Defining the NVR category

Lines blur in recording mediums

What’s an NVR? How does it differ from a DVR? Does a DVR that can handle both analog and digital signals move into the realm of the NVR? If you’re a systems integrator, you may be asking these same questions when you go to specify the recording medium for a customer’s surveillance system at the protected premises.

“What the heck is the difference between a DVR and an NVR?” chided Jim Kauker, executive vice president of Sales and Marketing for NAVCO Networks and Security, Anaheim, Calif., to SD&I during a discussion on the topic, admitting that there is widespread confusion on product terminology.

“A DVR can reside on the network and the NVR is also on the network and neither cares if it’s an analog or digital camera signal,” he said. “Quite frankly, the end-user doesn’t care. When they want pictures, they want pictures, so you have to figure out the best solution to do that.” For those larger camera systems, NAVCO prefers to build a separate network for customers lessening any objections from IT personnel about putting a piece of hardware—network video recorders--on their network infrastructure. Kauker predicted that in about five years most video storage will be at the edge in SD cards at the cameras.

Up in the air

The video surveillance recording market is definitely in transition. Now that both analog and digital signals can be transferred to DVRs or NVRs and DVRs have become more feature rich, adding capabilities such as point of sale, H.264 video codec, on-board monitors, 1080p, GUI menus, hard drive expansion capability, mobile monitoring, iPhone integration, USB backup, standalone or network connectivity and more--the product category is literally stepping into NVR terrain. And it could be all this cross-migration of technological specs/functions formerly reserved for the NVR that is adding to the confusion.

“It used to be pretty simple that a DVR was just tied to a specific analog camera,” said Lee Caswell, founder and chief marketing officer, Pivot3, Palo Alto, Calif. “The hybrid products now blur the lines a lot. I think of an NVR as something that can be shared by many cameras and users and can be on a distributed or centralized environment. I think that you’re absolutely seeing folks that build DVRs moving to higher quality, server-based products—that’s happening across the board. People are relying on the surveillance data now more than they were in the past and the expectations have ratcheted up.”

According to Greig Silver, senior integration engineer at IDESCO Corp., New York City, a lot of what the integrator specifies will depend on the sophistication of the customer and how strong and open their IT folks are to using an NVR. “Of course the initial struggle was to get the IT folks to let us on the network but now with compression rate H.264 some of the bandwidth concerns have been addressed,” Silver said. “The choice of whether or not to use an NVR is dependent on the sophistication of the customer’s IT personnel, because they ultimately will be managing the product.”

Silver also added that NVRs are more feature rich because they leverage the network. “An NVR is a great way to manage video day to day and it’s so far ahead of a DVR,” Silver said. “When you have networking experience, putting the camera and NVR on the network is so intuitive. If a camera goes out, you get an e-mail alert, so there are supervisory capabilities. In addition, with an NVR your ability to expand is virtually endless. NVRs are more expensive the same way a good quality DVR was back in the day. Today, a 4TB NVR costs the same money that a DVR did in the past.”

He added that for systems under 20 cameras, an NVR might not be cost-justified. “For over 22 cameras, the entire system (with UTP cabling) and cost of ownership is actually less. NVRs make it easier to integrate with access control on the network and move the customer to video analytics when they are ready. We will still use DVRs for smaller installations, like those with four to 16 cameras and installs with budget constraints,” Silver continued.

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