Analog to Digital

When and how to make the change


Digital video systems have many advantages. Digitized video can be transmitted over corporate networks in the same manner other data is sent, making it possible to share live or recorded video between offices located a city, a state or even a continent away.

Internet Protocol (IP) cameras can be added to or moved on a network in much the same as other peripherals, such as printers and PCs. Standard servers can function as network video recorders (NVRs), providing storage capabilities far beyond anything an analog VCR or even a DVR can offer.

With these benefits, one might think all organizations would immediately begin the switch to fully digital security systems. But many companies and government agencies already have six- or seven-figure investments into analog or hybrid systems. The cost of a complete switch out of these legacy systems is often too high for organizations to consider.

That does not mean a digital upgrade cannot begin in a more modest way. Fortunately, security manufacturers are providing solutions that allow more digital and analog components to function together in a single system. With some capital investment, a little patience and the advice of an experienced system integrator, a fully digital security system can be within the reach of most security practitioners.

Several leading systems integrators recently shared their experiences in helping take their customers digital. Their experiences can help serve as a roadmap for making the switch.

Facilities Making the Move

Jerry Albrecht of D/A Central said the migration of analog systems to digital constitutes the majority of his firm's video work. Typically, he recommends starting with the head-end equipment and maintaining as much of the remaining infrastructure as possible.

“That makes the biggest difference right off the bat,” he said. “Most of the customers we are working with have a lot of existing infrastructure. They have different products in different locations, and now they want to get everything onto the network. As a rule, the cost of replacing the infrastructure is fairly significant. So we start by replacing the VCRs or DVRs and the matrix switches, and put the video on a network to be recorded by an NVR.” In most cases, he said, the networks he helps to design are dedicated to security and not shared with other corporate functions.

“We are going to start work soon at a hospital,” he said. “There are about 160 cameras on the site, and right now they have multiple types of VCRs and DVRs recording video. Some of them are local for a particular building. The security staff has told us, ‘Let's get this all into one location where we can monitor everything.'” After going digital, the hospital will have a 32-monitor video wall. The console operators will be able to electronically drag and drop a camera from the list and pop it up on the wall. Virtual tours of the facilities will run continuously on the bottom row of monitors. And the access system will be integrated so that a door access problem will pop up the related camera while the virtual tour continues uninterrupted.

Another project D/A Central helped to complete involved an organization using DVRs for its video recording of analog cameras. Officials complained it was not getting enough recording time—they wanted to be able to record and store 180 days of video from 45 cameras.

One day, the DVRs died and no one in the organization was immediately aware of the failure. “The user was faced with a lawsuit and when the staff went to find the related video, there was none,” Albrecht said. “So we went in and in two hours yanked out the DVRs, plugged in video servers and hooked them up to a NVR. That didn't rescue the lost video, but it did give the customer the recording capacity it wanted for the future.”

Phasing in a System

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