Magazine Article | February 13, 2013

Add Hosted Access Control To Your Managed Services Portfolio

By Mike Monocello, Business Solutions magazine.

IT integrators looking for additional profit and a more sticky relationship with customers should consider adding hosted access control to their portfolios.

Why is hosted access control a good technology for IT integrators to sell?

John Szczygiel, COO, Brivo Systems: IT integrators already have the expertise to properly address the questions and concerns of IT departments regarding SaaS (software-as-a-service) services. This gives them a clear competitive advantage over less adept firms who may not be able to address INFOSec questions and consequently continue to propose outdated on-premise solutions. Additionally, selling hosted access enables the IT integrator to cement long-term relationships with their clients and drive additional revenue from recurring services.

John Smith, senior channel marketing manager, Honeywell Security: Access control makes good business sense for IT Integrators. Most are already selling to the same customers as security dealers, but IT integrators have an in-depth understanding of working with networks, accessing data through firewalls, and more. Some security dealers are very network savvy, but overall there is still a large learning curve for them vs. IT integrators.

Scott McNulty, senior product manager, Kantech, part of Tyco Security Products: Hosted, or managed access, is a great fit for IT integrators because end users already consider their IT integrators their solutions provider of choice for any networking issues within their business. Working with a customer’s internal IT infrastructure issues, like obtaining network and firewall access, is typically the biggest issue faced when deploying hosted or managed access control, so they are already handling these more complex issues on the IT side of the installation.

What technological challenges can integrators anticipate when implementing hosted access control solutions?

Szczygiel: The biggest technological challenge for IT integrators is to separate real SaaS and cloudscale solutions from fake cloud offerings labeled as hosted systems. Fake clouds can be spotted by looking for systems that cannot be self-provisioned, do not offer automatic device discovery over the WAN, and cannot provide valid information security audits. Technological challenges and risks to the profitability of the IT integrator increase greatly when dealing with fake cloud offerings.

Smith: Aside from network and firewall security issues that IT integrators deal with every day, they may find legacy equipment already in place requiring knowledge and research to understand what is there and whether it will be compatible with the solution they are proposing. Wiring for access is also different; an IT integrator used to normal network wiring will be exposed to many different configurations, including RS-485, Coax, and other potentially proprietary methods. So IT integrators will have to know what they can use and what they will have to replace.

McNulty: While the biggest hurdle in deploying hosted, or managed, access control is typically networking issues, IT integrators will need to get up to speed on the basics of access control deployment. Today’s systems, however, are designed to make deploying managed access control very simple.

What aspects of hosted access control do customers find appealing?

Szczygiel: Hosted access appeals to customers who are looking to shift nonessential workloads and risk to SaaS providers, thus freeing internal resources to focus on tasks that directly support their business. The ability to self-provision new systems immediately when needed gives customers a level of flexibility and scalability that traditional solutions cannot match.

Smith: It starts out more with a discussion about reducing operation costs and capital expenditures. No longer do users have to be responsible for the PC, which means no maintenance like OS updates, anti-virus, software updates, compatibility issues, and more. Typically, customers who focus on this are ones that do not have IT on-site or security managers. These are people like office managers, business owners, or others who wear different hats. Offering a solution that can remove the burden of managing a system frees them to focus on their core responsibilities and business.

McNulty: End user customers love the fact that they can maintain control over their access control system — adding or deleting cards, scheduling — with the knowledge that the system is being maintained and backed up by an expert. Some hosted or managed access control vendors also give integrators the flexibility to customize the offering for each customer, depending on the level of service or feature sets that users require for their businesses.

While hosted or managed access is really a great fit for any core commercial or SMB application, we are starting to see additional interest in multisite locations, where companies have geographically diverse facilities. Traditionally, companies with three locations across the country would have had three separate systems with three administrators, which meant even the company president would have needed to have three separate access cards when visiting the locations.

What kind of recurring revenue stream can integrators typically expect from hosted access control?

Szczygiel: IT integrators can easily sell thousands of hosted doors and cameras per month. This would translate into tens of thousands of dollars in monthly recurring revenue. End users prefer to pay for consumption measured by devices such as doors and cameras.

Smith: The most typical models are bundled services and a la carte. The a la carte model is the most straightforward. This model usually is priced per door, where every door the customer adds costs a fixed amount, commonly $25 per door, but others have made variations on this model by offering the first door at $25 and every other door $15.

I tend to tell dealers to bundle their services. This provides dealers with the best value, and they are less likely to be matched by a competitor. A bundled model could look like your cell phone plan and offers a tiered offering (e.g. good, better, best or silver, gold, platinum), where the customer gets a variety of services for a set price. For example, one tier could include 1 to 4 doors, 100 cards, standard business hours support, web browser access, etc. Dealers can also look at leasing as an option that will lower the capital costs because the user does not pay the full price of the equipment up front, but rather is charged a higher monthly fee that will help the dealer recoup costs over a longer period. The nice part about leasing is that after the equipment value has been achieved, the monthly revenue continues to come in.