Software solutions benefit from being able to leverage existing hardware, or relatively cheaper commoditised hardware
One obvious benefit of an NVR appliance compared to software VMS system is ease of configuration and installation

A quality networked video recorder (NVR) and software-based video management system (VMS) both do an excellent job of safeguarding valuable video data. But there are a number of pros and cons for both, along with specific applications that will do better with one option over the other. These can easily be broken down into five topics: ease of setup/install, support, scalability, usability and migration.

Ease of setup/install

One obvious benefit of an NVR appliance compared to software VMS system is ease of configuration and installation. Since there’s no software to install except for maybe a light client on a PC (and sometimes not even that), deploying an NVR system is faster and easier than the complexities that can occur when you install a VMS system on off-the-shelf servers and other hardware. 

For smaller systems with fewer than 200 cameras, this reason alone is often why customers choose NVRs over VMS software. The tradeoff is that you have no choice but to buy the complete NVR solution. Considering hardware can be well over 60 percent of the cost of the solution, this might pin the customer into a corner for their overall budget, and can limit the future usability of the product.

Software solutions, on the other hand, benefit from being able to leverage existing hardware, or relatively cheaper commoditised hardware. This is especially true as system sizes scale. A 2,000-camera system, for example, would almost assuredly be less expensive in a software and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) solution than it would to buy 10 200-channel NVRs. The tradeoff is that installation and setup are inherently more complex and takes longer on software and COTS then on a typical NVR system, though a lot of work has been done in the industry over the last few years to thin this gap considerably.

Support

When a customer buys an NVR, they’re buying everything from one manufacturer, with hardware that was hopefully designed and optimised specifically for that use. This means the solution is easier to support – including everything from installation assistance to troubleshooting problems. The warranty on an embedded solution is almost always better than a solution of software and COTS.

When a customer buys an NVR,
they’re buying everything from
one manufacturer, with hardware
that was hopefully designed and
optimised specifically for that use

If there’s a tradeoff here, it’s also that the support can be more limited, because the expectation is that it just works out of the box, and therefore the manufacturer many not have a large or sophisticated support infrastructure for embedded devices if something significant goes wrong. Also, because of the portability of embedded systems, the risk of having to send the entire unit back and losing whatever storage had been on that device is significant – a support risk that almost never occurs on a software and COTS deployment.

Scalability

If support weighed more towards choosing an embedded NVR system, then scalability does the same for software and COTS. While many NVR systems have scalability designed within them, this scalability is step function and limited. This means that if an NVR supports up to 200 channels, and you need 203, you now need an entire additional unit for three channels. Yes, you can expand that up to 400 someday, but what if you won’t do that for another five years? That’s a large capital expenditure investment for very little additional return.

Also, with an NVR, you scale everything as a complete system. What if you don’t need more channels, and you just require more storage? What if you just need more transcoding? In all of these cases, NVRs force you to add more of everything, even when you may only want to add a little of one thing. Scaling storage is a big one in this regard, and is one of the places where software and COTS specifically shines relative to an NVR.

As you get into even larger systems, NVR scalability takes another hit in that the user experience generally isn’t designed for this.

NVRs have a usability generally designed for smaller deployments with the benefit of more casual use
NVR solutions are usually easier to support – including everything from installation assistance to troubleshooting problems

Usability

Usability is a broad topic, because it covers everything from intuitiveness, immersiveness, support and scalability, and more. The thing to keep in mind for usability as it relates to NVR versus VMS is that NVRs have a usability generally designed for smaller deployments with the benefit of more casual use. VMS usability, on the other hand, is generally designed for larger systems, with multiple users, all of whom are using the system more often. So the pros and cons here really depend on the size of your system and how you plan to use it.

If you’re looking for something
like access control integration
into your system, a VMS will
generally have a far better story
to tell than an NVR system

That said, VMS systems definitely suffer on learning curve relative to NVR systems, but at the same time they offer compatibility with third-party systems and plugins that are either very limited to NVR customers, or that don’t exist at all in an NVR environment. Thus, if you’re looking for something like access control integration into your system, a VMS will generally have a far better story to tell than an NVR system. Monitor environment is also a significant factor in usability comparisons, because very few NVR systems support more than a two-monitor environment, whereas most VMS systems support high monitor counts. That’s not to say you can’t make a “monitor wall” environment work in an NVR deployment, it’s just that most NVRs weren’t specifically designed for monitor wall use, and their implementation is usually smaller scale and more “clunky” than the seamless experience that commercial VMS software offers.

Migration

Migration in this context refers to migrating your system to newer hardware. In an NVR system, this is usually not possible, meaning that if you ever want to upgrade to newer hardware, you may be starting all over, and may not have a path to connect your old storage to your new storage. This forces many users to install an all-new NVR system, and keep their old system around long enough to manage the required retention policies until the new system has recorded enough video to meet the retention requirements.

