Eye on Video: When analog cameras outlive their DVRs

Why you should replace failed DVRs with video encoders

Redundancy: If the DVR fails the whole CCTV system fails – and then the system is down for however long it takes to fix or replace the DVR. Encoders offer a number of redundancy options to keep the surveillance system up and running. For example, you can power one- or four-channel encoders via Power-over-Ethernet and tie them into the UPS system in the server room. Some encoders have dual power supplies built in. Some have a blade system where the channels can be hot swapped if a blade fails. Some encoder rack solutions have redundant network ports. Some have all of the above.

Future-proof: Once the analog cameras need replacing, most of the DVR-based system needs to be forklifted. With an encoder-based system, you can simply integrate new IP cameras one camera at a time.

What’s new with encoder technology?

Many integrators assume that with the phasing out of analog technology nothing new has been happening in the world of video encoders. That’s simply not true. Manufacturers are continuing to invest R&D in video encoder technology. Prices continue to drop as performance continues to improve. Some new encoder enhancements include:

Performance: The latest encoders support up to 60 fps, which delivers smooth video even in high motion scenes. There have also been significant advancements in noise reduction, image sharpness and image contrast for even better picture quality.

Density: New video encoder blades support up to 84 analog cameras, making them ideal for large, mission-critical surveillance installations. Furthermore, video encoder blades can be hot swappable, so there’s no need to power down the whole system when installing or removing individual blades. Unlike swapping out failed DVRs, critical surveillance systems that leverage video encoders stay up and running during upgrades.

Support for PTZ over coax: Some encoders support control of PTZ cameras using the coax cable, which limits the amount of cabling needed in an installation.

Onboard storage: Today’s encoders often include SD-card slots for onboard storage. In a small system with only a few cameras, the SD-card can serve as the sole recording device. In an enterprise system, the SD-card can provide redundant recording. A typical 64GB SD-card today is around $50 and can store several days of recording, or sometimes even longer if motion-based recording is used.

Fiber output: SFP (small form-factor pluggable) fiber slots make it easier to integrate certain encoders into newer fiber-based network infrastructures. This is commonly the case in large retail stores or warehouses where the distances between MDF closets might be long.

With more than 40 million analog cameras still in operation around the world, it’s worth your while to investigate this huge opportunity for replacing failed DVRs with video encoders. Getting a foot in the door with this bridging technology can be your first step in building a long-term customer relationship.

First the customer will realize greater value from their existing analog camera. Then as that legacy technology begins to age out, you’ll have already laid the foundation to help the customer gradually migrate to a full IP solution and all its accompanying benefits.

About the Author: Fredrik Nilsson is the general manager for Axis Communications, Inc. in North America. He has more than 16 years of experience with IP video systems and is the author of "Intelligent Network Video: Understanding Modern Video Surveillance Systems," published by CRC Press.