Large-Scale Enterprise Video Systems

Oct. 27, 2008
Size does matter

Large-scale enterprise video systems—from a 200-camera, campus-wide installation to more than 1,000 cameras in 100 corporate offices stretched across the country—offer special challenges and opportunities not found with smaller, single-site projects.

Corporate managers and security directors quickly form high expectations. No matter where they are or the time of day, they want to be able to turn on their desktop PC or laptop and see video, live or recorded, from any camera on the enterprise system. They want their system to work dependably and to provide them with high-quality data.

The keys to a successful enterprise video system are pretty much the same as with any security project: meticulous design, appropriate choice of equipment, proper installation, adequate training and suitable use. Mistakes in any of these areas can prove to be costly in a large-scale system.

Mixing Old and New

Very few large systems begin really big. Most video systems start modestly and grow over a number of years as corporate needs expand. And that brings one of many challenges posed by size.

A large enterprise system probably includes a mix of older and new technologies. The legacy system may include analog cameras, multiplexers and videocassette recorders. Until recently, mixing an older system with digital equipment was difficult, if not impossible. But new software on the market makes that task manageable.

Large new systems often involve the corporate network, so it's vital to gain the buy-in of the IT department before you begin any expansion. Many of the security platforms now run off Windows-based software, and the IT folks will want to make sure it is protected from potential viruses.

Understandably, IT departments are very protective of the network. It is the job of the IT staff to keep the information backbone up and running for all corporate departments that rely upon it—not just security. Understand the needs of IT, speak the language of the IT wonks, and keep them informed throughout the expansion. That will help smooth the way for the current and future projects.

What About Cable?

Another challenge often represented by a large-scale enterprise system is the distance between cameras and a central command center. Getting cable—either twisted pair or fiber—across a campus or up to the 40 th floor can be daunting. One way to get around that problem is to strategically place DVRs in a back room and use those as a cabling point. The video can then be transmitted via the network to the command center.

The cabling problem can also be handled by the use of IP cameras. IP technology uses a corporation's LAN or WAN infrastructure to send digital video to a server for recording. This allows you to record and store video on a network video recorder instead of a proprietary recording device such as a DVR.

Information Overload

Large-scale projects can tax network infrastructure for a number of reasons. The quality of video has increased dramatically over the past few years. Cameras that provide high-definition images are now available. Also, the number of cameras being installed in projects is often two to three times the number that would have been seen only a couple of years ago.

When you have 1,000 or more cameras on a large-scale enterprise system (possibly mixing in high-definition units), the amount of information moving across the network or entering the command center can become overwhelming. And once a security director exceeds his allotted network bandwidth, he will hear about it from the IT department. The only way to survive this information overload is to transmit only the video required for the security function.

This is where video analytics can play a major role. At current costs of $1,000 to $1,500 per channel, so-called smart video is still found mostly in high-end and homeland security projects. But smart video developers are rushing to bring those costs down.

Security directors will count on video analytics to spot exceptions, such as movement in restricted areas or suspicious items left unattended. The analytics will mark these events as alarm situations, and the system will download only the marked video into the command center.

There are now cameras with built-in video analytic software that will automatically direct PTZ cameras to zoom in on tracked objects for clear identification. Or the software can direct the cameras to track only one moving object in the field (based on size or speed of motion) or toggle between several objects in motion.

Video on the Edge

Coming soon, the miniaturization of computer components and less expensive, more expansive memory solutions will combine with video analytics to create “video on the edge.” Video storage will be located near or at the camera, on the edge of the enterprise network.

IP cameras will have built-in memory that will allow them to store video internally. Smart video software will analyze the video and alert the user of pre-defined alarm situations. This will make it much easier for the security staff to monitor large numbers of cameras, while reducing the demand on the corporate network. With backup battery capability also built into each camera, these “edge” devices will continue to record even if the network should fail or go down for scheduled maintenance.

Large-Scale Advantages

Large-scale enterprise systems offer challenges and advantages. They can even be a good investment—particularly in retail operations, where cameras can more than pay for themselves by helping to reduce shoplifting and internal theft.

Just remember, when it's time to expand a video system by placing it on the corporate network or adding large numbers of new cameras, look to an experienced systems integrator to help get the job done correctly.

Larry O'Brien is president and chief operating officer of Charlotte, N.C.-based Security Forces and SFI Electronics. He also serves as treasurer for SecurityNet, a network of systems integrators offering clients a single, responsible source for meeting all electronic security needs.

Courtesy of (Natrice Miller/
Views of multiple police cars parked at Norcross High School on Thursday, October 27, 2022. The school has increased police presence after a student was fatally shot near the campus.
Courtesy of -- Copyright: Dontree
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) has become a standard practice for most organizations looking to secure their data and applications against cyber-attacks.
Courtesy of -- Copyright: VectorHot
If you have not migrated to the cloud yet, you should consider doing so to simplify your data storage and drop IT costs and access innovation services like AI applications and data analytic dashboards.
Photo: BigStock (Copyright: Serenethos)
Multiple factors have led to a significant decrease in door-to-door security system sales, which, in turn, led to a decrease in deceptive sales practices in the industry. Last week's judgment against Vivint thrust these practices back into the spotlight.