4 Ways You Win with an Open, Single-Vendor Security Solution
Building your customers’ security solutions used to be a binary choice. In general, if your clients had more complex needs and wanted a best-of-breed solution, you went in an open-platform, multi-vendor direction. If their needs were simpler or you wanted an easier option to service, you opted for a proprietary, single-vendor solution. The problem with the latter was that it locked you and your customer into a system that limited their growth potential. If they wanted to upgrade to more advanced cameras or a more sophisticated video management system or add access control technology and other devices that weren’t in the vendor’s portfolio your only option was to rip-and-replace their system.
Today there’s a third option – the open-platform, single-vendor solution. As a non-proprietary solution it provides users with the best elements of both previous options. You and your customers get the simplicity you need today without being locked in. You keep the ability to scale their initial investment by integrating it with other vendors’ open-platform devices and software as their needs become more complex.
To understand the full scope of advantages that a single vendor security solution can deliver, let’s delve into four specific areas:
- Design and purchase
- Installation, configuration, and management
- Advantages of a single-vendor partnership
#1 QUICK AND EASY DESIGN AND PURCHASE
We often talk about system simplicity or complexity. How does choosing an open, single-vendor solution simplify designing and costing out a customer’s system?
In a traditional mix-and-match solution, it’s not just figuring out which vendors’ devices and software are best suited for your customer’s application, but whether those devices and software are compatible with each other and whether you’ll be able to access all the features of those products. At the end of the day, systems integrators don’t just need a bunch of components. They need solutions where everything works well together.
If you go with a single-vendor solution, you’re choosing components from a portfolio that’s designed to work together seamlessly and deliver full functionality. Furthermore, when the vendor issues firmware and software upgrades, you don’t have to worry about losing connectivity and compatibility because they’ve already done all the testing before their release.
Some vendors with end to end solutions even provide tools to help you quickly design the system, select the right components, calculate the costs, plan camera placements, and create detailed instructions for your installers.
In a multi-vendor solution you often deal with different pricing structures and licensing agreements. How does that differ with a single-vendor solution?
If you’re designing a mix-and-match system, one software vendor may be charging you per camera stream while another charges you per IP address. It can be hard to track how many licenses you need, when they expire or need to be renewed, and whether you’ll be charged an upgrade fee every year or two. When you work with a single vendor, all those details are coordinated with one source – how many licenses you’ll need, how frequently they’ll need to be updated, or whether the devices purchased come with one-time licensing fees that include upgrades.
#2 SIMPLE INSTALLATION, CONFIGURATION AND MANAGEMENT
While it’s clear that it’s beneficial to have a single point of contact at the front end of the project, what other advantages can this bring to an integrator across a project’s lifecycle?
Reducing labor costs is a big one. If the installer has to take more time on site than originally projected, an integrator starts to lose money. With a single vendor solution, you have products you know have been designed and pre-tested to work well together, which shortens the initial setup time.
The next labor hurdle is configuration time. To help streamline the workflow, some vendors offer a suite of integrator tools that allow installers to automatically configure the cameras directly from the design software instead of configuring each camera manually, which significantly reduces opportunities for mistakes. Integrators can also use these tools to verify, validate, and test the installation before going live, as well as generate an audit trail to prove that the installed system matches what the customer ordered.
Once a security solution goes live managing all the moving part can be a real challenge. How can implementing a single-vendor solution make the process less stressful?
Managing a multi-vendor system, often means jumping from one system interface to another. With a single-vendor solution it’s easy to give customers a holistic overview of their installation site and complete control over all their devices from a single pane of glass. This greatly simplifies identifying devices on the network and technology outages as well as managing system updates, health monitoring and other ongoing maintenance activity.
And remember, we’re talking open, single-vendor solutions which allow users to bring in data from third-party devices, like transactions from Point of Sale (POS) terminals. Being open also allows users to push video out to other third-party systems like patient monitoring.
One thing we haven’t talked about yet is cybersecurity. Are there significant differences between cybersecurity in a multi-vendor solution and a single vendor one?
The biggest differences are consistency and speed. When it comes to consistency, in a multi-vendor solution it’s difficult to ascertain whether all the vendors are maintaining the same high level of cybersecurity. Furthermore, incomplete or untested cybersecurity measures in one vendor’s products could compromise the security of another vendor’s technology. This is why it is so important to select vendors who follow rigorous cybersecurity standards. That said, with a single-vendor solution, it’s easier to apply relevant cybersecurity updates across the entire solution, whether it’s cyber policies, procedures, and practices; or encrypting the entire data stream from the point of capture through transit and storage.
