Since every business is unique, it comes as no surprise that each has different security needs. Whether your business is contemplating an upgrade or delving into a comprehensive video surveillance system for the first time, it’s important to consider how a modern VMS (Video Management System) integrated with state-of-the-art security devices can provide not only security but also analytics and business intelligence to help you move beyond visual security into understanding your whole environment. Presenting a well-thought-out spec to your integrator of choice will make sure your priorities are met as well as your budget, and help ensure your VMS and connected peripherals scale as your business grows.
Three ways to create a VMS specification:
There are three main ways to develop a specification for a VMS and supporting cameras and hardware.
- Based on Your Operations
This is the best method, resulting in the easiest path to getting precisely what your business requires. Analyze your businesses needs based on your day-to-day operations. Small to medium-sized businesses have very different needs compared to an enterprise operation that never closes. Complete a risk assessment to develop requirements based on your most vulnerable areas and prioritize triggers that indicate a problem. Always plan to scale up as cameras and tech are frequently added/replaced, but hardly ever removed.
- Designed by Committee
Some organizations are the victims of their own size or budget. When there’s an active presence from the IT or sales department, or the dollar amounts get too high, it’s not just up to building management or security to select the right product. The committee can include consultants, system administrators, finance and building management, and everyone wants to justify their existence at the table. We see these types of specifications and know that there will be a rude awakening when the quotes are distributed, usually leading to some modifications. It’s also very easy to over-spec what is truly needed to get the job done.
- Based on a Product
The most limiting way to design a spec is by copying the feature list of a single product to create your requirements. From a sales/integrator standpoint, it’s a great way to lock out the competition. When a customer really knows the security market and wants to avoid being bid an inferior product, this can be justified. In choosing to do this, you may miss an even better option that meets your needs. If you really like a feature of a certain VMS, prioritize that and see if another vendor has something similar.
The primary frustration with specifications that miss the mark is the waste of money and time. Enterprise VMS come with enterprise VMS price tags and enterprise VMS complexity. If you’re running a small business, there’s no need to over-buy. However, if all goes well, and your business grows as planned, you don’t want to have to re-invest in your VMS or infrastructure because your current system can’t scale to match your growth. Setting realistic expectations is the key to success.
Cybersecurity and the Price of Thinking Only About “Price”
Five years ago, cybersecurity was not considered a key requirement in a surveillance system. Now, when it comes to risk, cybersecurity is an essential consideration for every large commercial or government customer. There are plenty of very cheap, solutions available both for cameras and VMS, but as the notorious cyber breaches of recent years have demonstrated, there are inherent risks associated with choosing a system purely on price. A VMS system is only as secure as its weakest end-point. Be prepared to ask tough questions to ensure that a VMS and camera manufacturer work together to protect video data, credentials, as well as ensure that the endpoints have a solid cybersecurity approach.
Choosing a VMS platform that is actively being developed gives you a system that's effectively evergreen and able to deliver new value and up-to-date device security even though you've owned it for years. For cybersecurity, it’s important to weigh the overall cost of risk to your operation. A cyberattack at a smaller company might have even more devastating consequences than one at a larger organization. As we enter a world where cybersecurity liability insurance is becoming a hot topic, the importance of working with trusted partners has never been more important.
Cybersecurity concerns are obvious, but equally important is the inability to scale as your business grows, limited to no integration with your other systems, and the costs of maintenance and reliability. How often can the software/firmware be upgraded when bugs or security flaws are discovered? Will the VMS you chose notify you when a firmware update to your cameras is available? Will it give you the option to push that update to all the cameras on the network? These capabilities may cost more up front but deliver substantial savings over the life of the system.
DECISION FACTOR: Basic Video Integration
It’s important to find a VMS vendor who can integrate all of the value that modern security camera manufacturers bring to the table. Just because a camera manufacturer builds a super intelligent, next-gen analytic, doesn't mean it's going to work in any VMS. It’s important to ask questions about the size of the vendor’s partner program. How closely aligned is the vendor with the cameras you may want to use? You might want to use a certain type of Hanwha camera, for instance, only to find out that a VMS doesn’t have the horsepower or the integration capabilities to fully utilize it. Companies sometimes under-buy because they want to go cheap, but they can equally over-buy when it’s not clear what they actually need to accomplish.
