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Does Your Surveillance System Own You?

By Evan Williams on Jun 1, 2021 10:16:00 AM

VSaaS with a major twist


Ever buy an item knowing that you would not own it? 

That opportunity is now available from a handful of surveillance providers. Here’s how it works.

They allow you to pay for their IP security cameras to be used with their cloud-based system. Their version of this latest surveillance system works only with their brand of cameras--advantageous for them, expensive for you if you already have an existing business security system. 

When you buy their cameras, you also purchase a “cloud license” fee for each camera. This can be an annual fee, or you may purchase multiple years. The catch is that you must continue to pay that annual license fee for each camera for as long as you intend to use their security service. Failure to pay results in total operational failure of your cameras. 

They’re dead. Useless. Video capture and feed cease completely. 

Held hostage by your service provider


VSaaS (Video Surveillance as a Service) has been around for some time, though not in this configuration. Think ADT, Vivint, SimpliSafe, as examples of home security service providers.

With Vivint, for example, you purchase their equipment and pay a monthly fee for their monitoring service. You’re charged based on the extent of services you desire.

On the commercial front, cloud-based business security systems are popping up daily, each with a somewhat standard VSaaS package offering. However, some security providers are presenting a notably altered version of VSaaS, namely Meraki, Rhombus, and Verkada, as prime examples.  

The plans which they put forth noticeably favor the provider rather than the client. 

Those who purchase these security camera systems have no way of knowing what price increase may be coming to maintain continued service. The fee setting is in the hands of the providers. And as mentioned earlier, noncompliance with annual licensing fees means no security system.

Additionally, the ability to stream video from your surveillance cameras to any other system is restricted. And forget any attempt to add cameras from other providers. They cannot be viewed in the same interface. It’s a case of forced brand loyalty.

Is it worth the leap?


One from this group, Verkada, includes with their cloud license fee, thirty days worth of cloud storage backup. What’s being stored are video thumbnails from Micro SD Card recordings within the IP security cameras. Verkada fails to mention that the exchange from card to the cloud typically results in blurry video images that are often unusable.

Those Micro SD cards are not designed for the rigors of constant usage. The original intent when introducing them to surveillance camera systems was for emergency recording/backup. By forcing them to work regularly the life expectancy is somewhere between six to nine months for a card. Then a replacement is required. That’s a labor-intensive project for big businesses.

The second major problem is that many security scenarios require the storage of continuous video surveillance footage. Legally, some operations and facilities have to archive ninety days or more of continuous video footage. That’s 24/7 per month. Even typical business practice for liability concerns is to maintain thirty days of archived footage.

Cloud storage ain’t cheap! That huge amount of video footage is a gigantic monthly expense that’s not included in the Verkada, Meraki, or Rhombus payment plans. Ouch! 

Since these latest systems are being touted as more cyber safe than current industry standards, their ad campaigns have trashed the use of NVRs. “Old school,” and other insults they hurl. Therefore, without an NVR, their new cloud-based storage design offers no other way to store data other than the small amount each camera can hold. Which, ironically, is a high-security risk. 

Do you really want your precious surveillance video stored out in the open where the camera can be yanked from the mount or smashed with a baseball bat?

Show me the money!


Evidently, it was never about security. This shift in VSaaS by a few industry tacticians was about company profits. The evidence of that plan came directly from the mouth of Verkada Chairman, Hans Robertson, in a videotaped meeting where he stated, “You might have bought a one-year license, but you, like literally bolted the hardware to your ceiling. So, like, you are not taking it down.”  

The mindset behind this financial planning from Robertson has been identical for both of the Silicon Valley companies he founded, Meraki and Verkada. 

Aside from the grip of corporate greed, in what world would someone who has bought a camera be refused the right to use it?             

A few bad apples need not spoil the whole VSaaS barrel


Will surveillance camera ownership become an ever-present thorn for business security systems? Are enterprise pockets deep enough to pay unchecked cloud license fees where literally the sky’s the limit? Plus thunderhead-sized cloud storage bills? Or will discerning buyers seek better financial choices? Ownership over helplessness?

Surval is a new player on the VSaaS scene. One with a different set of goals. We’re the only mission and values-over-profit company in this industry. Privately owned, US-based, no outside money or investors to financially appease or answer to.

Evan Williams

Written by Evan Williams