Secure Investments

Future-proof digital video recording technology for retail banks

The retail banking sector has received negative publicity recently due to investments in risky commodities. Security directors in retail banking also can face scrutiny as they face their own potential for risk when it comes to investing in next-generation video recording technologies for branch bank locations.

Video surveillance solutions for retail branch banks are unique in that video monitoring is limited to a relatively small footprint. While the footprint may be small, the concentration of cameras is quite dense. Video cameras are placed in vaults, at teller desks, above drive-through windows and inside ATMs—anywhere transactions take place.

While these video streams are recorded and processed on-site, the majority of branch bank video footage is reviewed remotely by off-site fraud investigation teams. Local operation is limited to critical events, such as offloading video for local law enforcement in the event of a robbery. This unique operational model creates a challenge for bank security directors—recording and archiving limited video on-site, while making footage easily accessible for remote monitoring and review.

Retail Banks Lead in IP Video Migration

For the past decade, retail banks have turned to DVRs to help meet this challenge. DVRs record multiple camera feeds and store them as digital files on a high capacity, high reliability hard disk drive. This enables the files to be streamed to remote monitoring facilities over IP networks, simplifying the exportation of video to facilitate local investigations.

Other distinct advantages DVRs deliver over analog recorders include the ability to combine financial transaction data with associated transaction video, all into a single encrypted file. This makes it easier for remote investigators to pull up the exact 45 seconds of footage they need, negating the need to cull through hours of video.

The use of DVRs for video recording and IP transmission also has propelled retail banks further down the IP video migration path than most other industries. While DVRs have taken hold in retail banking, many of the cameras used in branch banks today are analog. This creates a mixed technology environment in many branch banks. As new branches open with full IP video and ATMs come pre-installed with IP cameras, security directors can face significant risk when it comes to upgrading their digital video recorders.

Next Generation Digital Recorders

In order to future-proof their video infrastructure investments, security directors need to consider the next generation of DVRs, commonly referred to NVRs. As the name indicates, NVRs are IP-enabled devices that plug directly into IP networks. A critical priority for branch banks, NVRs allow remote administrators to easily view and download select video footage, monitor the health of network connected cameras and devices and push out firmware upgrades automatically. The NVR becomes the operational hub of the entire branch bank surveillance infrastructure.

Not all NVRs are created equal. Many vendors are simply adding IP connections to the back of their existing DVRs and calling them NVRs. However, true NVRs for branch banks must provide a feature set designed for financial operations with the ability to effectively manage video networks remotely. In order for retail bank security directors to protect their investments in NVRs, there are five key features to look for.

Must-have, Future-Proof NVR Features:

1. Built on an IP Platform with Analog Compatibility
Much of the existing camera infrastructure in branch banks is still analog. Some vendors simply take their previous generation product and add network ports to the back and call it an NVR. This design approach leads with antiquated technology resulting in more frequent and costly upgrades. Instead, look for NVRs that are built on an IP platform and offer all the benefits of an embedded NVR, including bandwidth optimization and remote access and management. To avoid compromising network bandwidth and resources when transporting video data, a retail bank NVR should also support the latest IP video compression standards including H.264 and MPEG-4. To accommodate mixed technology environments, a retail bank NVR must include multi-port connectors for both analog and IP cameras.
2. Backwards Compatibility
In order to protect their investment in new NVR technology, security directors must ensure that the new device is “backwards compatible”—meaning it can work with the applications and firmware of the previously installed unit that it's replacing. Backwards compatibility helps ensure that new, more sophisticated monitoring applications can be seamlessly integrated with previous versions in order to maintain operational continuity. Backwards compatibility also enables remote investigators to take advantage of the latest applications without requiring a wholesale swap-out of the NVRs operating system.
3. Robust Remote Diagnostics
Next-generation NVRs must come fully integrated with a robust remote monitoring and management software solution. Remote monitoring applications should provide an intuitive user interface capable of displaying multiple independent camera views on a single screen while facilitating user-defined zone views, the establishment of “virtual DVRs” and automated visual guard tours. Remote diagnostic and management software should enable the user to centrally manage NVR passwords, properties and firmware updates. Often, it is best to invest in a NVR solution with hardware and remote monitoring and diagnostics software developed by the same vendor.
4. Simplified Serviceability
The serviceability of a NVR is another important consideration factor – one that is mission critical in branch banks today. More than 65 percent of all NVR failures are related to issues with hard disk drives. NVRs with swappable hard disk drives allow for fast and easy repair without the removal of the entire unit. This results in less downtime per unit and lower repair costs. Units with swappable hard disk drives also help facilitate infinite storage expandability. As the number of cameras in branch banks rise, storage needs will likewise increase exponentially. As such, swappable hard disk drives are a key feature for future-proofing NVR solutions.
5. Camera Expandability
Finally, a NVR should be able to accommodate a significant number of cameras. Many retail branch bank DVRs and NVRs on the market today handle 16 camera feeds. This was adequate until recently, but banks today are now using multiple cameras to record different angles at ATMs, teller windows and in the back office. A future-proof NVR must have the processing power and capability to expand to accommodate an infinite number of feeds using multi-port expanders.

This article originally appeared in the May 2009 issue of Security Today.

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