Focusing on your NVR
Planning for the hardware requirements of a smaller-footprint video surveillance deployment can be a challenging design task. Aside from calculating processing and storage needs, client viewing requirements and other ‘head end’ equipment must be considered. Frequently, budget, physical space for equipment, cooling and power considerations disproportionately affect technology selection for small site deployments as compared to larger scale systems.
The Parts Puzzle
Regardless of scale, most modern IP-based video surveillance systems require several ‘head end’ components, including:
- Network Video Recorder: The computer that records video from IP cameras. This system is used to store video evidence and is generally specified with a large amount of storage. Storage may be configured in a RAID array which protects data in the event of a drive failure. Depending on the VMS architecture, CPU processing power may be an important consideration for systems with video scaling features that reduce bandwidth and process video for motion or other analytics.
- Client Workstation: Computer used to host VMS client software. Live video display, investigations and export of video evidence are the most important design considerations for the client workstation. Often, these systems may have multiple monitor outputs, CD-RW drives, and front accessible USB ports for evidence export, but are configured with less storage capacity than the NVR. In systems where the NVR does not perform intelligent processing of the video, the client may require more CPU processing capacity to decode, scale and render video that has not already been scaled by the NVR.
- Network Switch: This device connects and networks together the client, NVR and IP cameras. Managed switches have additional built-in intelligence not available in their ‘unmanaged’ counterparts, allowing for more advanced configuration and network design.
These components must be specified with the correct processing power, storage capacity, feature sets and must be compatible with each other. Deploying separate components to provide each of the described functions means more vendors to source from, no single point of support, more physical space consumed, compatibility issues, and risk associated with installation challenges which frequently cause cost overruns.
Recently, products have emerged which combine the NVR, client monitoring workstation and network switch into a single system. These all-in-one appliances provide real advantages for lower camera count sites. Rapid deployment, physical space savings, and a single point of support are just some of those advantages.
With respect to deployment time, consumers need to consider the costs involved with system installation. Integrating multiple components from separate vendors introduces complexity. With a geographically distributed multi-site deployment, it’s very likely that different technicians will be working on equipment installation at the various sites. As a result, the organization will not benefit from the expertise gained by a single vendor’s team as the deployment proceeds. This could lead to increased installation time and configuration mistakes. More time spent onsite troubleshooting the installation results in a higher and less predictable deployment cost.
Space constrained environments such as small footprint retailers and quick serve restaurants need to consider the physical size and placement of equipment. Installing a client workstation, NVR server, and switch as separate components could consume 3 or more times the space when compared to an all-in-one integrated solution. For example, one of the latest integrated systems to hit the market, the RED3 IS from Salient Systems, can support 24 PoE connected cameras, up to 24TB of storage, and dual monitor client display outputs all in a single 1U rackmount system.
If a problem arises in a system with components sourced from multiple vendors, it can be challenging for both the consumer as well as the vendors’ technical support to identify the cause of the issue. For instance, if the VMS software cannot receive a stream from a camera, is the problem related to the client, NVR server, VMS configuration, the network or the camera? Sourcing multiple components of the system as a single unit from one vendor allows for simplified troubleshooting and a single point of support for key components of the system.
With all major system components contained within a single chassis, space is at a premium. Consequently, flexibility and expandability may be limited. Many popular all-in-one options provide a maximum of 12TB of storage for video retention. There are solutions, however, that expand up to 24TB. If longer retention time is required, or higher resolution and higher frame rate recording is needed, storage expandability could be a key criteria of the selection process.
CPU processing capacity is also an important criterion for selection. If running the all-in-one system as both a NVR recording server and a live video display client simultaneously, either server or client software decoding of the video streams could limit types of cameras which can be deployed on the platform. Salient’s RED3 IS 24 port platform provides enough processing capacity to record and display 24 1080P resolution cameras at 15 images per second.
Switch capabilities are another differentiating attribute. For simple deployments, basic functionality such as the ability to turn on and turn off switch port power should suffice. More complex deployments may involve equipment other than cameras attached to the NVR switch, such as Point of Sale systems or Access Control products. In the case of Point of Sale equipment, having managed switch capabilities would allow for the setup of a VLAN to segment the PoS network traffic from video data. In the case of Access Control, it may be an advantage to configure Quality of Service on the switch to control the amount of bandwidth available to video vs. access control.
Consolidating equipment with an all-in-one integrated platform can provide several advantages, resulting in lower cost deployments with less complexity and support concerns.