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Video management options for small projects

When I first started in the industry eight years ago, the DVR was the king of video recording. In terms of IP video, I was focusing on larger projects over 16 cameras, as most of IP’s benefits and cost-saving features related to bigger systems. However, with the cost of IP cameras and related equipment now almost equivalent to that of analogue equipment, almost all new systems being installed, small and big, are based on IP.

November 2, 2010  By Steve Bocking

But again, smaller systems do not necessarily need all the bells and whistles that a large high-security facility may need, thus the emergence of the relatively new niche of pre-packaged VMS software/server offerings targeted at 16 cameras and less (often referred to as NVRs or appliances). This means that integrators now have the choice between pre-packaged NVR/appliance or a software-based VMS combined with a standard computer server. Knowing the requirements of the end user will help determine which solution is best. Here are a few questions that can help determine which solution is the better fit.

The first questions are, how many cameras will be installed initially, and is there a need to plan for future expansion? Typically an NVR will have a maximum number of IP cameras that it can record. This is especially true of the NVRs targeted at smaller systems. The number of cameras supported will vary depending on the model and manufacturer. For example, if the project is for eight IP cameras and may possibly expand to 12, then a 16-camera NVR will be fine. But if a project starts at 15 IP cameras and may expand, a software-based solution would be the better choice. Also, it is interesting to mention that some manufacturers offering pre-packaged NVR/appliances make a distinction between software and hardware and offer the possibility to keep the investment in software by migrating the software from the pre-package NVR/appliance to a standard computer server when the system grows.

Then you may ask if is there a requirement for integration to any other security systems, such as access control. Similar to a DVR, pre-packaged NVRs often offer limited integration capabilities, thus a software-based solution would be a better option if the end user has complex requirements. But be careful — just because it is a software-based solution does not mean it will offer the required third-party integrations, so make sure to verify compatibility with the manufacturer.

What is the level of fault tolerance for recording required by the client? Setting up failover databases and failover recording is often not available on small NVR systems and is often not a requirement either. However, if it is a high-security small project, such as a bank, then a VMS and standard computer hardware can offer a lot more flexibility for creating failover and redundant systems.


Finally, similar to DVRs, the advantage of a pre-packaged NVR is that it is ready to go once you take it out of the box. This can help to keep installation costs down, but if an IT department is involved, they may want to supply the server to conform to their corporate standards. Therefore it is also important to be aware if IT will be involved in any project.

The pre-packaged NVRs will definitely fill a hole left behind by DVRs, specifically for small projects. It is important to know the differences between an NVR and a VMS and to select the best-suited option for each end user.

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