The security industry is increasingly dependent upon software-based products. This is a good thing, as such solutions increase flexibility and deliver enhanced functionality. The delivery of these software-based systems is improving, and with a depth of experience available from the IT sector, manufacturers have a successful and robust model to base their products on. Despite this, some approaches to licensing are inconvenient and sometimes frustrating for the legitimate customer.
Recent Benchmark tests have been based on software-based solutions. One is a test of VMS products looking specifically at installation and configuration. It is aimed at installers and integrators who may be new to the world of video management software. One of the often identified barriers to migration to VMS is the perception that the products can be complicated and require a high degree of IT-based skills. The goal was to show that this is not the case. There is also the loitering-based video analytics, which includes a number of software-based options.
It is important that manufacturers are able to protect themselves from unauthorised use of their intellectual property. Software development is not cheap. Most companies will have highly skilled development engineers, and will invest heavily in testing across a range of applications. There is also the requirement to ensure that software will be stable and reliable across different platforms and operating systems.
Where an open platform approach is taken, there is also a need to write and test driver packs and to ensure that specific features and functions of third party devices can be supported. Additionally, some hardware manufacturers will tweak their firmware and protocols fairly regularly. If a software-based product supports such devices, the software company needs to update their product to ensure installers and integrators do not have issues relating to compatibility.
Software companies also need to employ cyber security engineers. These specialists need to be able to react to the latest threats as they evolve. On top of this is the ongoing cycle of product development, meeting changing market needs and ensuring the new and emerging technologies can be supported.
It’s only right and fair that the providers of software ensure they receive payment for their work.
However, it is not acceptable if the licensing process inconveniences the many honest customers in order to prevent a few dishonest ones from accessing the software without payment. This is a lesson that business- and consumer-based software companies learned many years ago.
Many network security systems operate off-line. With increased emphasis on cyber security, manufacturers offering ‘hardening’ advice also stress that if systems do not need to be connected to the Internet, they should not be. Contrary to this is the approach for licensing. Many insist that their products are licensed on-line. This means that the security system must be on-line to facilitate this.
Creating off-line licensing can be achieved easily, but manufacturers prioritise the small risk of piracy above the convenience of the large numbers of honest customers.
Licensing methods also vary wildly. Some lock software to a specific machine, and some even lock cameras to a specific version of the software. Licence files, serial numbers, multi-factor licensing, dongles, time-limited activation periods and a whole host of other measures are used.
If companies in the mainstream software industry adopted the same attitude, they would see customers walking away in droves. As a result, the major software providers (who incidentally face a much larger threat of piracy than any security-specific companies) manage their licensing in a way that has a minimal impact on the honest customer. After all, customers have choices, as do installers and integrators!
No one wants to see innovative security manufacturers lose out on hard-earned revenues; we can all accept that they deserve to be paid for their investment in delivering advanced solutions. However, they equally need to respect the thousands of honest installers and integrators and ensure they are not inconvenienced due to poorly conceived or restrictive licensing models.