Feb. 1, 2023 - When it comes to cloud-based management and control systems, it’s critical to have a pro help unlock the potential of solutions such as Crestron’s XiO Cloud® platform
This article is an excerpt from Crestron’s Smarter Spaces magazine.
Download the whole publication here.
Cloud-based control and management solutions are gaining in popularity — and complexity. While the potential of cloud-based applications is tremendous, there are some issues to be mindful of. We sat down with Crestron’s Director of Technology Partner Programs, Bob Bavolacco, for a look at the big picture.
CRESTRON: What can be done in the cloud? What can’t one do?
BOB BAVOLACCO: That’s a broad question, since anyone who conducts transactions through the web — including everyday tasks such as purchases, banking, paying bills, attending school, and so on — is using the cloud. If we narrow it down to leveraging the cloud for use in the technology sector, we can see examples of how the cloud facilitates this industry via streaming services, over-the-air (OTA) updates to devices such as your television, streaming stick, internet-connected audio devices and speakers, and a plethora of other applications in the consumer and enterprise markets.
Although the cloud is something we all use on a daily basis, leveraging it does have its limitations. There are regulatory and legal parameters in place that dictate the types of transactions that can occur through the cloud. For example, in the technology sector, organizations may be restricted from or limited in what they can remotely monitor and control. Unless the link to cloud-connected devices is encrypted and only approved for certified channels and gateways, it should not be used.
CRESTRON: What is done more efficiently in the cloud?
BAVOLACCO: The cloud enables transactions to be done at large-scale and with efficiency. In the technology sector, the cloud gives organizations the ability to auto-discover devices on their network, install new or updated software, update networked systems, confirm that actions have occurred, and alert IT departments or facility resources of impending issues for more efficient resolution.
CRESTRON: What kind of features are included in management? In monitoring? Do these systems also take action (such as reboots and updates)?
BAVOLACCO: The ability to manage cloud-connected devices varies by the application provider, but the essential features that should be made available in a cloud-based monitoring and management platform are holistic device monitoring, the ability to manage system updates (with critical ones being handled by the manufacturer while optional updates are managed by the end-user), integration with service dispatch applications, the ability to deploy settings and configurations remotely, and the ability to manage access to devices based on whether licenses are in place.
CRESTRON: What issues does it create — what does one need to be aware of?
BAVOLACCO: One of the things that cloud management adopters need to consider is the cost of implementing it. Cloud management often is not free, as it requires a license to use it. There can be short- or long-term payment models or even pay-as-you-go options. Some services include a set number of devices that are to be managed, while others charge a per-device fee to manage. Another thing to be aware of is any limitation on devices that would require a new purchase or upgrade to continue managing the device. For example, a manufacturer may wish to “end-of-life” a device and, thus, limit what can be monitored or managed on the device unless the client upgrades to a newer version. While product and technology advancements continue to accelerate, one needs to be aware that a device, or an entire ecosystem of connected devices, may have a specific life span that requires an upgrade in order to remain supported on a specific platform.
CRESTRON: What security concerns come with these solutions?
BAVOLACCO: When we think of security concerns with the cloud, data breaches often come to mind first. But in the technology segment, there are concerns about insecure interfaces to a managed device, cyberattacks, unauthorized access, hacking, and incorrect security settings leading to insecure access to devices. In fact, many organizations employ professional “hackers” whose sole job is trying to hack into a cloud-connected device in order to determine potential threat areas.
CRESTRON: What savings do they provide (such as truck rolls, energy, resources, and the like)?
BAVOLACCO: Two benefits of cloud management can be realized in both energy and human resource savings. Having the ability to automatically turn a device on or off can be a significant energy saver, thus permitting organizations to obtain state and/or local incentives centered around managing “green” initiatives. For example, imagine an organization with multiple floors that deploy hundreds of displays. Having the capability to remotely turn all the displays off at 8:00 PM every weekday evening (versus keeping them powered up and online through the night) can be a considerable energy saver. Conversely, being able to remotely wake those displays from sleep mode or simply turning them on can ensure these devices are always online and ready to be used during the workday. With automatic system settings management and monitoring, AV and IT administrators can quickly deploy specific settings in a dashboard and have them “pushed” to all connected devices. This eliminates the need for staff to visit each location where a device resides to configure those settings. Not only can this be done at the local (onsite) level but also across dispersed locations outside of the organization, thus allowing for global remote device management.
CRESTRON: What impact can cloud management have on IT departments?
BAVOLACCO: Having the ability to see and manage the status of cloud-connected devices can help IT departments plan their resource loads more effectively. Additionally, IT staff can work pretty much anywhere they have a secure VPN connection, thereby allowing for more rapid response times through alerts on mobile devices, as well as the ability to react to issues outside of the business’s scheduled work times, when on holidays, and many other situations. This is important where organizations need time-sensitive responses to reported — or even potential — issues.
CRESTRON: What advances have been made recently with cloud management? What do you expect to see next?
BAVOLACCO: The cloud has enabled organizations to better utilize their IT and support staff by providing them the ability to remotely manage cloud-connected devices. Having real-time insight into these devices can help ensure that an organization remains productive and efficient. As the adoption and progress of cloud management platforms continue, we can expect to see more competitive licensing models, incentives for adopting cloud management due to the reduced cost to support them, and greater analytics modeling so decision-makers have real-time data at their fingertips to make informed choices regarding their technology implementation.