The relationship you form with a vendor will last for years, so it’s important to find someone you trust. How established are they in the industry? Are they leaders or followers? Google the news and find out who is routinely breaking the mold and thinking outside of the box.
DECISION FACTOR: Beyond VMS – Unifying your Security Infrastructure
When choosing a video management system, it’s important to consider whether you’ll require integration with other elements of your security/business infrastructure. Do you have access control, perimeter fence detection, intercoms, POS or other business processes that need to be integrated with your security system? Systems such as Genetec Security Center are built to manage every aspect of a security infrastructure in one unified interface. A unified platform goes above and beyond tagging or bookmarking video when an access control event occurs or unlocking an access-controlled door from the video surveillance user interface. It is a unified user interface that offers seamless integration between video, intercom, access and intrusion systems with built-in reporting, analytics, and alarm management functionalities. With this type of solution, it is possible to configure and manage video cameras, access-controlled doors, print badges, monitor intrusion panels, and have everything at the security personnel’s disposal to ensure the level of security of a facility within a single consistent software suite.
While unifying solutions into a single pane of glass makes it easier for operators to see what’s happening in their environment, sometimes that’s not enough. Due to the size of these sites, even the most skilled security operators could become overwhelmed with juggling daily tasks while also trying to spot intruders, objects or crowds. That’s where advanced analytics come in, allowing operators to break through the complexity of managing it all, alerting them to the most pressing situations. Managers, city officials or other users don’t have time to comb through data or manipulate spreadsheets to find meaningful information. Instead, organizations are looking for ways to transform security data into relevant insights that they can act on, whether that’s a store, city, airport or anything else.
DECISION FACTOR: When your VMS is Smarter than You Think
For small to medium sized security installations, a modern VMS system, such as a Wisenet WAVE VMS from Hanwha Techwin, can offer analytics and insights that will help an organization run more efficiently and more intelligently too. They can make the most of their cameras’ advanced features and onboard advanced analytics such as intelligent video analytics (appear, disappear, loitering), market intelligence statistics (queue management) and sound classification (explosion, glass breakage, gunshot and scream detection). Video analytics remove the burden from security personnel and mitigate human errors. Video surveillance then becomes easier and more efficient, allowing operators to receive real-time notifications or enabling easy search to see the analytics, and quickly review video after the fact – never relying on constant human intervention/monitoring. Security operators can also stay informed about their security system’s health without the need to have a full-time person dedicated to manually verify the position and operation of each camera.
To Cloud or Not to Cloud
For certain businesses, leveraging the cloud for VMS and/or data storage makes a great deal of financial sense. Cloud-based infrastructure substantially reduces up-front investment in hardware. You never pay for unused capacity, system maintenance, and never have to worry about hardware becoming obsolete and failing. It allows you to scale at your own pace and operating expenditure looks better than capital expenditure on the books to most accountants. For many, a hybrid approach might be ideal, as the need to offload older video clips can become a burden depending on your policy on video data retention. The security and safety of video data in the cloud is unmatched by most on-premises solutions.
Traditional security systems rarely generate revenue and investments in security equipment are often tightly scrutinized. Completely overhauling a system, regardless of the technology employed, is entirely dependent on budget availability and management’s buy-in. With today’s smarter cameras, VMS, and advanced integration, business intelligence gathering presents a new way to directly monetize investments in security infrastructure.
So, when shopping for a VMS, it’s important to look at the track record and innovation of the system you are considering. Focus on your ability to extract maximum value from the product. You might be encouraged to look at the “cost per channel” of video, but it might be wiser to consider the “value per channel” to your business that a well-matched VMS system can provide in terms of both security and business intelligence. VMS platforms are continuously evolving to incorporate just about any type of data gathering imaginable. Why not have your VMS text your phone to tell you when lines are building up and you need to send more staff? These capabilities are available today, and much more is coming soon to a VMS near you.