How to Sell Scalable VMS

Jan. 15, 2015
Best practices for sales presentations and demos

Video surveillance deployments continue to grow, both in terms of camera counts and the number of geographically dispersed sites — introducing potential challenges of system complexity and management. These can force organizations to make significant investment in the training and staffing required to ensure that security teams have the competency to work with these more complex systems.

Choosing the right VMS solution can reduce or eliminate the need to make these investments of both time and money, while significantly improving the overall effectiveness and efficiency of security operations. For this reason, the scalability offered by VMS has taken on much greater significance and importance when choosing the right solution.

While system scalability is crucial to determining the number of cameras a VMS solution can accommodate, there are other related factors that are equally important in determining whether a particular solution is the right choice for addressing a specific customer’s needs. Among these are how that scalability is achieved and the additional camera license costs that result from expanding a system’s capacity.

For example, while a software-centric (or virtual) approach to scalability has become common, some VMS are still based on a hardware-centric approach, which delivers basic recording features and limited scalability without additional recorders or servers. In contrast, virtual scaling eliminates these limitations, provides increased management functionality and drives the move toward VSaaS and cloud-based storage.

While a virtual approach may seem like a no-brainer, it is not the right answer for every customer.

Selling VMS

Like the vast majority of technologies, VMS are available in a wide variety of configurations that offer an even larger number of possible features and functions. The most powerful, feature-rich solution may be an ideal fit for one customer but wrong for another. In the end, it comes down to what solution will best suit a customer’s needs.

Listening to the customer and asking questions are the most basic rules of sales, and it is the only way to ensure that what you sell them is not only suitable for their application but is the most suitable solution.

On the topic of scalability, some initial considerations would be the size of the current video system; whether expansion of the system is planned or anticipated in the next two to five years; how much the system might be expanded; specific tasks they expect the VMS to perform; and any existing pain points they want the solution to solve.

The specific factors to be considered depend on the customer, so it is important for integrators to recognize which VMS offers the most suitable features and level of scalability for each individual deployment and application. To do this requires a solid understanding of how to evaluate these factors to allow integrators to work with customers to determine the right VMS for each application.

By carefully defining and presenting best practices for selling and demonstrating the viability of a proposed VMS solution, it is possible to steer the decision-making prospect toward favorable outcomes.

Armed with an in-depth understanding of the criteria for scalability in VMS solutions and following best practices to evaluate each of the following points, integrators can guide customers or prospects through the decision-making process to choose the VMS that will best suit their needs. In addition to considering customers’ current needs today, by educating end-users about additional functionality and capacity they may want or need in the future, you can help deliver the greatest value and ROI both today and moving forward. 

Scalable VMS: Five Key Selling Points

Here are some best practices to use when helping a customer choose a scalable VMS solution:

1. Camera Count: Once the customer’s wants, needs and challenges have been identified, you can begin to determine which VMS solutions may be most appropriate. At this point, it is also the integrator’s responsibility to educate customers about additional features and functions that enable a VMS to address tasks or challenges that may not have been considered — but from which they could benefit.

Even though there may be no plans to expand the video system today, this could easily change once the customers actually experience the functionality of their VMS; thus, it may be desirable to take a “just in case” approach to the system design and deployment that leaves open the possibility of future expansion.

2. Functionality: In addition to the number of cameras or devices a VMS allows users to add to their video system, scalability also applies to the capabilities of VMS solutions themselves. Again, based on their hands-on experience with the solution, users may want additional features and functions, such as business intelligence, mobile capability, data security and cloud-based storage, in the future. So while it is in no one’s best interest to sell enterprise-level VMS to SMBs, it is also not a bad idea to ensure that the chosen solution does include additional options that enable expanded functionality — and increases the value of the system — down the road.

3. Camera Flexibility: Another important aspect of scalability is the camera brands and types that a VMS solution can accommodate. Because customers want to get the greatest ROI from their existing cameras, the VMS they choose must be able to incorporate them. This is also important for new installations or complete system overhauls because customers want to use cameras of their choosing, whether those decisions are based on cost, features or other factors. Some VMS are built on an open architecture that allows them to work with nearly every manufacturer’s products, while others are either proprietary or work with a limited number of manufacturers and models.

4. Storage: Although it has been reduced in recent years, storage cost is still a consideration for many customers — particularly those who lack dedicated IT resources to support in-house servers, or the resources to deploy the number of DVRs or NVRs required to provide adequate capacity for storing high-resolution video. As camera resolutions continue to climb, these concerns can become more pressing. Hosted video solutions can be a more affordable and easier-to-manage alternative to managing physical assets, and this is a capability that is more or less standard for VMS offerings. In most cases, users have the option of maintaining a certain amount of storage on-site and storing additional video off-site using a cloud-based service provider. This provides customers with the flexibility of paying only for the storage they need and enables them to instantly increase that storage as the capacity of their video systems increases without investing in additional servers or recorders.

5. Software vs. Hardware Approaches: IP-based video surveillance systems are used in countless settings today, increasing the availability and number of implementations of VMS that achieve virtual scalability through a software-centric approach. The level of scalability has grown as well — currently most VMS providers offer solutions that can manage a virtually unlimited number of cameras.

On the other hand, there are still a large number of analog systems in use in the marketplace. Some customers will want to transition those systems to IP, whether in stages or all at once, which will allow them to take advantage of virtual scaling within their VMS. Others are happy with the performance they receive from their systems. For this latter group, scalability is achieved with additional recording hardware, with virtual scalability simply not being an option.

Given the potential cost savings, particularly for large video surveillance systems, a VMS that offers virtualized scalability is more often than not the best choice where applicable. For those customers whose systems are not able to take advantage of the robust management capabilities and cost savings of a virtually scalable system, it may be the ideal time to make the case for converting them to a networked IP system.

Gadi Piran is president of OnSSI. To request more info about the company, please visit