Who Monitors Your VMS?

Plan ensures that failure is not an option

It’s 2 a.m. There’s a disturbance at your high school campus. Windows are broken, computers are stolen, and by the time the authorities arrive there’s no sign of the intruders. That’s OK. You’ll have video of the criminals. In fact, the footage will be crystal clear and irrefutable because you invested thousands of dollars in a high-tech IP video surveillance system. Your system has been configured for weeks of storage and with cameras placed at every angle near the incident. You know you have great images.

However, when you go to retrieve the video, you discover there is none. The server linking all of the cameras in that section of the building shut down for a system update and never restarted. It’s not the VMS’s fault—it was working properly. It’s not the cameras’ fault—they worked, as well. To avoid this costly and frustrating scenario, users should invest in the ultimate technical support with a Customer Assurance Plan (CAP) like the one pioneered by Video Insight.

“Implementing a video surveillance system is an integral step in your overall security program,” said Tom Nell, Video Insight director of technical services. “But if you don’t proactively monitor the performance of your system, then you can’t be sure that it is operating at full capacity.”

Video Insight developed CAP to proactively monitor the status of your VMS—servers, cameras and connections—ensuring you know when something isn’t working properly and preventing the scenario described above. Of course, a product like Video Insight comes with technical support for issues that arise and that are linked to the performance of the software. But, as an added feature, CAP provides a dedicated specialist who monitors the operation of your system to ensure it is always working properly, and, if not, to diagnose the problem— determining, for example, when the system went down and if was caused by a switch, power failure or something else.

“A program like CAP is essential because, number one, it maintains the integrity of your system, but it also provides a level of support not available to many overtaxed or understaffed IT departments, particularly in industries such as school districts and colleges that continue to face serious budget issues,” Nell said.

How CAP Works

The key factor behind the success of CAP is having a dedicated technology specialist personally review a customer’s system status daily. This is done in conjunction with three important elements in the Video Insight software:

Health monitor. The health monitor runs as a service in the background and monitors the receipt of messages from other servers to ensure server uptime and reporting of any issues affecting the servers or cameras. The health monitor can be configured to send email alerts to the appropriate individual if messages from the servers are not received within a predetermined time frame. Servers also send messages to the health monitor on camera operation and disk storage usage.

Monitor station. The monitor station is the primary user interface in the product suite. From an end user perspective, it provides centralized viewing of live and recorded images from any server. System and security administrators use the monitor station to setup and configure all servers and cameras from a central location.

With CAP, the monitor station also shows the status of servers that are active. Inactive servers are indicated by a red dot. Users also can view and access the health monitor, indicated by a red cross.

Server statistics. The dedicated CAP specialist also can evaluate system status by viewing server statistics. These provide vital information regarding the server status, camera status, storage, licensing and a list of current online users. For example, server statistics can tell you when data from the camera was last written, giving a true picture of how the cameras are working and what data has been saved. An important element of server statistics is accessibility from any machine that has the VI monitor station installed.

CAP-plus. A proactive monitoring program such as CAP is a welcome service for those who, due to budget constraints or thinly spread IT professionals, don’t have the capability to ensure that the full functionality of their video management system is being properly monitored and delivered. But what happens when there is an issue that can’t be fixed remotely by a CAP specialist?

In addition to CAP, Video Insight offers CAP-Plus, a service providing a technician— oftentimes consisting of a trusted partner systems integrator in the vicinity of the enduser—to make the necessary repair. Of course, prior to a technician deployment, the CAP specialist will make every effort to quickly resolve issues remotely. If the issue is caused by failed hardware, the technician will replace the hardware with a functioning unit, provided the hardware was purchased from Video Insight and is under warranty during the time of the service call.

This article originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of Security Today.

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