Recommendations For An 900+ Site Analog CCTV Upgrade

Greetings group,

I am looking for recommendations for a large (900+ locations) CCTV upgrade program. We currently have a mix of older DVR manufacturers and yes, still quite a few VHS locations. Each location would require 4-6 cameras (2 for POS, 1 rear area, 1 manager's area, 1 height strip (door jam/mullion camera) and potentially 1 outdoor (entrance area) camera. A couple of key points:

  • Our network is currently very limited and our IT team prefers onsite storage versus bringing the video back to a central server
  • We cannot currently support IP with our limited bandwidth but want to ensure we are scalable to IP in the future (hybrid?)
  • We require 90 days+ retention (figuring on 1tb - 2tb HD)
  • Requirements of the central management system include:
    • Capacity to manage 1500+ DVRs/NVRs/Appliances etc
    • Health alerts for cameras, hard drive etc
    • Hierarchy (tree) capabilities by location etc - and ability to set up users with varying access to locations and features (live vs recorded etc)
    • Enterprise wide firmware updates
    • Easy and secure video export to Law Enforcement
  • Additionally, we are interested in feedback regarding the use of 180 or 360 cameras in an analog environment (heard it can be effective but we are skeptical).
  • Also interested in traditional retail type analytics - people counting, dwell time, customer present etc

We are currently looking at the typical group of manufacturers (AD, March, DM) but looking for suggestions on other traditional NVR manufacturers or other solutions to evaluate (Digital Watchdog? SmartVue? Exaqvision?) Anyone else we should be considering for a low cost, analog, yet scalable to IP and analytics.

Thanks in advance for your feedback.

Thanks, this is quite detailed. A few questions:

  • Do you need to integrate with a specific PoS system? If so, that will cut down the list considerably as many will lack support for your PoS system.
  • Do you have a preference for Hybrid DVR appliances or are you open to using encoders + VMS software + a PC?
  • Are you sure you cannot support IP cameras? All you need to add is an inexpensive network switch on site to connect the IP cameras to the recorder? There would be no impact on your company's network.

As for 180 / 360, there is little point using them with SD resolution / analog cameras, as the detail would be so incredibly poor you would struggle to make out objects more than a few feet from the camera. Even with megapixel, the range is still low (see our 360 shootout for image samples).

This is very doable... what upload bandwidth do you currenty have per store?

Thanks for the responses...

  • No specific POS to integrate with
  • The preference for the hybrid DVR is primarily focused on local storage, simplified install, and integrator (tech) familiarity when troubleshooting the box
  • Primary pushback on switching to IP is our IT teams previous experience with bandwidth issues

Most stores have upload of less that 1mbs (some as low as 256K). IT is working to upgrade this which is why we are looking to add IP cameras in the future.

Thanks again!

Do you use different POS systems throughout your stores? Also, what timeline does your IT department have with the bandwidth upgrade? I am not sure if if going with a stand alone hybrid DVR system will be the best solution. A VMS like John said might give you much more options and in many ways can be easeir to use, install and upgrade.

First, rule for this discussion: ANY PRODUCT RECOMMENDATION MUST BE AT LEAST TWO PARAGRAPHS LONG EXPLAINING THE FIT OF THAT PRODUCT FOR THIS SPECIFIC APPLICATION. Otherwise, this is going to devolve into a LinkedIn style disaster where everyone throws out their personal favorite / what they resell, etc.

On to the specifics:

  • The no PoS integration requirement makes things much easier.
  • Hybrid DVRs make sense though recognize this eliminates quite a number of the VMS software vendors.
  • The bandwidth issues have to do with connecting the stores to remote locations. IP cameras will be recorded locally anyway so that is not a direct issue.

I recommend you test out 1 box from each competitor at a site. A key element is how these systems handle / respect upstream bandwidth limitations for remote viewing.

You want systems that have hard bandwidth caps on the recorder side. You will set this to a specific level (e.g., if you have a store with 256 kb/s upstream, you might want to set the cap to 128Kb/s to ensure that there always is sufficient bandwidth for the store's transactions).

Secondly, you need to see how the system handles / accommodates such low bandwidth availability. There's lots of techniques that systems use - some just drop frame rates, some lock up at such low bandwidth levels, some switch to different streams, some transcode, etc.

Jose - we are 6-9 months away from the bandwidth upgrade project so probably 12 - 15 months away from full completion.

John - Great suggestion... Makes a lot of since to actually field test versus relying on provided specs... especially in my environment where investment in CCTV upgrades are infrequent at best.

In regards to hybrid DVRs, it seems quite a few of the players have a bit of concern around them (DM, 3VR Verint etc.) We of course want to avoid the pitfall of investing in equipment that will not be supported in a few years. Does March make the most sense from a Hybrid perspective at this point? I was initially concerned about the Infinova acquisition but, in reading various articles and discussions, it seems they are better positioned than the others previously mentioned.



