December 2009

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The 5C’s of Security as a Service
Change, Compliance, Cost, Continuity, and Coverage; these are all basic considerations for any organization.

John Szczygiel,
Executive Vice President,
Brivo Systems

When you wake up in the morning, turn on the light, switch on the television, and start the coffee maker your thoughts are likely to be on the day ahead and not whether you have enough capacity to power all these items. You’re free of these worries because the power company has created a reliable service, shared among the whole community that scales to your individual, immediate demands. The service is metered so you pay your fair share based on what you use.

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The basic concept behind cloud computing is very similar. The Cloud is like a power plant for computing resources, ready to deliver what you need, when you need it. The Internet is like the power lines, a means to deliver the power reliably and efficiently to individual users. Many companies are creating Cloud services that you can use as you need them and pay for them as you consume them. These include sharing networks, computers, storage and also software applications.

The main accelerant for the growth of these cloud services is the Internet. The speed of the Internet, coupled with excellent reliability and security improvements, has made it the engine for innovation in the delivery of a wide range of services. Most of us use the Internet for much more than gathering information and sending email. We use it to manage our finances, coordinate calendars, purchase music, and back up our files amongst a host of other capabilities.

Software as a Service, or SaaS, is the moniker for software applications delivered via the Internet from companies such as Amazon, IBM,, Microsoft, Google and others. SaaS is contrasted with the traditional “shrink wrapped” model for application delivery where the user installs and configures the software on a machine they own and maintain. Growth trends for Saas are strong: Gartner, Inc. predicts the SaaS market will continue to grow more than 22% per yeari and that by 2011, 25% or more of new software systems will be delivered as SaaS applications.ii

So why is SaaS emerging as the dominant computing model today? The answer is the way in which the technology addresses the key needs and concerns of consumers, or what we call “the 5 C’s”. This article will explain the 5 C’s and detail how these business drivers apply to the adoption of SaaS in the physical security industry.

SaaS and Security Defined
SaaS providers create multi-tenant software hosted in the cloud with the following basic attributes:

In the physical security world, the client/server model for delivery of applications has dominated most complex applications while an early analogue for SaaS, namely central station alarm monitoring, has dominated the less complex applications. Alarm monitoring is essentially a model for efficiently delivering pooled central resources to a group of users. The infrastructure, computers, and personnel in today’s central stations are shared among a group of clients. Each client pays a small fraction of the cost they would bear if they had their own dedicated central station.

Figure 1: Basic Architecture of a SaaS Solution

Security as a Service takes the Central Station model to a new level, providing unprecedented end-user control over system functions while preserving complete segregation of data. Leveraging multi-tenant software and efficient hosting environments, SaaS for Security drives costs down and service levels up.

The 5 C’s of Security as a Service
Physical and logical security are among the top priorities for most organizations today. Having a sound risk management plan for security is as basic as having a sales and financial strategy. However, security seldom contributes to the bottom line and as such Chief Security Officers (CSOs) and Chief Information Officers (CIOs) must find ways to ensure they contribute as much as possible while consuming the fewest resources possible. To understand the potential impact of Security as a Service, we will explore the 5 C’s in depth—the five areas that are of strategic importance to all organizations.

Organizations face a constantly changing array of pressures from various sources—competitive threats, new regulations, financial uncertainty, technological shifts, and business risk all force managers to maintain a state of perpetual vigilance. Globalization and technological advancements have enabled new business models and competitors to spring up seemingly overnight. The ability of businesses to respond to these pressures becomes a source of sustainable competitive advantage.

Savvy managers are building lithe organizations with systems and infrastructure capable of responding to threats and capitalizing on opportunities with amazing speed. Today’s CEOs look to their CIOs and CSOs for answers on how to be more competitive, not simply to deliver a service.

The SaaS delivery model supports these objectives by providing capabilities that can be rapidly deployed and retracted based on fast changing needs. In the context of physical security, SaaS applications allow CSOs to provision new security capabilities as needed and where needed without investing in the technology and human resources required to support the service. Also, since the SaaS model is built around ever-improving technology supported by monthly fees, CSOs can ensure access to the latest features without every worrying about upgrade patches and hardware limitations.

Corporate governance, risk management, and compliance with policies and regulations are in sharp focus for most organizations. It’s not enough to express intent to follow regulations and policies, organizations must measure and transparently report on how completely they are being followed. Efforts to ensure consistent experiences for customers and to wring efficiencies from standardization are often competing with individual workers whose sense of privilege or creativity conflicts with the corporate standard. Getting it wrong in this area can have devastating consequences; hence, many organizations invest huge amounts of resources in auditing and assurance services to ensure compliance with standards and to evaluate controls.

In the context of physical security, compliance failures can result in data breeches, exposure to financial losses, denial of services, and bodily injury to employees and visitors. The use of traditional physical security client/server architecture exposes company assets and personal information to constant threats. A typical corporate installation may include dozens of PCs, each with access to security controls and sensitive personal information. Providing any assurance of how access to these resources is managed and what standards are being followed is a daunting task.

SaaS architecture greatly simplifies enforcement of compliance polices and audits by providing centralized capabilities to establish standards as well as tools to track and report on compliance. Since a SaaS solution database is centralized, the cost for performing compliance audits is significantly reduced. Many SaaS providers are also able to provide evidence of internal controls certified by independent auditors, thus eliminating the need for a subscriber to incur these costs.

