How to Manage Surveillance Video

Video management software helps with efficient monitoring, transmission and storage of IP surveillance video. Here's how to evaluate, purchase and implement VMS.

Video management software (VMS) allows you to record and view live video from multiple surveillance cameras--either IP-based or analog cameras with an encoder--monitor alarms, control cameras and retrieve recordings from an archive. Because they are IP-based, VMS systems are more expandable and flexible than DVR-based systems, and employees can control the software from anywhere on the network. Surveillance and security teams can use the software for live monitoring, as well as investigative and forensic purposes, using archived footage.

Users have three form factors from which to choose for managing IP video: software-only, hardware/software appliances (sometimes referred to as network video recorders, or NVRs) or a hybrid DVR, which is a DVR with additional software to manage IP equipment.

Because of the economic downturn, the VMS market will see slower growth in 2009 than in previous years, with a forecast of 29 percent versus more than 40 percent, according to IMS Research.

Evaluation Criteria for Video Management

VMS systems range from the basic to the sophisticated, with major differences including reliability features and number of cameras and locations supported. Here is a sampling of features to consider:

* Specific options for different verticals, including retail, banking, transportation, etc.;

* Video analytics, such as license-plate or facial recognition;

* Integration with third-party systems, such as access control, building automation, alarm management, video analytics and more;

* Motion detection;

* Customizable, resizable viewing panes;

* User interface features that include hot-spot windows, color-indicated activity, instant replay, quick switching between cameras, etc.;

* "Privacy zones" to protect sensitive areas from being monitored;

* Creation of customized rules. For instance, if a particular door opens, the camera begins recording and even activates an alarm or sends an alert;

* Camera control (pan, tilt, zoom);

* View multiple video channels at once;

* Multichannel playback, which allows users to play recorded video from several cameras simultaneously--useful if tracking a suspect through hallways;

* Multiple search devices, including fast-forward, reverse, thumb-nail view, time line bars, bookmarking, etc.;

* Secure export of material evidence;

* Fail-over capability that enables continued recording if the primary server goes down.

Software-Only Versus Appliance

Users can choose between software that they load, configure and manage on a server of their choosing or a hardware appliance that's preloaded with software. The benefits of appliances are reduced setup and installation complexity, while disadvantages are less flexibility, fewer customization options and more difficult integration with third-party systems. According to Simon Harris, senior research director at IMS Research, more advanced users will typically opt for software-only solutions, while those that aren't comfortable doing setup and configuration will choose an appliance, or what IMS calls a proprietary system.

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