Roundtable: Technology Sound-Off: NVRs versus VMS

With technological changes spinning out of control, especially in video surveillance, it is increasingly important to know your options and utilize the best product tool for your needs and those of your customer. This month’s exclusive coverage features...

Okay, you’re moving your customers over to IP video. You and they have decided that analog video systems are difficult and expensive to configure on a network, creating problems with the IT department, which is becoming more and more involved in the selection of security systems. Analog cannot adequately compress video for management and reporting authorities now demand the storage of increased frames per second from an explosion of cameras on the system.
Now, you face additional choices. When do you use a digital video recorder (DVR) and when do you propose a network video recorder (NVR)? Or do you need to go to a video management system (VMS)?

First of all, the only real similarity between the DVR and analog recorders (VCRs) is that both record. However, with the DVR, one can make very quick searches on hard drives much faster than scanning yards of analog tape to find the image needed. Secondly, the DVR performs at a lower total cost of ownership and higher quality. DVR’s cost less and are dramatically more efficient to maintain. Discs are much easier to store. There is virtually no degradation of quality and a hard disk can literally hold months of images.

Where to use an NVR
For larger enterprise-sized security installations, NVRs are becoming an increasingly viable option. In some respects, such an appliance could be viewed as a DVR with digital video management software embedded on it, providing an out-of-the-box plug-and-play solution. NVRs tend to benefit installations with multiple sites and locations, such as a large transportation system. For these expansive organizations, the flexibility afforded by remote access and retrieval and the ability to bring data back to a central location, make NVRs an attractive choice. They also offer enhanced flexibility as far as programming and moving video between several sites. A general guideline is that the bigger the installation, the more cost-effective NVRs become.
Although NVRs clearly give large organizations more programming flexibility, they could potentially offer less reliability than an embedded system in which data is kept on a DVR at the camera site. Many end-users want to ensure they can keep recording even if the network goes down and thus, might prefer isolated DVRs. Images can be retrieved via remote monitoring.

Where to use VMS instead
A VMS is a software solution. Video storage and management is done on a software platform on a conventional server. You need to make sure that the manufacturer of the cameras and other hardware you use has integration partnerships with the VMS provider. If using an open platform, a VMS should work with any open platform camera, processor, RAM, storage or disk system. As such, it will provide many flexibilities and the utmost scalability. It is extremely IT-centric and should typically be used in very large or complex video surveillance systems.
Right now, if you look at most VMS platforms, software is run on an off-the-shelf server, which adds a lot of complexity and is more costly for smaller applications. There are places for the present VMS approach but you may be better served by a near-future line of products that are appliance-based. This means that the servers and software are configured and running on the network.

Mike Capulli is the senior vice president, North American Sales, SAMSUNG | GVI Security.