The survival of every organization hinges on its ability to deliver value for its customers, and it’s impossible to deliver high levels of value without addressing your organization’s costs. Referring back to the power example, what would it cost each of us to install and maintain a personal power plant? While it seems obvious that a personal power plant doesn’t make sense, most physical security applications are delivered exactly in this way. Software and hardware is purchased with sufficient capacity to handle present and some portion of future needs. The equipment is installed, powered, and maintained with internal resources. Often, excess resources exist in the host computers and within each machine that is operating the client software. When you add up the total cost of ownership, you will most likely be very surprised.

The SaaS-based Security as a Service model provides an excellent alternative to the traditional options, thus allowing organizations to focus on their core business. SaaS delivers outstanding economic value for the following reasons:

  1. All users share and benefit from a common computing infrastructure.

  2. The cost model is scalable with users only paying for what they actually use.

  3. Consumers of an application are free of all “back-end” management and maintenance expenses.

  4. Up-front capital expenditures are replaced with flat, subscription-based operational expenses.

Figure 2: SaaS Cost Advantage over Server-Based Systems

Beyond the excessive capital outlays for traditional options, recent studies have established that the largest portion of application and server ownership costs actually exist in ongoing operational expenses, maintenance, and support agreements. This is particularly true of computer systems that provide infrastructure services like security, because they must be held to a higher standard of availability and performance than ordinary office equipment. In one representative study, the authors conclude that only 15% of the lifetime cost of server ownership is captured by the initial purchase price, which means that $1,000 server can actually cost over $6,600.iii

In the case of physical security, our study finds that for a typical branch office or managed property scenario, the SaaS model for security management offers significant operational and financial savings due to both upfront cost reductions and the economies of scale of hosted application services. This study found that a Security as a Service solution enjoyed an advantage of nearly $26,000 (or 76%) over the server-based solution.

contemporary Continuity
Our collective experiences with events such as 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and a host of other disasters and outages have brought into clear focus the need for redundancy and resiliency in our systems. It’s not enough to ask how many back-ups exist but also how fast can we resume operations if everything goes wrong?

Organizations routinely spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on hot-standby computers, back-up power sources, and disaster recovery locations for their physical security platforms. These measures are not only expensive; they are often reliant on internal computer networks that are likely to be challenged by any form of massive disaster. While security is certainly a high priority, if an organization’s core revenue generating capabilities are down, what will be addressed first?

Fortunately, the SaaS model provides numerous answers for these types of challenges. Multi-tenant SaaS services are normally hosted in highly reliable data centers with built-in redundancy. The best providers also employ separate disaster recovery centers to restore full operations if the primary center is disabled. Redundancy in the communication path is built into this model due to the Internet’s capability to send information via a large number of routes. Even if broadband service is down, it’s possible to establish the same communication paths via cellular cards and cellular equipped access panels. Since no special computers or software are required to operate a SaaS-based physical security application, any computer connected to the Internet can be placed into service during an emergency. The redundancy and disaster recovery capabilities of the SaaS model are even more remarkable when you consider that it’s all part of the basic service.

Organizations often find the best way to accelerate profitable growth is through geographic expansion. Expansion comes with significant challenges, risks, and expenses. Solutions that provide good results in one location or at a small campus can turn troublesome when multiplied for many geographically-dispersed sites. Typically, such installations expose the vulnerabilities, complexities, and hidden expenses of traditional client/server solutions.

Security as a Service solutions provide very clear benefits for organizations with geographically dispersed sites. The low initial costs and wide scalability of SaaS solutions give organizations access to world-class technologies with an economic model that promotes expansion rather than restricting it. Securely using the public Internet as a communication medium greatly simplifies the deployment of remote sites for IT Departments. Best yet, the centrally-hosted SaaS model provides all the central oversight and management that is needed in well run organizations without requiring costly investments in dedicated infrastructure.

A SaaS-based security platform gives you the power to drop an access control point anywhere in world and have it communicating, configured, and controlling your facility in a matter of hours, and with complete synchronization to your master database and with total audit capability from wherever you happen to be. With the complexity of local software and hardware configurations removed from the equation, installers with even modest training can successfully implement a SaaS-based physical access control solution.

Change, Compliance, Cost, Continuity, and Coverage; these are all basic considerations for any organization. For anyone challenged with evaluating and implementing technical solutions these factors provide a useful lens through which to view available options. With the past as our guide it is clear that the future will demand more flexibility, reach, and capacity more quickly and at lower costs. The Internet has already changed the way we live, learn and communicate with each other. It is now fundamentally changing the nature of software and how we interact with it. We are moving from static applications purchased in boxes to living cyber platforms shared with thousands of users, adopted as needed, and discarded if not valued.

SaaS changes our relationship with software by allowing us to focus on what it does for us rather than the infrastructure required to make it work. This change allows business to invest more in their people and the technology that allows them to differentiate themselves from their competition and less on non-strategic functions.

SaaS also changes our relationships with software providers by creating a mutually-dependant environment in which the service seller is fully committed to the customer’s outcomes. A customer simply will not continue to pay for a solution that is not providing value to their organization. The SaaS model creates a vendor-vested relationship from the start and places the consumer in a very powerful position. Organizations best served by rapid access to state of the art technology, delivered with minimal internal resource requirements, and tremendous scalability and predictable costs over time should consider a SaaS-based option for physical security.


[i] Scheier, Robert L. August 20, 2007. “Your Data's Less Safe Today than Two Years Ago,” InfoWorld, (January 4, 2008).
“Gartner: SaaS Market Heats Up.” September 28, 2006 ebizq, (January 20, 2008).
[iii] “Total Cost of Ownership Reduction with VMware,” (March 10, 2008).
[iv] Interested readers are referred to the full study, which can be found at:


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