One of the tough things when talking about cloud computing is pinning down an accurate definition. Is the cloud any service obtained outside the firewall? Is it a specific function supported by a third-party data centre, such as off-site storage? My personal opinion is that the bigger definition is the correct one. The cloud is any paid service accessed over the Internet in real time that’s used to extend the IT capability of a given entity. 
There are obviously challenges with cloud computing and abysmal WAN speed is the key issue for mine. When typical real world WAN links are only 1.5Mbps it can be hard to get enthusiastic about future possibilities. And sure, I know we’re all paying for up to 22Mbps or more but I’m not getting that in the City of Sydney despite what’s written on my contract so I can’t imagine the rest of you are either.  
But let’s not get bogged down on comms. The NBN, (hypothetical external first causes, Mr. Tony Abbott and telco network switching technology permitting), can be relied on to be that game changer for the electronic security industry. Instead let’s keep our focus on the slow march of cloud-based services. 
Now, all technical advances have signposts. And what’s interesting to me is that ours have increasingly been moving in lockstep with the rapid-fire pace of consumer electronics. Think how quickly HD and megapixel cameras have filled the marketplace compared with the slower shift from tube cameras to CCDs. Think of LCD screens in our control rooms. Think of the development of low cost thermal cameras, the plethora of management solutions available. And consider the accelerating pace of change. 
And here’s another signpost – Google Drive. It’s a service giving free cloud storage for videos and photos that replaces local HDDs with a remote data centre giving redundant and secure storage. There’s no time to go into it here but Google has serious security procedures in place to secure drives and destroy old drives which, when compared to common methods used by security departments, eliminates the fears of privacy and security breach many users fear. Google Drive is secured at mil-spec levels and when HDDs reach replacement age, they are mechanically shredded.
Operationally, the way Google Drive works is that users drag and drop files from local machines to their directory’s Google Drive folder and then access them from any Internet connected device. This is clunky when you’re talking video surveillance but it’s certain the service could be and will be tailored to suit real time video. 
In terms of cost you get 5Gb free, 25Gb at $US2.49 a month – and here’s the kicker – you get 16Tb for $800 per month. When you consider the cost of buying quality storage servers, additional servers for full redundancy, housing them, securing them to mil-spec and maintaining them with 24/7 support on call, it’s clear that services like Google Drive have a big future.
Now, I think there will always be those applications for which local storage will prevail – not least applications around which there’s either insufficient comprehension of the higher security and cost savings potential of cloud services or where there’s a lack of appetite for the responsibility that comes with the decision to send security video off-site. 
I think the process of change will start small but the signals are already there. During the month I attended the product launch of Axis Communications’ new Camera Companion. Axis Camera Companion is, in essence, a clever repackaging of existing network components into a conceptual solution with the help of nothing more than a wiry software app and a camera. From the point of view of IP camera manufacturer, Axis, leveraging existing infrastructure to sell cameras to a wider market requires very little input from the prefrontal cortex. 
And it requires very little additional brain power to see that the mid-future, without doubt, is going to see outsourced storage services, outsourced software applications, virtual appliances and a total realignment of the core concept of service-oriented architecture. SOA, in my opinion, will lead us not only to a migration to cloud services but to the development of multiple integrated clouds – it will lead us to the sky.