Dedicated video management software solutions have distinct benefits but are also more complex. A&S looks at the pros and cons for software-only offerings, along with pricing considerations.
Stand-alone and hardwarebased video management software (VMS) solutions offer advantages and drawbacks. “I think both solutions have their place in the market,” said Francis Lachance, PM at Genetec. “We see dedicated software solutions are more targeted at the high-end and large-scale systems because they offer more flexibility in deployment.”
The benefits depend on the individual's perspective — whether they are end users, specifiers or system integrators. “While vendor-based VMS ties one to the manufacturer's hardware and tends to lock one in to higher costs perhaps initially and in terms of support in the long term, it does at least guarantee that the software and hardware work properly together,” said Phil Ridgeon, VP of Sales for Vigilant Technology. Its VMS runs on thirdparty approved hardware, but is usually bundled with D/NVRs.
Dedicated VMS can add new functions at any time, while DVRs have limited upgrade options. “Stand-alone, open-platform software means that the VMS is decoupled from the hardware it runs on, allowing users to choose standard off-the-shelf devices of their own brand, price and feature preferences to suit their individual needs best,” said Christian Bohn, VP of Marketing and Head of Product Development for Milestone Systems.
Pure software can be cheaper in some instances. “Professional VMS pros include no initial hardware costs if existing computers and free software are used,” said Jakub Motycka, Head of the Technical Department for Koukaam.
Features Galore Flexible software
increases video's usefulness. “Intuitive and comprehensive IP-based VMS provides valuable data that can be used in numerous ways and, broadly speaking, can provide a useful new asset to the enterprise as well as a solid ROI,” said Gadi Piran, President of On-Net Surveillance Systems.
Bundled VMS features are limited. “What we find in larger projects is they like to standardize hardware like Dell, so free software is increasingly not where the market is going,” said Marc Holtenhoff, CEO of Aimetis. “For people looking for basic features, there's a lot of competition, and free is a nice price. But there's value in paying for software.”
The functionality of a DVR, NVR or free software does not match enterprise demands. “For an airport with 1,000 cameras, you're looking for scalability and a support structure — it's a different ball game,” Holtenhoff said.
For comparison, a DVR cannot handle the complexity of large projects, said Tuhin Bose, Chief Engineer of Videonetics.
VMS delivers more integration, compared to hardware. However, licenses are expensive, require servers to run and can be difficult to install. “Dedicated VMS offers comprehensive functionality to enhance common video surveillance tasks, such as virtual matrix support, automated ‘patrols' of cameras, integrated maps, video wall and more,” said Oliver Vellacott, CEO of IndigoVision.
Some providers offer both software-only and NVR-bundled VMS. “There's not really a pro or con to either one, as it depends on the customer,” said Jesse Frye, Product Line Manager, IP Video Management Systems, March Networks. “The NVR is very successful because it's a purpose-built solution. The con is it is perceived as a closed solution.”
The Nedap VMS solution is based on its access control platform, which was designed to be vendoragnostic. “We introduced a security management platform in which we separated the software from the hardware,” said Hans Schipper, GM of Security Management, Education and Locker Management Systems, Nedap. “We use generic hardware and deploy software components to give it a certain behavior.”
While dedicated VMS offers strong functionality and maximizes existing hardware, a potential downside is it generally has to be purchased whereas vendor-based VMS systems tend to be included with the device, said David Aindow, Product and Technology Director for Synectics (a Quadnetics company).
Most vendors license by device. Instead of charging for the software, the user is charged for licenses per camera, said Alf Chang, Senior Consultant for A&S magazines. When the system grows, the customer buys more licenses instead of replacing servers and software, saving installation time and cost.
However, not everyone likes paying for software, whether upfront or annually. “Because of the resentment felt in much of the security industry about annual license charges, our model has always been a one-time license charge made at the time of purchase,” Ridgeon said.
Most dedicated VMS providers license by camera count, but others include servers and users for large installations. Discounts for bulk purchases are usually set by distributors, rather than the providers.
Digifort charges by camera license for software, but offers a base license per server, said éric Fleming Bonilha, Technology Director of Digifort. Each base license includes a certain number of camera licenses.
As VMS vendors are comfortable in the network space, remote monitoring deployments through software as a service (SaaS) have generated buzz. While this business model could generate new business, hosted video targets SMBs and homes rather than enterprise projects. Some vendors already have partners deploying SaaS, while others are hedging their bets.
Some vendors have put video in the cloud. “In my opinion, hosted video will be driven by IT-centric video surveillance companies and not by the telcos,” said Steve Lewis, COO of ipConfigure. “AT&T tried unsuccessfully to launch a video surveillance offering with its ‘remote monitor ' service. It eventually punted the service back to Xanboo to run.”
The security industry is cautious about new technology and business models. “Video stored by a third party brings security and privacy issues,” Holtenhoff said. “Architecturally, there are reasons for it and it makes sense, but the adoption rates aren't great.”