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Camera Corner: The inevitability of upgrades

July 26, 2022  By  Colin Bodbyl


When a business purchases a surveillance system, they rarely plan for its eventual replacement.

Some systems are modular, in that the network video recorder (NVR), cameras and switches could all be replaced independently of one another. In other cases, cameras operate as all-in-one solutions paired with a cloud video management system (VMS). In either scenario, the onsite hardware will eventually need to be replaced, but timing that upgrade can be challenging.

There are a handful of common reasons why any technology would need to be replaced or upgraded, and they are no different for surveillance products. Every technology will suffer from some downtime, but when that downtime becomes a frequent occurrence, it could be time to upgrade. Finding the root cause of the downtime is a critical first step. Network surveillance systems can suffer from outages due to damaged cabling, failing connectors or bad switches. Sometimes simply replacing or repairing a component can delay a costly replacement of the entire system.

As you add or replace components, you may start to experience compatibility issues. Surveillance systems tend to be stable in the condition they were originally installed, but if over time you start to add newer model cameras that your NVR or VMS is not able to support, you may be forced to upgrade.

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Even in situations where a VMS can support a newer camera after a software update, you may find that breaks support for older cameras on the site and leads to a domino effect of issues. With enough devices mixed in over a long period of time it is not uncommon to experience compatibility issues that ultimately require a major upgrade to fix.

Cybersecurity is often an overlooked reason to upgrade. A surveillance system could run for a decade without problems, but manufacturer support for those devices is likely to expire during that time. Once firmware or software updates are no longer available, those devices become security risks. Cyber criminals are constantly finding new ways to access and take advantage of networked devices.

Manufacturers of those devices release regular patches or updates to secure them against the latest cybersecurity risks. When support is ended for a device, so are those updates. Even if the device is otherwise problem-free, the longer it goes without an update or patch the more of a security risk it becomes.

The final reason to upgrade is to acquire new features. It is easy to believe that software updates would add the latest features to every device, but it is not that simple. Software is advancing at record speeds, but it needs equally powerful hardware to run on. A camera or NVR that you purchase today is unlikely to be capable of running the most advanced software on the market five years from now. As a result, you will eventually find the only way to access the latest features is through a hardware upgrade.

Surveillance systems have been known to run for several years without failure, but that does not mean they never need an upgrade. Even if the system is not suffering outages, you may run into compatibility issues while adding new devices. You could also find manufacturer support for certain devices is ended, creating a cybersecurity risk for an otherwise functional system. If none of these reasons drives an upgrade, there will always be new features, and the only way to access them will be by upgrading to the latest and greatest product.

Colin Bodbyl is the chief technology officer of Stealth Monitoring (www.stealthmonitoring.com).


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