When there are multiple vendors involved in the solution, it’s a lot harder to coordinate a rapid response to the latest cyber threat much less ensure that the latest cyber patches won’t break links between components. On the other hand, interoperability and system component validation are at the core of a single-vendor system. So updates can be rolled out more quickly. In some multi-vendor solutions, vendors have to offer two tracks of firmware or software updates: one focused on interoperability and one emphasizing performance, stability, and security improvements. Single-vendor solutions, however, can always prioritize cybersecurity improvements since the vendor just has to test patches against their own platform before release, rather than waiting on other technology partners to check for interoperability issues.
#3 ONE POINT OF CONTACT FOR ALL SUPPORT
In a multi-vendor system, when a problem arises, trying to get to its root cause can easily devolve into a vicious cycle of finger pointing and frustration. Is the situation significantly different when there’s only one vendor in the mix?
First off, in a single-vendor solution, the people who sold you the technology are often right next to the people who support it in the off chance something goes wrong. In a multi-vendor solution it’s more difficult to determine where the problem lies and whose products are at fault because there are so many potential points of failure and opportunities for integrations to break. In a single-vendor solution there’s only one company to hold accountable. It eliminates all the guesswork, all the running around in circles, and the endless phone calls.
The next obvious question you might ask is whether there’s a downside to putting all your eggs in one basket.
Absolutely. That’s why it’s so important for integrators to do their due diligence when considering a potential vendor. Look for a vendor with a broad portfolio of support services. Do those services cover the entire project cycle from design through implementation and maintenance? Can you verify the vendor’s claims about product mean time between failure? How robust is their support team? If it’s one person sitting at a help desk it may take a long time before your case rises to the top of the pile.
Another important thing to check is product warranty. How long is the warranty? Some vendors only offer two- or three-year warranties; others extend it to five years. Also look at their replacement policy for products that fail. The point is, every vendor looks great on paper, but what’s their actual track record on delivering on their promises?
Lastly, if you’re going the single-vendor route, make sure they offer an open platform and there is still an opportunity for integration with third-party devices if the need arises in the future. Your customer might be satisfied with the single-vendor solutions now, but if their needs evolve or change direction, you want options. Look for a vendor who offers an open API, has built their technology around interoperability standards, like ONVIF, and who can offer other custom integration services as needed.
#4 A TRUE PARTNERSHIP THAT PROMOTES MUTUAL SUCCESS
Working with a single vendor makes it easier for an integrator to forge a more symbiotic relationship with their technology provider. Does this have any bearing on an integrator’s long-term success in the security arena?
When a systems integrator decides to go with a single-vendor solution, the close connection that develops between the two companies is one that would be much more difficult to sustain in a multi-vendor environment. When you’re only dealing with one vendor, you can invest the time to learn about their business on a deeper level and they get to know yours. Rather than simply acquiring a surface level understanding of multiple vendors’ products your team can focus on developing expertise in a single portfolio. And that expertise increases your company’s value to the end user because you can help them better realize the full potential of their solution. To support that effort, vendors offer a wealth of channel partner programs to enhance integrator proficiency in their products and applications.
With all the single vendor solutions on the market, how can you be sure you’re hitching your success to the right one?
It all comes down to vision, value, and support. You want to partner with a vendor who has a clear roadmap for the future, one that includes ongoing product development and a long-term commitment to the security industry. Shared values are also key to the relationship. Do the potential partner’s views align with yours on issues you care about – like openness, business ethics, social responsibility, and sustainability? For instance, we hear stories of manufacturers that run their business on a channel sales model, yet sometimes sell product directly to the end customer, cutting their integrators out of the revenue stream. So, the relationship becomes competitive rather than collaborative.
This brings us to the topic of support. Reliable vendor support is critical to maintaining a successful business operation. Support, however, isn’t just about being able to call the company when something goes wrong. It’s about having a partner who supports you through the entire project lifecycle – from concept to installation and beyond. It’s about having a partner who shares their roadmap for new product development and can advise you on upselling opportunities to address evolving customer needs – whether it be access control, network audio, analytics, or other technology. Collaboration can be more focused, too. Integrators can share insights into how end users are really employing the products, suggest modifications and even influence the direction of future product development – a win-win for everyone.
THE IMPORTANCE OF WEIGHING ALL YOUR OPTIONS
Security solutions come in all shapes and sizes. Some are extremely complex. Some are bare bones. Some are proprietary. Others are based on open standards. Which direction you choose will depend on what best matches your customer’s needs.
An open, single-vendor security solution is a truly cost-effective option because you can build on your customer’s initial investment. You can create a system that satisfies their simple needs today without limiting their – and your – potential to grow in the future.
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