I have been working with a regional retail store chain somewhat similar to your application, but it is about 75 stores with 10-15 cameras per store. They are retrofitting the surveillance systems at each store while they are remodeling all of their locations as part of store refresh program. They have rather limited bandwidth from many of the store locations to the main loss prevention (LP) office, so they opted for local storage at each location. The LP department generally only reviews recorded video so that does not have much of an impact on the bandwidth requirements to the main office as trying to view many live cameras.

At the store level they have opted to use all new IP cameras (since they are totally renovating the stores) and they create a local network at each location with a workstation/recorder with 4TB of storage (for 90+ days of motion recording at a low/medium framerate and 720p resolution) with a remote VPN connection to the LP offices. The type of cameras vary by location within the store, high definition dome cameras at the cash registers, entrances and exits, and high theft areas with wider FOV (not panoramic) cameras for overall broad views of the stores for overall surveillance and slip & falls. We have recently provided the customer with some Axis 180 & 360 panaoramic cameras to try out but they are still being evaluated. If you plan to re-use existing analog cameras at your locations, you will need either hybrid NVR's or video encoders. But I don't see where there really can be any bandwidth limitations that would prohibit the use of IP cameras if you create a new small security network at each location. IP cameras are the only way to go in my opinion.

During the design process, we demonstrated several different VMS systems and brands of cameras to the LP department via a live demo system in one of their store locations close to the main LP office. We installed each VMS on the server, configured it and let it run for a week or two giving the LP and store managers time to evaluate them and tell us what they liked and disliked. I highly reccomend that you do something like that if you can. It was exteremely helpful for us to understand what the customer wanted, to find the best mix of hardware and software for their needs, make adjustments to the VMS settings and types and locations of cameras, and to ensure that future installations would be somewhat uniform.

The customer chose Exacq Enterprise as the VMS mostly due to ease of use (being able to sort the locations in a heirarchy, simple user interface, minimum training for LP staff & store managers), their enterprise health manager that centrally monitors all of the store locations for system issues, and their mobile client included at no additional charge and did not require any additional hardware. Exacq's offering of hybrid DVR's was also a factor for a few stores that were previously remodeled using analog cameras or if one of their older DVR's at a location that has not been renovated were to go down. This customer does not use any point of sale integration or retail analytics at this time but Exacq offers integrations with the major point of sales and anaytics vendors shoud they need it in the future.

Hope this helps...

One thing that I have determined throughout the years is that there are many good VMS as well as bad ones. Each VMS has its pros and cons. There is no such thing as a single VMS that will meet or exceed al your expectations. I would hand pick 4 - 6 integrators and ask them to design you a system based on your needs, vision and desires. Make sure each integrator designs a different system. Pick 4 - 6 stores that are relatively close to you and ask each integrator to install a 2 - 4 camera demo system for you in the store of your choice to evaluate for at least 30 days. With the potential of 900 plus stores it shouldn't be too difficult to make this happen. By doing this, you will see how the POS integration works with your cash registers. You will experience how the images transmit over your current internet connection on live and playback. You will experience all the functions of each VMS.

I believe this will allow you to make a much better decision for your company.

If someone cant provide you with a demo unit, then most likely they cant support the magnitude of the system you are requesting.

One thing I do suggest, if you have an integrator install a demo system and you love the system they demo you... Put him in your top list when you give out an RFP since they did all the leg work for you.

My 2 cents.

Its always a great idea to try before you buy. You should try and get at least a 30 to 90 day demo from each vendor if your time allows. As you are upgrading the network abilities of your structure very soon, dont be afraid of the all IP solution as John says it really is just local recording and access to the outside is adjustable for bandwith with features of the VMS like sub streaming that limit VIEWING frame size and rates.

Not sure of your budget but seeing you still have VHS in house I would think the shock to purchasing would kill a big jump to high end IP equipment so as a stepping stone you could consider edge recording IP cameras with built in recording at first then step up at next budget run to at site recorders if you feel thats necessary. You may not have to do all locations either Only limit to edge recording is if you must be very carefull in frame rates and resolution to get 90 days per camera.

With 900+ locations management is going to be a headache. The 90 day retention would seem to exclude any SD card storage (unless low activity & highly compressed), so your HD requirement seems to fit.

Just about any of the enterprise class VMS’s will allow you install 900 local servers and have 1 centralized server. The two big players here that I am aware of are Milestone & Genetec. The per camera licensing is going to add up quickly. Assuming a camera license of $200, 900 locations, 5 cameras each location is roughly $900,000 just in camera licenses. Finding a VMS that does not have a per camera license fee might be warranted.

I was wondering if there are solutions that would avoid the 900+ local servers. I seem to recall Video IQ offers a HDD for in camera storage. I also seem to recall they did not offer any enterprise VMS/Management software to go with their cameras.

