host. But in our case a reseller may or may not want to take that on. If a reseller wants to handle the IT side, they get a license. They control the central authentication and everything along with it. If they don't want to bother with the IT side, we host for them.

All systems have limitations and aren't meant for everyone. Have to find that sweet spot and just go with it. There's no real right or wrong, just an argument on both sides of every issue!

ControlByNet, that's a good comment and I appreciate the upfront disclosure.

Here's what I struggle with:

"most of those customers are using 640x480, 3-5fps or slightly higher/lower."

This is not a very competitive offering in 2015.

So while I totally believe you that some people can generate some business, I can't imagine that this is ever going to take off in the mass market unless they really solve the bandwidth limitation / pricing issue.

Agree/disagree?

Agree. As we've discussed on here for years now, hosted video is not going to be a significant model until bandwidth increases dramatically. 640x480 is about right for 200-300kbps upload for 1 or 2 cameras. That bit rate is common in US businesses with ADSL, especially if they see network connectivity as a cost not central to their business operation.

Agree partially. Those people in the industry (all of us) see the latest and greatest. We see the ferrari's and also the hyundai's with the heated seats. The general public doesn't see that, and some don't see the need for it. We see the 3MP and up stuff as the 'must-haves' but really, how big do you need to see a 10x10 lobby? You can't view the camera in real size on any usable monitor, and the recordings are huge so you sit and wait for loading. There's some give and take. Yes they look great, agree there entirely.

We have a relationship with a large financial software company (processor) that did their own research and decided there was no benefit, to them, that outweighed the other resource issues for them to record video over 640x480 and 6fps. Outside of a truck flying through the lobby they didn't want to waste the bandwidth (recorded cross-site) or storage, nor the time to review videos. It certainly isn't that way for many but it was the right decision for them.

The camera guys want to sell hardware and the dvr guys want to sell hardware. And most integrators still want to sell hardware and make a huge markup. Axis did a horrible job with the AVHS system (really, include VHS in the name???...clearly from Sweden), and there really hasn't been anyone else with power pushing it. If a camera manufacturer creates it, then you're tied to that camera...which eliminates the market for integrators that prefer other cameras. Eagle Eye has all the money but they're an appliance, which works great but still requires hand-holding. They will likely succeed for the same reasons as Dropcam, money. It's still a pretty weird market. Dropcam loaded up in residential and clearly had mass market appeal, so yes it can happen. They didn't get sold because of great marketing only, they had TONS of customers ($555 million??..is that mass market I don't know). So it can work but who has the cash in the business market to make it? Maybe nobody willing to take the chance.

I guess the answer is nobody knows. Clearly Dropcam appealed to mass market and suceeded (yes, spent a ton in doing so), so there's no valid argument that the market doesn't exist. I know of a 100 types of businesses using hosted/cloud video. But will it ever enter the mass business environment in quantity, I don't know.

Most medium to large CCTV users have far too many cameras ideally recorded in HD to viably store all video data to the cloud. Many are happy to store locally for 14 to 30 days but want important video data archived longer off site for possible future reference. The trick is to minimise what falls into the category of "important video data" and how to recognise it. CCTV systems integrated to POS and set up to recognise user defined exceptions such as NO SALES and VOIDS etc can be viable for auto archiving the POS exceptions only from a VMS to the cloud. I'm currently working on a project to test and better understand the viability of the solution and limitations.

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