Question The CCTV/Surveillance Expert: Integrating DVRs

Q: What are some of the factors I should keep in mind when choosing a DVR that needs to be integrated into a customer’s system? What troubleshooting issues might I face with a new DVR?

A: When it comes to planning a video system, one of the key components is the digital video recorder. The proper DVR for the system will greatly increase the chances of preserving the clear video required for forensic work and other needs. But guaranteeing the successful integration of a DVR into a system involves much more than simply picking a brand name and connecting a few cables.

Often, end users can be a little fearful in making the switch away from the analog technology that has served them for years. First and foremost, make sure that the DVR under consideration will work with the operating system in use at the client’s company.

If the plan is to use the DVR on a corporate network, check with the IT department to make sure there are no issues supporting the unit. Some DVRs use their own proprietary operating systems.

Check to see that the storage capacity is sufficient to meet immediate needs and growth in the near future. Also, decide the best manner to archive critical video for later use.

The quality of the recording may be important. Thirty frames per second (fps) is considered to deliver standard real-time viewing. A unit with 240 fps may appear to be adequate, but if the plan is to route as many as 16 cameras into the DVR, the per-camera fps rate drops to 15 frames per second.

Make certain the DVR can integrate with an existing access control system (ACS) to allow for seamless communication. Also, understand the difference between interface and true integration. An interface will allow for a means of connecting both the DVR and ACS through hardwired inputs and outputs to trigger alarms and call up video on a monitor. A true integrated system, however, will connect to the network and allow all programming of video alarm call-ups through the ACS.

Overall, most DVRs are reliable straight out of the box. However, one of the most frustrating problems is a unit that is no longer recording. Often, DVRs are locked in a closet and not monitored on a daily basis. When an incident occurs and a customer attempts to retrieve the video, you do not want the customer surprised that there is nothing to review. This can be frustrating and cost business. To help avoid long lapses in recording, help your customers to choose a DVR that will send an e-mail in the event of loss of video or in case the units stops recording.

Mike Painter is vice president of Salt Lake City, UT-based Alphacorp. Painter has been involved with all aspects of security since 1992, designing and implementing integrated CCTV and access control systems. Alphacorp is a member of SecurityNet, an international network of 22 leading independent system integrators offering clients a single, responsible source for meeting all electronic security needs.

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