What To Offer

Helping end users, integrators navigate through video recording and storage options

Until one DVR can handle all situations -- and that won’t happen anytime soon -- there are seven key things to consider when determining what type of recorder and storage is needed for your next video surveillance application.

Identify key customer requirements. The first thing integrators must do is learn how the customer’s business works. How many locations are we contemplating? Do we have pre-existing video? Is the usage local or remote? What are the storage requirements?

For instance, the state of Florida mandates school districts hold recorded video for 30 days. What is the customer’s budget calendar? What kinds of users do we have? Are they computer-savvy and schooled in security? How many users are there?

Are there multiple contacts, such as IT, operations, marketing, procurement and others? Each organization will have its own focus and, sometimes, one department is more important than others. The loss prevention department wants lots of coverage and clarity -- they’re focused on the solution. Marketing and other departments might contribute funds to pay for the system and they may have a different perspective as to what is important. Yet, the IT department is more concerned that any network use will include thin clients and open architecture and not eat up all the company’s bandwidth. Procurement wants to drive down costs. They may end up leaning toward embedded solutions.

Key factors for storage and transmission. What is going to be the method of compression? Most organizations are navigating to H.264, which is becoming a standard. Try to use it.

The number and types of cameras determine bandwidth and storage requirements. Analog needs the least, IP needs a bit more and megapixel cameras need the most. There are a range of DVRs available to handle the most used resolution settings. The higher the resolution, the more bandwidth and storage will be needed.

Likewise, frame rates will affect bandwidth and storage. Make sure the system uses low frame rates on areas with minimal activities, such as most outdoor applications, lesser used hallways and rooms not typically occupied.

Remember, that DVRs will typically specify how many remote users can be tied into the unit. There are those DVRs that will let administrators go beyond their stated suggestion, but performance may suffer. In other cases, the DVR may drop a function or two to accommodate the excess remote users.

Network options and concerns. End users and their integrators need to sit down with IT to hash out how the video network will be implemented and who is going to own and be responsible for what parts of the project from installation and beyond.

What is the existing infrastructure? Will this new video system bring pain to any existing infrastructure? Check with IT regarding how much bandwidth they can provide. Often, they will counter by asking how much is needed. The security group needs to determine comfortable performance levels.

IT is going to be concerned that putting security video on the business network might hurt its performance. Security should be concerned that the business system might cause it to lose recorded video. Should they share? Or, does it make sense to have two independent systems, thus protecting both sides of the house, ensuring that both can meet their mission objectives?

Also, don’t forget to discuss firewalls with IT. DVRs need to be able to talk to their software through portals protected by firewalls that block out anything not recognized. Thus, it must be worked out with IT how to permeate the firewalls on those portals the DVRs need.

Embedded versus PC-based DVRs. With embedded DVRs, the system tends to better recover from power fluctuations. They are not susceptible to viruses, worms, Trojans or spyware. By not being computer-based, they are little threat to corporate networks. Updates and patches require minimal IT involvement at most. They cost less, which the procurement department will like, and they are scaleable, which everyone will like. Embedded DVRs feature a smaller footprint, and there are large numbers of manufacturers and models from which to choose.

However, because embedded DVRs tend to be hardware driven, some may argue that they are not as user friendly as PC-based DVRs. They are harder to integrate to other technologies, including POS, access control, building management and switchers. Lastly, most upgrades are entirely dependent upon the original manufacturer.

The benefits of hybrid solutions. In a hybrid solution, within one box, six, 12, 18, 24 or 30 analog cameras, or up to 32 or more IP cameras, can be supported. Users can have numerous audio channels, alarms and relays, and several terabytes of internal storage. PTZ control is a snap, and GUI interfaces make operation easy. Some systems can deploy remote connectivity from HVR to HVR.

However, hybrid solutions are predominantly more expensive than non-hybrid solutions, and some suggest that they contribute to a possibility of putting too much in one box.

Thin versus thick client. With a thin client, applications don’t need to be installed at the local work station. Thus, Web-based programs can be used to access video from DVRs without needing to load a program locally. They are operating system and hardware independent, meaning the user doesn’t need to worry about Linux, Windows, Mac or brands of computers.

Although the thick client’s application must be loaded at the local work station and the software is operating system and hardware dependent, it can be enormously feature rich. Those extra features can make the thick client cost effective.

Proprietary versus open architecture. Proprietary has become a bad word. Yet, such systems can be feature rich. They also provide closed access, which means the integrity of the data is better managed. However, cross integration is limited. Future upgrades are more likely.

Although open-architecture solutions can provide fewer features, cross multiple-integration is possible between manufacturers, and both end user and integrator reap greater flexibility in deployment. Most consultants recommend going to the open architecture whenever possible.

The best tip to ensure the right DVR is selected for your next installation, is to talk to each other.

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