Not a Sure Bet

A well-designed networked system requires planning and best-of-breed products

Digital video has become the buzzword for all modern surveillance systems, but networked, or IP, video is still anything but a sure bet—despite its numerous benefits. With the performance and flexibility of IP video surveillance systems comes tremendous technical complexity and a staggering array of products for security system designers, integrators and operators when compared with the mature and relatively simple analog CCTV systems of the past.

Anyone approaching the IP video surveillance market from a position of product selection and acquisition would do well to take a step back, understand the true requirements of a well-designed IP networked security system and choose best-of-breed components accordingly, rather than latching on to one-stop-shop, end-to-end IP surveillance vendors.

While digital video technologies have opened up new features and intelligent analysis capabilities not possible with analog video, many suffer from performance and scalability problems because of poor system architecture. For organizations to realize the full benefits of IP video surveillance, they must design and build a system that is capable of performing to current and future requirements.

Building to Fit
Many integrators have the experience to design sufficient network and storage infrastructure using relatively inexpensive commodity components. Then they install video devices and applications that quickly overwhelm the network because they do not intelligently manage those resources. These systems may perform acceptably at low camera counts, but performance drops as the system scales to higher camera counts.

A video surveillance system designed to actively manage network resources can guarantee video availability when it’s needed without stealing precious bandwidth from other mission-critical applications. A system that is network-aware and built to manage video infrastructure can isolate high-bandwidth video archiving from other segments of the network and only serve up video necessary to client applications.

A video surveillance system that takes a network appliance approach and manages video streams as part of this infrastructure also can balance its use of storage resources across multiple storage arrays to ensure data integrity and availability.

Next to scalability, the most underestimated and misunderstood aspect of an IP video surveillance system is its maintainability. Installers and integrators are experienced when it comes to analog system design and rollout, and surveillance operators are normally well-versed and experienced at keeping a system running or taking on light expansion. With IP video surveillance systems, the design and installation entails specialized networking and IT skills that only progressive integrators possess.

The majority of surveillance operators have little experience in maintaining or configuring an IP surveillance system after the network-savvy integrators have completed the install and left. After setup is complete, the operators do not have a great understanding of how to manage or expand a networked system, so they rely on integrator support services or internal IT departments. An IP video surveillance system must be designed for ease of configuration and adaptability so future needs may be met without reliance on expensive services.

A reliable IP system also must be designed for lights-off operation that does not require constant monitoring, patching, upgrading and equipmentswapping to keep it running. An IP video surveillance system essentially needs a video infrastructure that is reliable, scalable and future-proof.

Open Integration
Another important design consideration in an IP video surveillance system is the openness of individual components of the system. Most video surveillance vendors claim that their products are standardsbased and open to easy integration with components from other vendors, but the reality is that standards in video surveillance are loosely interpreted and integration capabilities are often oversold. For a true best-of-breed system that meets the needs of unique and complex video surveillance applications, each of the components must be designed for open interaction with other components from other manufacturers.

Vendors that assemble complete endto- end solutions normally take shortcuts in implementing interfaces between each building block of their solution, so you lose features, performance and reliability when you introduce a component from a specialist manufacturer.

It is possible to implement an IP video surveillance infrastructure that performs, scales to high numbers of cameras and is open to integration with best-of-breed components. However, a video surveillance infrastructure can only capture video, store it for safekeeping and send it to where it needs to go. As a system grows to numerous cameras, geographically distributed and with data integrations in place with nonvideo security systems like access control or identity management, a new class of applications distinct from the video infrastructure is needed to manage and make sense of all this converged data.

These applications—known as physical security information management— are based on the security information management systems in use in IT security environments to provide centralized visibility and control of the IT security posture of an organization. PSIM applications, which are ambitious in vision but relatively immature in implementation, are promising to present security video correlated with all types of physical security data and assets to give organizations a truly converged security management capability.

PSIM applications are likely to change the way security teams look at video—literally and figuratively—but they are only as good as the video that is captured, transported and stored by the video infrastructure.

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