Cloud-based security vs. on-premise security solutions

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With many organizations currently reevaluating their spaces, budgets and work policies, security continues to play a vital role in every industry. Security systems are a big investment for any business, and when choosing a security system, most are familiar with the traditional security technology. Many opt for the traditional security system for its robustness. However, the rise in popularity of cloud-based security solutions and their effortless management have earned cloud-based systems a significant place in the security field. According to Gartner, 85% of enterprises are planning to adopt a cloud-first principle by 2025. Therefore, understanding the key differences between on-premise and cloud security will help businesses decide which will improve their security posture, future-proof their spaces, and ultimately fits their unique needs.  

Cloud vs. on-premise security: What is the difference?

When choosing a commercial security system, businesses are usually weighing between two options: cloud-based security vs. on-premise security. Traditionally, legacy providers only offered an on-premise option. However, with the increasing popularity of Software as a Service (SaaS) and cloud computing, many businesses are now opting for security systems that take advantage of this new technology. While many access control companies offer similar features, there are some key differences between on-premise access control and a cloud–based system. Which access control system is right for your business will depend on your preferences. 

On-premise systems

As the name suggests, an on-prem security technology requires a computer server onsite to run the access control software. In addition to the hardware (such as control boards and door readers), a company purchases a license that allows them to run the necessary software on their own local servers. With an on-premise security technology, the company is responsible for managing their own servers.

Cloud-based systems

Cloud-based security technology runs on a system of remote servers over the internet, meaning you don’t need a dedicated server specialist to maintain them – it’s taken care of for you. This also eliminates the need for a local server at each location. The cloud managed service provider is usually available as a SaaS (security as a service) model with a monthly or annual subscription. The subscription fee covers services like: 24-hour troubleshooting, monitoring and supervision of network servers, cloud storage for all data, information security and encryption updates, and system optimization like performance checks and backup recovery.

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Leader in cloud-based door access security

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  • Manage multiple sites from a single user-friendly interface

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  • Enhance security and uptime with automatic system updates

  • Easy integration with third party systems on an open platform

Cost analysis of cloud-based security vs. on-premise physical security

There are many different factors that determine how much a security system costs, including the hardware purchase price, installation costs, software fees, and personnel requirements to manage the system. To determine the key difference in cost between on-prem vs. cloud security solutions, look at the initial cost of setting up the system compared to the return on investment over time.

With on-premise security solutions, the up-front fees are usually less expensive, consisting of a one-time licensing fee for each local server. If you have multiple locations or sites to secure, each one will require its own license fee and computer server to run the security software. While on-prem security solutions may seem less expensive since there is no monthly subscription fee, there are some long-term costs to factor into the budget as well. Onsite servers will need regular maintenance, as well as in-person upgrades to install new software patches or features. These can become costly, especially for large enterprises that will need to pay for separate service fees for every location. Because each location needs its own server, most on-prem security systems require additional IT personnel to manage the local security platform, which also means spending more to train new employees. Additionally, each new software upgrade puts more demand on local hardware, and could potentially decrease system performance over time. 

The cost of cloud-based security solutions depends on the subscription you choose. There are still initial installation and setup fees for a cloud system, as well as the monthly or annual subscription fee. Compared to an on-premise system, however, the long-term ROI is often higher. Because server maintenance, software upgrades, and licensing are all built into the recurring subscription fee, there are fewer surprise costs down the road. Additionally, because cloud security solutions have remote access for the entire system, all locations can be managed from a single location, lowering administrative and personnel costs. A third-party cloud management provider lets you bypass the hiring process and streamline staffing requirements to save your business a lot of money.

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Benefits of on-premise security systems

Many organizations prefer the on-premise options from legacy access control providers. Companies often choose the onsite option when they want full control over every aspect of the system. With all hardware and software installed locally, the company can fully customize the system to fit their needs. On-premises systems are often the security system of choice for organizations that have strict security requirements, such as financial institutions.

