Six “musts” for selecting and installing VMS

Six “musts” for selecting and installing VMS

When it comes to configuring surveillance solutions, it all comes down to two important factors—openness and customization. Over the years, video management software (VMS) has emerged as a business-enabling technology where a more open platform allows the integration of other value-adding system combinations such as POS, RFID, video analytics, time and attendance, access control, and more. The ease of use, improved algorithms, and data libraries are improving its reliability. The result is that the value of video is increased both in real time and when viewing recorded video.

According to Jumbi Edulbehram, VP of Business Development at Next Level Security Systems, the decision-making process can be varied and complex when considering VMS solutions. These factors include price, ease of use, integration, features, and intelligence.

Cost
One of the most important considerations when purchasing and installing VMS is total cost of ownership. For total cost of ownership, some key points should be taken into account: cost of installation, cost of maintenance, and time to deploy and conduct the system setup.

User-Friendliness
Another critical requirement is that the VMS should be simple and easy to use. As video surveillance systems become more complex, people using surveillance systems not only include security personnel, but also administrative and IT staff. Different users will have unique needs when accessing video. “It's important that everyone involved – from the head of security to workstation operators – can quickly find their way around the system and know how to configure it,” said Alan Ataev, Global Sales Director at AxxonSoft. For instance, there is a security customer who has certain wants and needs, as well as a business user and administrator, and their demands differ. Being able to have an interface that communicates with these different groups is important.

Gadi Piran, President of OnSSI agrees. “The VMS's interface needs to be as intuitive as possible, and should not require technical savvy to operate. Users should not be required to memorize codes or commands, and the system should display all, and only, the actions available at the current time for each individual camera.”

Ease of deployment
Deploying VMS can be a complicated task. “System integrators have to be educated on networking, hardware, operating systems, and edge devices to name a few,” Krugliak said. “The fewer tasks the installer is required to perform, the more automatic the setup procedure will be and therefore, the sooner the system installer can complete the project.”

Fully-supported hardware list should be as many as possible. It is always preferable to go with an open VMS solution capable of integrating a great variety of third party IP cameras and encoders. This ensures end users have greater freedom to select best of breed hardware. “We can already see today that the world [of] security [industry] is heading for network solutions in a big way,” Ataev said. “Right now, we have 1,300 models of IP cameras integrated with AxxonSoft products, and this number is constantly growing.” An open platform not only enables the user to optimize the system to do the job at hand, it also reduces long-term costs as it is possible to change components without a forklift upgrade.

Customization & Scalability
Video is just one component in the overall security operation. The VMS may need to integrate with other systems, including access control, video content analytics, license plate recognition, facial recognition, fence detection systems, fire alarm systems, and others. In addition, users should be able to customize the software to meet their unique needs. Whether or not SDK is extensive enough in order to enable customers to develop integrations or to customize the user interface to meet their needs becomes crucial.

The VMS architecture and how it fits within the network environment also needs to be considered. “A VMS solution that can adapt to any network and scale to thousands of cameras as the system evolves over time ensures customers are future proofed and can grow their system as required,” Palatsoukas said. For some verticals with a large camera count system, such as airports, the VMS should allow for growth with more locations, more recording servers, more cameras, and more users, without paying a penalty for going from one system size to another. For instance, an airport video surveillance system is typically composed of several hundred or thousands of cameras. The large camera count also comes with a large number of users, alarms, and workflows, which all in turn needs to be supported by the VMS. In this case, a suitable VMS needs to have the appropriate scalable architecture in order to support this infrastructure.

High Availability and Redundancy
In addition to the number of hardware components, the number of clients on a server can take a toll on the system. “It is crucial to ensure that the VMS has built-in capabilities to ensure that video is recorded and can be reviewed at all times,” Palatsoukas said.

A built-in mechanism in the VMS to offer continuous system access, uninterrupted video streaming, health monitoring, and system self-check is especially crucial for verticals that cannot afford the downtime. “High availability is of the utmost importance for a security system that is used to minimize threats and protect assets,” added Palatsoukas. “An offline system can result in revenue losses through operations stoppage and theft, hence making it very important to minimize downtime. The embedded high availability features are tailored specifically for the VMS, minimizing configuration and management time. They are also less expensive than third-party solutions.”

For critical use, such as casinos or banks, redundancy is a key concern as storage itself might take 30 to 40 percent of the total surveillance system price. A smart redundancy feature saves storage space and money since only triggered event footage is stored as backup. “In casino and city surveillance, smart redundancy is important as there will be enormous amounts of information and simple 1-1 redundancy is very wasteful,” said Patrick Lim, Director of Sales and Marketing at Ademco Far East (an Ademco Security Group Company). “Smart redundancy can reduce up to 50 percent of additional cost, which is ideal in controlling the budget and space needed.”

Intelligence and Automation
Security has traditionally been used to protect assets in a passive fashion. However, VMS allows video surveillance to go beyond traditional security by gathering business intelligence and driving decisions. A system with intelligent video analytics can combine multiple video analytic events using rules dependency to trigger an alarm and to minimize false alarms. “The system must be able to intelligently generate and distribute valid alerts in a variety of forms – video, text, audio, data and other – so that operators are no longer required to view live video from dozens, hundreds, and thousands of cameras,” Piran said.

Automation is important for remote sites as combining different security and non-security systems under a set of rules requires automated security. For instance, when reviewing the VMS, it is important that users seek out an automated platform that will deliver the video intelligence necessary to help security personnel rapidly detect, act on, and investigate security breaches and other threats.

Automation can include lighting, access control, door management, and more. It can also include more complicated tasks such as automated system health monitoring. “Automated system health monitoring is a critical feature to help users manage geographically distributed video operations, while enhancing system uptime and reliability to ensure video is being captured and is available for review at all times,” said Debjit Das, VP of Global Marketing, Video and Situation Intelligence Solutions, Verint Systems.

A large project may have multiple security systems scattered on multiple sites, creating a lot of complexity for the operator who might have to connect to multiple applications on different computers. “Being able to watch live and playback video, receive events, and run reports from multiple sites with one application makes operations easier for the users, who can concentrate on identifying and analyzing security threats,” Palatsoukas said.

The automation feature is important for remote sites. “Software features such as smart tracking of personnel, activities and events become very important, as they may have very limited security manpower at sites looking at cameras over a very large area,” added Lim.

User-centric mindset Picking the wrong VMS solution can be catastrophic and the consequence is not as simple as replacing a surveillance camera. Knowing the capability of VMS, project complexity, and user needs will help integrators at the start and avoid a mismatch scenario.

Homework for Integrators
Integrators might start by outlining end-user needs. Steven Lowrance, Applications Engineering Manager at Aronson Security Group offers some of the following tips. Below are some of the questions that help integrators better understanding a situation and system requirements:
1. How many cameras will there be? 
2. Is there a need for specialty cameras or brands (thermal, IR, covert, etc)? 
3. Where are those cameras located?
4. What is the recording schedule? 
5. Will the system be used for live viewing or more for forensic use after an event? 
6. Do users need advanced applications such as video analytics? 
7. How many users will view the cameras? 
8. Is permission restriction necessary to the business? 
9. Is centralized administration of users and devices important? 
10.Does the business have a server operating system requirement or restriction? 
11.Is integration with other systems a requirement?

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