A software-based VMS system, on the other hand, has a lot more migration portability as components can usually be upgraded and swapped in and out as needed, because it’s simply software installed on COTS hardware. The long-term “future-proof” nature of software and COTS has more potential versatility than on an embedded NVR.

Making the final decision

At the end of the day, there is no right choice, because it depends on the size of the system, future scalability of the system and, most importantly, how the system will be used, that determines if an embedded NVR or a Software VMS solution is right for you.

Save

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version

Author profile

Jason Spielfogel Director of Product Management, Identiv

In case you missed it

What is the impact of lighting on video performance?
What is the impact of lighting on video performance?

Dark video images contain little or no information about the subject being surveilled. Absence of light can make it difficult to see a face, or to distinguish the color of clothing or of an automobile. Adding light to a scene is one solution, but there are also new technologies that empower modern video cameras to see better in any light. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: what impact does lighting have on the performance of video systems?

Alarm.com adapts during pandemic to enable partners to ‘succeed remotely’
Alarm.com adapts during pandemic to enable partners to ‘succeed remotely’

As a cloud-based platform for service providers in the security, smart home and smart business markets, Alarm.com has adapted quickly to changing conditions during the coronavirus pandemic. In the recent dynamic environment, Alarm.com has kept focus on supporting their service provider partners so they can keep local communities protected. “We moved quickly to establish work-from-home protocols to protect our employees and minimise impact on our partners,” says Anne Ferguson, VP of Marketing at Alarm.com. The Customer Operations and Reseller Education (CORE) team has operated without interruption to provide support to partners. Sales teams are utilising webinars and training resources to inform and educate partners about the latest products, tools, and solutions. Alarm.com’s partner tools are essential for remote installations and support of partner accounts. Helping customers remain connected Adapting to challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, Alarm.com is further investing in solutions that help customers remain connected and engaged. The company has created a resource hub called “Succeeding Remotely” that provides tools, tips and news links that partners can use to adapt their business operations. From adjusting sales and installation techniques to maintaining cellular upgrades, Alarm.com is helping partners stay connected to customers remotely, keep their teams trained, and address rapidly evolving customer concerns without rolling trucks.The company has created a resource hub called “Succeeding Remotely “Additionally, after seeing all that our partners are doing to support their local communities in need, we were compelled to highlight those efforts with ongoing videos called Good Connections, which we’re sharing with our partner community to spark more ideas and ways to help,” says Ferguson. “Though our partners have experienced varying degrees of disruption to their business, we’re inspired by their adaptability, ingenuity and resilience,” says Ferguson. “Along with establishing proper safeguards for operating in homes and businesses, our partners are leveraging our support resources more heavily, while our entire staff has worked tirelessly to deliver new, timely resources.” Do-It-Together solutions Alarm.com partners are successfully employing Do-It-Together (DIT) solutions, focusing on 3G-to-LTE upgrades, and pivoting to new verticals like commercial and wellness. Many are also streamlining their business operations and taking advantage of virtual training opportunities to enhance their technicians’ skills and knowledge, says Ferguson. Do-It-Together installs involve depending on customers to perform part or all of the installation process. Partners can send customers fully configured kits with mounting instructions, or technicians may guide customers on a remote video call. Alarm.com’s tools, training and products help partners modify remote installation options depending on each customer’s needs. End users can validate the Alarm.com Smart Gateway with their central station that sensors they have mounted were done correctly using the Alarm.com mobile app Alarm.com Smart Gateway For example, the Alarm.com Smart Gateway can be pre-configured with indoor and outdoor cameras for easy customer installation and to reduce the likelihood of future service calls. Also, end users can validate with their central station that sensors they have mounted were done correctly using the Alarm.com mobile app. “DIT is helping our partners continue onboarding customers and avoid backlogs,” says Ferguson. “We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the resiliency and level of future investment that our residential and commercial partners have shown in the face of adversity,” adds Ferguson. For example, a significant number of business customers have used the slow period to install systems that are typically too disruptive to put in during normal business hours. Similarly, service providers are adopting new technologies or business models, such as cloud-based access control. “They’re often saying to us, ‘I’m going to take this opportunity to make changes to improve our business,’ and have been working closely with us on training and business consulting to support their efforts,“ she says. Shift to the cloud Ferguson sees a growing preference for cloud-managed surveillance and access systems over ones that have historically been run on-premise. The technology itself is attractive, but especially driving change is the enhancement to the daily lives of service providers and customers, which have been strained during this time. “The foundational benefit of our cloud-based solution is the hassle-free, seamless customer experience it delivers,” says Ferguson. “We make this possible by taking ownership of the servers, software maintenance, firmware updates, health monitoring, and more. With cloud technology, these aspects become invisible to the customer and take a lot off their plate, which is more important than ever.” End users can take advantage of Smart Tip video tutorials to help with DIT installations, or they can use the Alarm.com Wellcam to connect with loved ones anywhere.End users can take advantage of Smart Tip video tutorials to help with DIT installations Partners can attend training workshops focused on remote installation tactics, while driving consumer interest in new offerings through Alarm.com’s Customer Connections platform. The goal is to make it simple for partners to stay connected to their customers to maximise lifetime account value. “We are well-positioned to endure the pandemic because of the strength of our partners in their markets along with our investments in technology, hardware and our team,” says Ferguson. “As restrictions slowly lift, there is cautious optimism that the residential, commercial, property management, plumbing/HVAC, builder and other verticals will recover quickly. We believe that as more partners adopt the DIT model and add commercial and wellness RMR, they will find increasing opportunities to deploy security, automation, video, video analytics, access and more throughout their customer base.”