Full system control—Because the servers live onsite, on-premise security technology gives businesses full control over their security. On-prem systems can normally accommodate system customizations once the license is installed. In the event of an internet or service outage, most on-prem systems are connected to local backup power to ensure they still function properly. 

Local data storage—A key benefit for many businesses is that all data is stored locally on the on-premise server. The business controls its own data storage and security, without any third-party interference, meaning less data leaves the company system. However, businesses with on-premise security solutions should perform regular backups to ensure there’s no data loss in case of an outage or system failure.

Maximum uptime—A cloud-based system relies solely on an internet connection, and interruptions in connection could cause loss of access to cloud data and possible security breaches. On-prem data remains on-location and does not require an internet connection for access. Data is secure and always accessible, leading to increased productivity and efficiency.

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Disadvantages of on-premise security solutions

There are also a few drawbacks of on-prem security solutions worth considering before choosing this option. While on-prem systems offer greater control over the security system, they are usually less flexible, and require a lot of dedicated physical space that must be temperature controlled with a robust HVAC system. These requirements are often cost-prohibitive for smaller office spaces, or organizations that may want to retain property value for lease turnover.

Compromised security—On-premise security has been the traditional method for many years; hackers are already well-acquainted with the decades-old technology used in these legacy systems. Because each location is in charge of its own security, there’s more opportunity for vulnerabilities. Additionally, each server must be individually updated to the latest security software every time there’s a patch or upgrade.

Onsite management and maintenance—On-premise systems don’t have the benefit of remote access. All configurations, including setting permissions and issuing or revoking credentials, has to be done onsite. Any time there’s a problem with the hardware, or you need to update your system, you’ll have to roll up a truck and be there to let the service staff into the building. 

Lacks scalability—On-premise systems are not a great option for businesses that need to scale their access control up or back. Every additional location will require a new license, new hardware, new setup, and new dedicated IT team, with limited options for connecting disparate systems. Data also has to be manually synced with on-prem systems, which makes implementation a time-consuming process.

Limited flexibility—Most legacy hardware products will only support a limited number of third-party integrations, and only allow certain types of credentials. Legacy on-prem systems cannot accommodate as many automations with IoT devices and applications, as they don’t run on truly open platforms. This makes them less future-proof, requiring expensive upgrades and more frequent replacement to keep up with the latest technology.

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Benefits of cloud-based security solutions

A cloud-based solution offers many benefits as a component of an integrated security system. In comparison with on-prem systems, running access control software in the cloud offers greater flexibility thanks to web-based management platforms and open API architecture. Plus, cloud-based systems are a great space saving option for organizations that don’t want to dedicate square footage to a server room. Cloud-based systems are also generally easier and less expensive to maintain, with much of the backend management handled by the vendor that hosts the server.

Remote management—One of the advantages of a cloud-based security technology is the ability to make changes remotely. All locations are configured and managed from a cloud-accessed dashboard, available 24/7 from anywhere in the world. Some access control providers like Openpath also have a remote unlock feature, so admins can open the door for people without having to be onsite.

Increased ROI—Do more with less investment. Less hardware makes cloud security solutions more cost effective for both small businesses and multi-site enterprises. Most cloud-based access control systems run on an open platform, which enables integration with third-party systems and platforms. These integrations create the ability to automate processes across the enterprise, helping organizations adapt to evolving needs with more flexibility.

Enterprise scalability—The cloud is an excellent tool in successfully scaling business operations. Thanks to the web-based management system, admins can easily add new locations and doors to the network in just a few clicks. Cloud access control is also a great way for multi-location enterprises to centralize their IT and security management teams, reducing administrative burden and costs.

Future-proof technology—Cloud management is key to future-proofing a security system, meaning the technology will never be obsolete. Many companies struggle with outdated systems because a complete redesign is too expensive. They also have trouble keeping their IT staff trained and up-to-date on the latest security technologies. A cloud managed service provider will automatically install system upgrades, so the networks and application stacks never fall behind the times.