Several camera manufactures can store Video to a NAS. Perhaps you could install a NAS at each location and store the video there, although not sure if that is any better than a local VMS server.

Some VMS’s have can trickle video from a camera’s SD card over a slow Wide Area Network during off peak hours. Perhaps this would let you get away with using camera SD cards and no local server.

Good discussion. A few comments:

Regarding undisclosed end user's about "March making the most sense." I think March is fairly safe choice. On the product side, their appliances are designed for your type of application and have broadly used for years in similar conditions. March's recent cloud service addition is a nice bonus. And to the point about the Infinova acquisition, it has been over a year and half and things still seem fairly stable at March (which is a pleasant surprise because often you see significant changes in such time periods after an acquisition).

Other appliance manufacturers who are used in similar applications include Verint (March's historic #1 competitor in the space), 3VR (though more for analytics and beware their recent layoffs), 3xLogic, i3DVR, etc.

As for Genetec and Milestone, I think they are a bad fit for your application. Yes, they have lots of software features and IP camera support, but neither has appliances that match what a March has (especially since you have so many analog cameras that you plan to keep). Dealing with huge numbers of COTS PCs to run VMS software for 4-6 cameras per site is going to be costly and complicated. There's a reason why appliances continue to do so well in your segment. Plus, enterprise appliance manufacturers (like March) have sophisticated central management features for firmware upgrades, health monitoring, configuration changes, etc.

"We are currently looking at the typical group of manufacturers (AD, March, DM) but looking for suggestions on other traditional NVR manufacturers or other solutions to evaluate (Digital Watchdog? SmartVue? Exaqvision?) Anyone else we should be considering for a low cost, analog, yet scalable to IP and analytics."

You should have a look at 3xlogics hybrid machines as they should be able to meet your wish list of requirements easily such as manage 1500 + DVR/NVR, health alerts, firmware updates. Easily add POS,Analytics and IP later

We have several customers with 500+ locations using them and one customer rolling out 2500 locations. Very aggressive pricing to suit any budget. We also use their camera almost exclusively as the quality and price cant be matched and they have many models to pick from

Again like recommended, look at a few boxes in your own shoot out to compare features and whats important for your project.

[IPVM Editor's Note: Poster is a Nuvico employee.]

Budget-conscious, bandwidth-conscious, hybrid products with great field support engineered by Americans, for Americans- also take a look at NUVICO. Entirely non PC-based, featuring a dual-kernel interface for constant up-time, ONVIF Profile S compliance, supports global enterprise firmware push, POS integration, PCI-compliance, provides live health reports and daily health report journals by email, provides a centrally stored user database, intelligent remote search tools, can export video in watermarked or MP4 formats, scheduled clip downloads, can generate local CD/DVD backups remotely via VMS, imminent cloud storage options soon to come, and has an LP team currently deploying NUVICO to over 6,000 stores nationally who can't say a single negative word about the brand.

No software or hardware license fees ever, with a full Windows VMS and Mac VMS, supports any web browser, and has the most feature-rich HD mobile apps you've ever seen for Apple iOS or Android devices.

In the interest of full disclosure I will say that I work for Smartvue. I will do my best to set my pom poms down and address the challenges for this install in a non-sales type way. John, feel free to hammer me if I don't do it well!

You mention a few things that stick out to me. Would like to move to IP in the future, limited bandwidth, multi site, central management, store video locally and on the positive side you do not need integration to a specific pos system. These are the types of challenges that we hear from a lot of people so I will offer my two bits.

Making the move to IP is definitely the way to go. Once you have a single IP camera installed it is really going to drive home the limitations of your analog cameras. The resolution just isn't available in the analog world so it makes sense to have your eye on the end goal. If you decided not to go with a hybrid DVR you can always look at the option of using analog to digital encoders to help bridge the gap. A bit of expense to lay out initially, but still easier to explain to a budgeting person than the need to replace everything at once.

As others have said, bandwidth should be a very small thing that is easily overcome when recording your video locally. Most NVR systems will have a second network card that can be used to isolate your cameras. So all of your camera traffic is contained on a completely isolated network without the need for any major work on your part. The other bandwidth concern would be for remote viewing. A lot of people think that you need massive bandwidth for remote viewingand it's just not the case. There are manufacturers out there that are able to throttle needed bandwidth and give you remote management and viewing of cameras through low speed connections. (Smartvue maybe?)(setting the pom poms back down)

For the challenges of managing multiple sites, you do not necessarily need a central management server to handle the sites. At no additional charge Smartvue will let you link the servers together in the cloud for remote access and amangement which eliminates the need for any type of centralized management server. I believe there are other manufacturers that have started offering similar options, but I do not know the details.

The lack of a need for pos integration is a big plus since it just opens the field. Your project seems very do-ableand I am sure that you will have no trouble finding a good solution.