After having spent some time with Axis Camera Companion I thought I would give some feedback on some of the issues I discovered while deploying it. While these are all going to be negatives, I do not mean to suggest it is an unusable system (quite the contrary - It's amazingly good for being free).
- Poor Handling of Saturated Bandwidth - As bitrate of the cameras exceeds that of the link between site and client, camera connections are dropped. This led a client to incorrectly assume that a camera was not operational.
- Poor Use of NAS Storage - When using a central NAS for video storage, the default option is to set video to be deleted after X number of days. This leads to much poorer utilization of available storage than a conventional VMS which has knowledge of the overall state of disk utilization and gives you the option to keep video as far back as possible deleting only as more storage is needed. There is a checkbox option to fill network storage to the "Max", though I'm skeptical as to how the individual cameras coordinate deletion of their respective videos in an orderly fashion (i.e. once the drive is full, which of the eight cameras using that drive should delete their video? Are they talking to eachother to figure this out? I doubt it.). I would assume the use of SD cards avoids this dilemma.
- Highly complicated and undocumented remote viewing setup - If your router supports UPnP, remote viewing can be fairly easy to setup. You click a button, it automatically creates some router rules for you, and it spits out a config file you can import on other clients. If your router does NOT support UPnP port forwarding (or you value the security of your network and have disabled it), life gets really painful. You must create a rule for every camera forwarding some external port to the cameras local port 80. You must then create the setup file by hand. Axis support recommends you start by exporting the local "behind the firewall" config file and editing it in Notepad. The format of that file is not documented, but also not terribly difficult to figure out. Obviously, this is far from user friendly.
- No control of Preview Streams - When in live/review mode, ACC will stream one camera in an enlarged view. Smaller previews of eight or so other cameras are streamed at the bottom of the interface. The main view plus previews saturated my internet connection causing dropped connections as discussed above. There is an option to disable the preview feeds, but it is burried on the "site" settings page and applies to all cameras universally (i.e. it tries to stream previews for either eight or zero cameras - nothing inbetween - and certainly not adjustable on the fly). I assume these smaller previews are reduced bandwidth, but I didn't test that theory (If they are full bandwidth streams that only goes to further my complaint in this regard).
- Slow as molasses - Everything is much slower than I am used to with other systems. Connecting to the remote site, bringing up live feeds, reviewing & scrubbing video, downloading clips. All of it is slower. I have played with Exacq's edge solution, and it seemed much faster. To be fair, my test of the Exacq solution was long enough ago that I may be misremembering things. Also, that solution used a local SD card instead of a NAS, which may speed things up. I installed a demo copy of Exacq on the NAS server and verified everything got A LOT faster (note: I installed Exacq's normal VMS - not the Edge solution).
- Loss of Camera Restricts Access to Recorded Video. Obviously, if the camera is stolen and the video was stored on a local SD card, it's gone. However video retrieval from a central NAS is also complicated by a stolen or malfunctioning camera. Since all communication flows through the individual cameras, access to stored video via the GUI is lost with the camera. The file structure of stored video on the NAS is relatively easy to navigate, and centrally stored video should be retrievable, just not conveniently so (I have not tested manual retrieval). This also raises the question of what happens to all that stored video from the stolen camera over time. My guess is that it would need to be manually deleted, otherwise it will sit there wasting drive space.
- Camera names not stored on camera. (AKA: Now I'm getting VERY nitpicky). Camera names are oddly stored in the client and the setup file used for import/export of settings. Once you pass this file around a few times, make some of the aformentioned Notepad edits - you can easily end up with clients that show different names for the same camera. Annoyingly, when a client wanted the name of a given camera changed I had to walk him through the procedure and tell him to repeat the process on all six employee laptops instead of simply logging into the camera myself and changing the name once. There has GOT to be enough non-volatile memory on the camera to store the name centrally - COME ON AXIS!