COVID-19 worries boost prospects of touchless biometric systems
COVID-19 worries boost prospects of touchless biometric systems

Spread of the novel coronavirus has jolted awareness of hygiene as it relates to touching surfaces such as keypads. No longer in favour are contact-based modalities including use of personal identification numbers (PINs) and keypads, and the shift has been sudden and long-term. Both customers and manufacturers were taken by surprise by this aspect of the virus’s impact and are therefore scrambling for solutions. Immediate impact of the change includes suspension of time and attendance systems that are touch-based. Some two-factor authentication systems are being downgraded to RFID-only, abandoning the keypad and/or biometric components that contributed to higher security, but are now unacceptable because they involve touching. Touchless biometric systems in demand The trend has translated into a sharp decline in purchase of touch modality and a sharp increase in the demand for touchless systems, says Alex Zarrabi, President of Touchless Biometrics Systems (TBS). Biometrics solutions are being affected unequally, depending on whether they involve touch sensing, he says. Spread of the novel coronavirus has jolted awareness of hygiene as it relates to touching surfaces such as keypads “Users do not want to touch anything anymore,” says Zarrabi. “From our company’s experience, we see it as a huge catalyst for touchless suppliers. We have projects being accelerated for touchless demand and have closed a number of large contracts very fast. I’m sure it’s true for anyone who is supplying touchless solutions.” Biometric systems are also seeing the addition of thermal sensors to measure body temperature in addition to the other sensors driving the system. Fingerscans and hybrid face systems TBS offers 2D and 3D systems, including both fingerscans and hybrid face/iris systems to provide touchless identification at access control points. Contactless and hygienic, the 2D Eye system is a hybrid system that combines the convenience of facial technology with the higher security of iris recognition. The system recognises the face and then detects the iris from the face image and zeros in to scan the iris. The user experiences the system as any other face recognition system. The facial aspect quickens the process, and the iris scan heightens accuracy. TBS also offers the 2D Eye Thermo system that combines face, iris and temperature measurement using a thermal sensor module. TBS's 2D Eye Thermo system combines face, iris and temperature measurement using a thermal sensor module Another TBS system is a 3D Touchless Fingerscan system that provides accuracy and tolerance, anti-spoofing, and is resilient to water, oil, dust and dirt. The 2D+ Multispectral for fingerprints combines 2D sensing with “multispectral” subsurface identification, which is resilient to contaminants and can read fingerprints that are oily, wet, dry or damaged – or even through a latex glove. In addition, the 3D+ system by TBS provides frictionless, no-contact readings even for people going through the system in a queue. The system fills the market gap for consent-based true on-the-fly systems, says Zarrabi. The system captures properties of the hand and has applications in the COVID environment, he says. The higher accuracy and security ratings are suitable for critical infrastructure applications, and there is no contact; the system is fully hygienic. Integration with access control systems Integration of TBS biometrics with a variety of third-party access control systems is easy. A “middleware” subsystem is connected to the network. Readers are connected to the subsystem and also to the corporate access control system. An interface with the TBS subsystem coordinates with the access control system. For example, a thermal camera used as part of the biometric reader can override the green light of the access control system if a high temperature (suggesting COVID-19 infection, for example) is detected. The enrollment process is convenient and flexible and can occur at an enrollment station or at an administration desk. Remote enrollment can also be accomplished using images from a CCTV camera. All templates are encrypted. Remotely enrolled employees can have access to any location they need within minutes. The 3D+ system by TBS provides frictionless, no-contact readings even for people going through the system in a queue Although there are other touchless technologies available, they cannot effectively replace biometrics, says Zarrabi. For example, a centrally managed system that uses a Bluetooth signal from a smart phone could provide convenience, is “touchless,” and could suffice for some sites. However, the system only confirms the presence and “identity” of a smart phone – not the person who should be carrying it. “There has been a lot of curiosity about touchless, but this change is strong, and there is fear of a possible second wave of COVID-19 or a return in two or three years,” says Zarrabi. “We really are seeing customers seriously shifting to touchless.”