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Disadvantages of a cloud-based security technology

As with any new technology, a system that runs in the cloud may not be right for every organization. For example, businesses with specific compliance and high-level security requirements, such as law enforcement facilities, will need to ensure a cloud-based provider can meet those needs. Another consideration is that organizations will need to ensure all users follow best practices when it comes to accessing the system remotely. Good communication with administrators is essential to maintaining the security of a cloud-based system.

Monthly or annual cost—For some organizations, the SaaS model may not be a good fit. However, subscriptions provide a clear expectation of costs, with fewer hidden fees or surprise costs. SaaS models are also based on usage, so the cost may fluctuate depending on the number of users and types of features enabled.

Limited customization options—When it comes to customized security, the options are infinite with on-premise security solutions. Cloud-based systems offer more limited choices, which may work for small businesses that do not require complex IT infrastructure. For larger organizations, customization options might be the deciding factor in choosing between on-prem and cloud-based. 

Compliance restrictions—Businesses that need to comply with government regulations, like health insurance providers and private schools, might be hard-pressed to find a cloud-based system that meets these requirements. The easy customization feature on on-prem systems are better suited for businesses that need to custom-tailor their security system according to government access control regulations.

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Is the cloud more secure than on-premise systems? 

While having all data stored on locally hosted servers may seem like the safer bet to reduce cloud security vulnerabilities, on-premise security systems are not necessarily more secure than their cloud-based counterparts. The fact remains that even on-premise solutions are subject to breaches, with insecure VPN networks and human error both contributing to many recent security incidents. 

A system that runs in the cloud is equally vulnerable to hacking without the proper cybersecurity processes in place to protect data, but there are some key benefits to cloud-managed security systems. Because cloud networks are decentralized and often monitored by a third party using automated software, it’s often easier and faster to mitigate potential threats as they occur. When your security platform can be accessed securely from anywhere, you can monitor the system, recalibrate the space, and address issues in real-time without having to be on the property. Eliminating the dependency on physical space also makes cloud-based security solutions more flexible for scaling up and back based on business needs. 

One of the key differences between on-prem vs. cloud security is the ability to sync data quickly and automatically. With new standards of privacy compliance now in place around the world, infringement could cost businesses thousands per year. Organizations can avoid those fines with a system that employs end to end encryption and addresses privacy compliance through their own internal processes, such as applying the principle of least privilege, requiring MFA, and using SSO to prevent unauthorized logins. 

It’s impossible to anticipate and protect against every single hack, whether your system is on-premise or in the cloud. The most important factor in determining which technology to choose is how the provider monitors, tests, and protects against the ever-evolving threats. In this regard, cloud-based security systems tend to give businesses the edge in adapting to future access control trends, as the dialed-in communication and automation across devices and sites reduces reaction times, and makes it easier to roll out system upgrades to protect against the latest vulnerabilities.

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Which security system works best for your business?

There are a few points to consider when deciding between cloud vs. on-premise security. The cloud-based security technology is ideal for those who want the freedom and ease in integrating with other platforms. And with new projects, or ones that are undergoing a complete rip-and-replace of commercial door locks, the cloud-based system’s scalability and future-proof technology are appealing in their promise of longevity. The additional features, such as remote management, also make the cloud-based system a more flexible solution for businesses looking to streamline their security procedures. 

On the other hand, the on-prem security technology wins in compliance with government regulations. This technology is well suited for organizations that are required to follow the government’s strict security requirements like big tech companies, academic institutions, and insurance providers, as it is easier to customize an in-house system to meet these requirements. Examples of on-prem security systems that meet these regulations are SIS, Tevora, Rimstorm, and Ntiva.

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Choosing your security system 

There’s a lot to unpack when choosing between cloud vs. on-premise security. To determine which is the right type of access control security for your organization, first consider what’s most important for your security posture. If you’re looking for a system that prioritizes storing data locally, without using a third-party provider, an on-premise system is likely a better fit. However, if you want flexibility and the ability to integrate with other building systems, a cloud-based security solution like Openpath is the way to go. 

If you’re still deciding between on-prem vs. cloud security solutions, we might be able to help you choose which one is right for your business. Contact the team of experts at Openpath and let us help you with your questions today. 

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