I'm exploring options to replace my ADT DVR. Based only on my recent experiences with Milestone XProtect® Go, it's unclear that Milestone has made the investment necessary to win new converts over to their brand through the Free XProtect® Go software.
According to Milestone, "XProtect Go is free video surveillance software designed for small businesses and private residences that is quick to install and easy to use. It supports up to eight cameras, one user and retains video for five days."
Knowing nothing of their market, I expected that Milestone's motivation was to get users familiar with and appreciative of XProtect's interface and capabilities, without cannibalizing their own business. I imagined that few current Milestone users are likely to have 8 or less cameras. Once users have made a significant investment in time and learning, why wouldn't they simply upgrade as they grow? However, a 5 day retention limit might not suit many users. Why place this detractor, except to prevent cannibalization?
I clicked the "Download XProtect" button, entered user information, and selected "Download Now" which initiated download of the 900MB "MilestoneXProtectProfessionalVMS_installer_x64.exe." While it downloaded, I browsed the support information to determine if the FAQs would reveal any further limitations. The FAQs link pointed here, a dead link. If you go look at that support page, you'll see that FAQs are a central element of their XProtect Go support community. A dead link on their central support page (at least as presented to new downloaders) implies limited beta testing and limited user traffic; otherwise it would have been discovered and corrected by now, so it's not the best first impression... .
When the installer was downloaded, I began installation. Once complete, it required a system reboot. Upon restart, no programs or windows were active. I looked on the desktop and in the Start menu for Milestone, XProtect, or other seemingly relevant programs or icons, but I found none, although there was a new item on my start menu entitled "Import and Export Data (64-bit)." It was unclear if this item was related to other recent installation activity or to Milestone. Call me silly, but I'm not one to click on links that I don't understand.
So, I'm stopped dead for the moment. I can try to reinstall, try to ask the vendor to support their free program (riiiight...), or Google to try to understand how others have dealt with similar problems. I opted for Google. I didn't see anything relevant to my issue, but just glancing over the first page of search results revealed challenges such as, Maps lost after restarting XProtect Enterprise, After restart the recording server won't start, Lost share after rebooting, etc.
Early in a relationship, almost no investment has been sunk into training, setup, or infrastructure. Even a few relatively minor shortcomings can be sufficient to help a potential customer think, "There are many VMS choices, and I've personally hit a few warts and Googled even more. Why struggle? Let's try another vendor's product."
This is probably not the experience Milestone intended. The critical element is, the installation must be rock solid. If the user doesn't get to first base without a struggle, why continue?
This could be good news for many IPVM readers, since (based only upon this experience) Milestone remains firmly in the "must be installed by professionals (or at least someone who cares)" camp. To diverge from this thread a little, one of our businesses needed video surveillance and lacked the detailed technical knowledge to screen competent installers, so we managed that risk by contracting for the required capability with a known industry leader -- ADT. The outcome was unsatisfactory. Since it's not good business sense to double down on the same approach and expect a different outcome, we've educated ourselves and are evaluating an internal VMS upgrade. Perhaps we'll never grow beyond an 8-camera system, in which case we're the great unwashed masses that Milestone and others should not lose one moment of sleep considering. However, if vendors expect these loss leaders to attract new customers based upon positive user experiences, then it seems important to assure that execution is not marred with significant detractors.
Manufacturers and software providers might reasonably seek to convert these zero margin needs into rain making opportunities, but there is a risk that, poorly executed, they could as easily alienate the potential customer base they are seeking to attract.
P.S. I suppose there is also the risk that any idiot can now access their product, fail, blame it on the vendor, and publish the experience. This further highlights the importance of foolproof installation and operation that must underpin this sort of growth strategy.