Video surveillance and the numerous security and operational advantages it provides to today's organizations would not be possible without continual advancements in video management software. Whether it’s helping businesses better organize live video feeds, access recorded footage or run a variety of analytic algorithms, gaining actionable video intelligence is not possible without a VMS solution.
One of the most popular video management systems has and continues to be Milestone System’s XProtect solution. The open platform software is popular with SMBs and enterprises alike but for all the advantages its offers, many of the important administrative tasks that are needed to run XProtect efficiently are tedious and time consuming to perform. However, a new company making its official market launch this month dubbed, The Boring Lab, promises to dramatically reduce the amount of time end-users and integrators spend managing XProtect with the introduction of its “Boring Toolbox” application.
According to Ronen Isaac, CEO of The Boring Lab, The Boring Toolbox was borne out of a conversation started inside Continental Computers, a California-based video surveillance products reseller and integrator/VAR where Isaac serves as VP, to develop an internal product to help them more efficiently manage the Milestone deployments of their customers. They later decided to launch The Boring Lab – named in honor of making the jobs of video system administrators “less boring” – as a standalone company and offer the application to the industry at large once they realized its true market potential.
“Our goal is to decrease maintenance time or Milestone management time between 90 and 97 percent and we’ve actually tested some of these tasks in real life and we’ve saved countless hours just in our situations with our own customers," Isaac says. "We’ve also given it to some of our larger customers and they are saving hours of time because there are a lot of things in Milestone, as robust as it is and it allows you to do a lot of things very, very well, but bulk operations is not one of them."
Among some of the tasks that the company has addressed with its Boring Toolbox include:
- Password Management: Allows bulk camera password changes in Milestone to comply with IT cybersecurity policies— resulting a reduction from 67 hours of labor for a 1,000-camera system down to just 20 minutes and 10 clicks.
- Device Group Management: Allows for the automatic grouping of cameras based on models, firmware or recording server storage configuration. Trials show that The Boring Toolbox reduces task time by 97 percent.
- Hardware & Device Name Management: Renames hardware and devices in bulk—potentially reducing task time by over 90 percent.
- Reporting Function: Quickly exports filterable Excel spreadsheets with information such as recording server hardware type, network information and video stream for at-a-glance system audits that will ensure system compliance to customer or company standards.
According to Isaac, the company actually went back and wrote its own API to interface with Milestone in order perform operations faster and provide a better user experience for customers. When it comes to renaming system hardware and devices within XProtect, for example, Isaac said there is no search functionality for admins to use and that they have to know exactly where these devices are. Within The Boring Toolbox, however; admins can perform a quick search of the cameras they need to change, select all and rename them in just a few clicks rather than having to perform the operation one camera at a time.
“As an example, I did this for a customer of ours recently. I had to change 65 camera names and each camera had around 40 devices underneath it for a total of 900 devices. It would have probably taken me three and a half hours the normal way, but it took me less than 30 minutes using Boring,” he says. “It’s really busy work; right click, copy and paste and that whole thing but if we can make it faster, why not? By giving folks the ability to do bulk operations, it saves them a lot of right clicks and copy and paste, so we’re saving their sanity as well as their wrists and fingers.”
Cybersecurity has obviously become one of the hot-button issues across the security industry in recent years with increasing scrutiny being placed on manufacturers and integrators to implement basic, good cyber hygiene practices. One of those practices includes changing default passwords, which can be quite an ordeal for some large camera deployments.
“One of the main things that we did because we have some enterprise clients that need to comply to IT policy is we created a password manager that does a couple of things. It’s a very basic tool that allows us to toggle visibility and see the passwords that are currently stored in Milestone,” Isaac explains. “This is really useful in situations where you may have a large customer that is using third-party contractors to help them do the installations and they can have them come in and add the cameras with a temporary password and then see which ones have those and change them.”
The password manager can also provide auto-generated passwords of varying complexity that can be applied to cameras across a user’s network. “We can update 520 passwords in less than a minute,” Isaac says. “We’ve heard of customers that have spent days trying to update passwords on some of the larger systems, so this is a key feature for increasing the security awareness and footprint of our IoT devices and cameras.”
They’ve also recently added the capability to sync passwords on Milestone and physical devices where available. “What we’ve done here is implement another step using the Axis API where we can sync usernames and passwords to Milestone as well as update the passwords on the Axis camera at the same time,” Isaac adds.
Although The Boring Toolbox is just now exiting the beta test mode, Isaac says the company has a number of its clients that are actively using the application and they are in the process of raising awareness about the product and its potential use cases across the market. He added that Milestone is also excited about the app and is presenting it to their customers as well.
In addition to end-user admins, Isaac says the application is an ideal solution for systems integrators.
“These are the guys and gals out there managing these systems on a regular basis and we charge per client but we don’t tie the license to an SLC and we don’t license our API, so an integrator could go out, do a full install of Milestone, install our API alongside the Milestone management server and then when they need to go in and manage the system, the Boring API will already be there, they just need to fire up their client and manage the client system," he says. "They, just like Continental Computers, can have that streamlined management and they can save many, many hours; saving them time and allowing them to manage other customers, provide better customer service and to honestly charge less or the same, it’s really up to them. They could probably make more money by shortening the amount of time they’re spending doing the exact same tasks today."
Package prices for the Boring Toolbox start at $999 to manage up to one hundred cameras. More cameras can also be added in increments of ten. The company is offering a free 30-day trial with full functionality that users can apply on up to 48 cameras at once. The app is compatible with Milestone XProtect Express+, XProtect Professional+, XProtect Expert and XProtect Corporate.
For more information, visit https://theboringlab.com.
About the Author:
Joel Griffin is the Editor-in-Chief of SecurityInfoWatch.com and a veteran security journalist. You can reach him at [email protected].