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To maximize resources, look to the cloud

By migrating from on-premises systems to cloud-based systems, public safety teams gain greater flexibility to manage increases in digital evidence


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By Rick Taylor

Whether it’s managing a mountain of video evidence for a case or complying with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to deliver transparency to the communities they serve, public safety agencies are continually challenged to do more.

One of the process challenges investigators face is managing the collection of digital evidence from disparate sources and storing it in a central location, as well as monitoring the access and dissemination of evidence from the collector to the investigator, to command staff, and finally to the prosecutor’s office. It is critical to centralize and secure access to all the evidence to ensure nothing is misplaced or overlooked. Something as simple as a forgotten DVD in an investigator’s desk drawer can make or break a case.

As agencies work to determine the best method to store and share critical evidence, they are faced with two main choices: on-premises storage or in the cloud?

More data, more problems

A growing number of sources including IoT devices, CCTV cameras, access control systems, community cameras and automatic license plate readers (ALPR) are providing valuable information to aid in investigations and proactive measures. However, effectively and securely storing and sharing all this data in one place is a significant challenge.

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On-premises data storage solutions can be costly and require full-time IT staff, hardware and servers. Likewise, the procurement process can make it inefficient to scale them. And while accurate information is the backbone of law enforcement, storing it in siloed systems and different places, as is often the case with body-worn camera evidence, 911 calls, CAD data and other sources, can lead to errors in retrieval and correlation.

By migrating from on-premises systems to cloud-based systems, public safety teams gain greater flexibility to manage increases in digital evidence and expand their systems to adjust as needed. Likewise, organizations are realizing the value of cloud storage to back up video and data archives.

Cloud-based collaboration

For investigators and detectives, sorting through information from cases is a time-consuming task. With a cloud-based solution, all data related to a case, regardless of where it came from or what type of information it is, can be collected in a single digital case file, accessed only by approved personnel.

A cloud-based digital evidence management system (DEMS) allows agencies and departments to easily share data across departments and locations as they collaborate in investigations. Agencies no longer need to rely on copying information to DVDs and shared drives to send information. This can all be done securely via cloud-based systems. Organizations can securely collect, manage and share encrypted video evidence and other relevant case information with the click of a button. Agencies can distill that information into reports and facilitate evidence-sharing among public entities, investigators, communities and businesses.

Leveraging the cloud and its scalability, redundancy and power can also eliminate the need for IT to install, update and maintain software on investigators’ computers, and empower detectives to use their department mobile devices to request and interact with evidence while in the field.

Migrating to the cloud can also help agencies meet the increase in regulations and requests regarding sharing data with the public. In some law enforcement agencies, the workload has increased to the point where they have multiple people fulfilling FOIA requests for video – even necessitating pulling people out of the field to search through footage, burn DVDs and send them to citizens to fulfill each request. A cloud-based system removes chain of custody issues and facilitates evidence-sharing among public entities, investigators, communities, businesses and citizens. Some solutions can even redact footage on the fly to protect individuals’ privacy.

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Greater time and cost efficiency and insight

Along with its analysis and distribution benefits, cloud-based systems also reduce the burden on IT departments to keep systems up to date and secure. Patches and critical updates are automatically pushed by the software and server maintenance is done by the cloud storage provider. Setting up new locations, adding storage, or scaling operations is a much simpler, faster undertaking.

Choosing a cloud-based solution that integrates with other systems that manage security, traffic flow and other functions can also deliver a more holistic view of overall operations. Agencies can use the data from the security system for business intelligence.

Cloud-based solutions also reduce an organizations investment in hardware over time, as well as reducing or even eliminating ongoing IT network infrastructure expenses such as servers and the cost of utilities like electricity and cooling. They also deliver greater agility and flexibility, as organizations with cloud-based solutions can benefit from the latest technology innovations and the most up-to-date features and functionality.

A phased approach to cloud migration

Given the critical nature of digital evidence in any investigation, digital evidence management systems (DEMS) are frequently the first step in cloud migration. Using the cloud for DEMS delivers a comprehensive view of the evidence and enables teams to move away from sorting through files to find video captured months prior or creating individual DVDs to share evidence. With a cloud-based DEMS, secure access and distribution are easier and more efficient. Cloud-based solutions can offer an effective solution to address the increase in data, pressure on resources, and overall need to collaborate on investigations and proactive measures to help agencies best protect their communities.

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About the author

Rick Taylor is National Director, Public Sector at Genetec, Inc. Prior to Genetec, Rick gained nearly a decade of experience in the security field, including positions as District Manager at both UTC Fire & Security and GE, and as Vice President at Esscoe for the company’s Security Practice.