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Should you use a surveillance server instead of a DVR?

Should you use a surveillance server instead of a DVR?
Surveillance servers offer an alternative to traditional DVRs with more customizability.
A crucial factor that can decide the efficiency of a surveillance system is your choice of components. While this sounds relatively straightforward, the reality is that the increasing number of products in the market makes it difficult for customers and integrators to decide what they should buy.
 
The question of whether to use a surveillance server instead of a digital video recorder is one such. Using a DVR is a natural practice for many customers when setting up a video surveillance system. And they are not entirely wrong either because DVR serves the purpose and is an ideal choice in many cases.
 
But there are certain benefits to using a surveillance server instead of a DVR. Robin Hughes, Co-founder of Secure Logiq, the short version is that having a server and VMS (Video Management System) instead of a DVR is the difference between an entry-level system and an enterprise CCTV system. A server and VMS will offer more functionality, flexibility, resilience, storage, throughput, and, on a larger system, potentially power and rack space savings too.

What advantages do surveillance servers offer?

A significant advantage of a surveillance server is the level of customizability that it offers, according to Hughes. A DVR is typically a hardware device with embedded software - very much a “one size fits all” system. With a specialized server solution, you get to select the software that suits you, your application, and the people who actually use the system every day.
 
“When Secure Logiq sells a server, we try to understand not only current but future requirements so that the solution can scale to technology upgrades such as new features, additional cameras, increasing resolutions, and video analytics,” Hughes explained.
 
Not all VMS and analytics software may work on every hardware, which makes it essential that customers can tailor their devices according to their needs. But the options of doing that with a DVR remain limited. Servers are easily adaptable and upgradeable if you need a different software solution.
 
“This is why it is so important to purchase your IT hardware from a specialized independent vendor that understands the entire system you are deploying,” Hughes continued. “Imagine buying one software product and its associated rebranded COTS (Commercial Off the Shelf) server and deciding it just doesn’t suit you, you will not get support on the hardware because of the sticker on the front, despite the warranty being supplied by a third party.”

Who can benefit from it?

DVRs are an integral part of video surveillance at the moment. Customers across verticals use it. So who would benefit the most from a surveillance server?
 
Hughes says that for a long time now, the basis of most enterprise surveillance projects has been the utilization of many HD cameras on a sophisticated VMS using a high-powered computer to replace multiple DVR/NVR units. A specialized server with the correct software could technically record several hundred HD cameras at a good frame rate for several months.
 
“This means that in a well-designed enterprise system, correct server selection can offer massive advantages in terms of system design and efficiency, power consumption, and rack space,” Hughes said. “Secure Logiq manufactures optimized servers for HD surveillance that can process up to 4000 Mbps of camera traffic with over 1 Petabyte of on-board useable storage in just 4U, which is equivalent to 16 COTS servers (or the highest specification DVRs on the market). The power savings alone could pay for the product in just a few years.”

How can you get the most out of it?

So now that you have heard of the benefits of using a surveillance server instead of a DVR, you might want to purchase one yourself. But wait, before you go forth and make that decision, here are some of the best practices you can follow to maximize the benefits.
 
While it is a specialist server for surveillance, it is still a server and the engine of your CCTV system. So it should receive the same level of care you apply to the servers running your business. Ensure that the server is installed in a suitable environment, ideally in a temperature- and humidity-controlled rack. Hughes also recommends installing surge protection or a UPS system.
 
“Maintain the server both on a hardware and software level on a regular basis,” Hughes added. If your server is installed in an environment that can lead to dust build-up in the machine, then the cleaning schedule should be adjusted accordingly. Added to this, in any environment, clear the dust filters regularly.”
 
From a software perspective, to maximize the security and efficiency of the server, you should perform the latest Windows (or other OS) updates at least bi-annually. Update the drivers on the system and update the VMS or Video Analytic application to the newest version. While updates may contain new features, most importantly, they are designed to eliminate any potential bugs in the system and protect from the latest vulnerabilities discovered since the previous version.
 
“On a final note, you can save a lot of time by creating a Windows restore point and exporting the application configuration files on each maintenance visit,” Hughes said. “And most importantly, don’t forget to change any default passwords.”

A customizable alternative

DVRs are an important part of video surveillance systems in many verticals. But surveillance servers can provide customers an opportunity to acquire customized systems that suits their needs best. This becomes relevant, especially for large projects that require many cameras and complex systems. Servers could also help customers easily scale up their infrastructure, enabling easy addition of components at a reasonable cost.
 
Ultimately, the decision would come down to the customers and their integrators. For those who might have already invested in DVRs and are happy with their performance, shifting to surveillance servers may not make sense. But for customers who are about to begin a new project or are interested in upgrading their systems, surveillance servers offer a good alternative.
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