Select the best recording solution

There are six key areas integrators should consider when determining what type of recorder and storage is needed for a customer's solution:

- Identify key customer requirements
- Key factors for storage and transmission
- Network options and concerns
- Embedded versus PC-based
- What about a hybrid solution?
- Proprietary versus open architecture

1. Identify key customer requirements

Determine how their business works. How many locations do they have? Is there a legacy video system? What are their storage requirements? Check on their budget and determine the purchasing cycle. Are users sophisticated and how many are there?

Determine which departments are involved. Each will have its own focus and, sometimes, one department is more important than others. The loss prevention department wants lots of coverage and clarity. They're focused on deterrence and apprehension. Marketing and other departments might be contributing to pay for the same system and will have a different perspective as to what is important. And, the IT department is likely to be more concerned with network use, open architecture and consumption of company's resources. Procurement wants to drive down costs. They may end up leaning towards embedded solutions.

2. Key factors for storage and transmission

Determine the manner of compression and if navigating to H.264 is an option. How many cameras are needed and what types? The higher the resolution, the more bandwidth and storage intensive it will be. Use low frame rates on areas with minimal activities, such as most outdoor applications, lesser used hallways and rooms not typically occupied.

DVRs typically specify how many remote users can be handled. Some DVRs will let administrators go beyond their stated suggestion but, typically, some level of performance may suffer. Also, some DVRs actually drop a function or two to accommodate excess remote users.

3. Network options and concerns

Check out the existing infrastructure. Will this new video system bring pain to any existing infrastructure? Check with IT to determine how much bandwidth they can provide. They are likely to ask how much is needed. Don't shortchange yourself. Leave room for potential expansion.

IT will worry that putting security video on the business network might hurt corporate network performance. Be aware that the business system might cause your customer to lose recorded video. Should they share? Maybe two independent systems are better, perhaps segmenting the existing network if separate systems are not obtainable. Working together, both sides can ensure meeting their mission objectives.

Discuss firewalls with IT contacts. DVRs need to be able to talk to their software through portals protected by firewalls that block out anything not recognized. Therefore, it's imperative to work with them upfront on how to best accommodate their need for security, while providing access to the DVRs through those same portals.

4. Embedded versus PC-based

Non PC-based DVRs (embedded) tend to better recover from power fluctuations then their PC-based counterparts. They are not as susceptible to viruses, worms, Trojans or spyware. Not being computer-based, they are of little threat to corporate networks. Updates and patches require minimal IT involvement. They cost less, which the procurement department will like, and they are scalable, which everyone will like as the system grows. Embedded DVRs feature a smaller footprint and there are many models from which to choose.

However, embedded DVRs tend to be hardware-driven. Some argue that they are not as user-friendly as PC-based DVRs. They can be harder to integrate to other technologies, including POS, access control, building management and switchers.

5. What about a hybrid solution?

Hybrid solutions bring lots of benefits. Within one box, six, 12, 18, 24, 30+ analog cameras or up to 32 or more IP cameras can be supported. Users can have numerous audio channels, alarms and relays and several terabytes of internal storage. PTZ control is a snap and GUI interfaces make operation easy. However, hybrid solutions are predominantly more expensive than non-hybrid solutions and some feel they contribute to putting too much in one box.

6. Proprietary versus open architecture

"Proprietary" tends to be a bad word these days. Yet, these systems can be very feature-rich. Since they provide closed access, integrity of the data is better managed. However, cross integration is limited and this could impact future upgrades. Other benefits to an open architecture are the standards that need to be incorporated by manufactures and software developers alike.
Both end-user and integrator will reap greater flexibility in deployment. Most consultants recommend going to the open architecture whenever possible.

Emigdio (Mig) Paredes is a sales engineer for GVI Security Inc., based in Carrollton, Texas.