Managing system health

Colin Bodbyl
Monday December 19, 2016
Written by Colin Bodbyl
Maintaining a video surveillance system is no different that maintaining any other network infrastructure.

IT departments have become masters of proactive maintenance, fixing problems before they ever arise through constant health monitoring and scheduled maintenance. The video surveillance industry, however, is a long way from maintaining systems in the disciplined manner demonstrated by our IT counterparts.

There are dozens of off-the-shelf health monitoring programs that can run on almost any computer, regardless of whether it is being used as an NVR or a personal computer. Most integrators, however, do not use these programs, instead choosing to use a VMS or the camera’s built-in health alerts. Unfortunately, video surveillance manufacturers have historically not taken health monitoring very seriously. A few manufacturers have enterprise level health monitoring, but they require expensive licences and in most cases do not provide the highly intuitive dashboards that come from leading third-party health monitoring platforms.

The difficulty integrators face when attempting to use third-party health monitoring software is that video surveillance systems have niche features these systems cannot monitor but which are critical to their performance. These niche features require health monitoring that only a VMS platform can provide since they are specific to video surveillance products.

Considering all the potential health monitoring alerts available can become overwhelming to those who are new to health monitoring. Using the default health alerts can cause hundreds of emails, which flood the user’s inbox and ultimately lead to the alerts being disabled. Experienced system administrators are able to separate alerts based on their level of importance. For health monitoring to be successful, users need to separate alerts that are critical to the system’s basic functionality from those that are simply used for ongoing maintenance.

Critical health alerts include database errors, application shutdowns and devices offline. Video surveillance systems can be crippled by any of these events, which could stop video from recording or even corrupt existing recorded video. These alerts should be offered by every VMS and camera manufacturer and should also be configured by integrators on every system they deploy.

Less critical health alerts could be classified as system maintenance alerts. These alerts are not only important for keeping systems in peak operating condition, but are also a great opportunity for integrators to generate some extra revenue while providing their clients with exceptional service. Alerts such as expiring licences or out-of-date firmware are unlikely to result in system failure, but if left unchecked could impact the performance and security of devices on the network. By properly maintaining software and keeping it up to date, integrators can provide new features at very little cost while at the same time protecting their clients from potential cyber attacks.

Dozens of other system alerts are also available, though it would be difficult to classify them as health monitoring despite being included as system health monitoring options. Alerts that notify system administrators of server setting changes or user activity can be helpful for micro managing how the system is used or for early detection of a potential malicious activity, but they do not serve as much value to SMB users who restrict access to only a few logins.

While a comprehensive health monitoring system would add value to any VMS, very few manufacturers have really taken it seriously and even fewer integrators take advantage of health monitoring. Only a handful of VMS providers have health monitoring dashboards that compare to those used on enterprise networks. For VMS manufacturers who are serious about acquiring enterprise customers, they must focus on creating the type of health monitoring dashboards to which these users have become accustomed.  


Colin Bodbyl is the director of technology for UCIT Online.
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