What to Look for in Video Management Software

Beyond the GUI, ways to differentiate between products

The ability to copy a configuration from one camera to multiple cameras is handy for the administration of larger systems.

Size Matters: Scale & Redundancy

Systems can scale in numbers of cameras and in numbers of concurrent users. If your system will have a large number of concurrent live video viewers, you may want to consider a software product that supports network multicasting. Multicasting is a way of efficiently transmitting video to a select group of people, much like a conference call.

Instead of sending information in individual packets to each recipient, a single message is sent to a multicast group, which includes all the people that want to participate. Transmitting a single video stream instead of a stream for each video user will reduce the load on the network, the host servers and the network cameras.

A single server can support a limited number of cameras for NVR recording. This maximum number will vary by software product and the capabilities of the host server. Some products will support failover recording and recording redundancy across multiple machines to protect against disk drive or other system failures.

Supported IP Devices

Network cameras have evolved to provide an interesting mix of value-added features, such as two-way audio transmission, megapixel resolution, motion detection and embedded video analytics. However, the level of integration with management software varies widely. Unlike analog video cameras, network cameras must be individually integrated with each software product, resulting in inconsistent levels of support from product to product. Using these features requires a careful marriage of software with the selected network camera or encoder.

IT Friendliness

For many installations, the video system has become one more application supported by the IT infrastructure. In response, many software products are becoming more IT friendly by adopting standards for managing users, devices and network security.

Many products now integrate with Microsoft's Active Directory so that video system users can be managed within an organization's existing user management system. User names and associated access privileges to cameras and PTZ control can all be managed with a single sign-on to the network.

Fewer products will report system health and diagnostics using standard tools and protocols. One such standard is Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP). Products can use SNMP to report system failures such as video loss and disk drive crashes to common health monitoring tools such as HP OpenView or IBM's Tivoli .

Before deploying a system, many IT managers will want to understand how well video will pass through their network firewalls. Some Microsoft-based products use network ports that are considered susceptible to viruses and other hacker attacks. For example, most enterprise firewalls will block use of port 135, used by Microsoft's DCOM protocol for remote procedure calls. If you plan to access video from across your WAN or from the Internet, you will need to understand what network ports are used by the software.

Web browser access makes video very accessible and easy to maintain. Any PC with a browser can access the video. Instead of loading and updating software on client PCs, vendor software updates are performed on the server. Products provide a broad range of support for browser access. For example, Broadware's entire user interface is built for Web access, while other products provide limited or no browser functionality relative to their installed client software. Broadware's product works on the Linux operating system, providing one of the few alternatives to a Microsoft operating system.

Adding Value with Integration

Capturing video with transaction-oriented systems like access control, ATM and POS can multiply the value of a security system. Many software products have ready-to-go integrations with access control systems. The level of integration and the scope of supported systems vary from product to product.