Small Form Factor PC For Residential?

What hardware are people using to host the VMS for 4-8 cameras in a resident environment - assuming you're not using a dedicated NVR appliance? Shuttle PCs, micro form factor desktops, etc?


Robert, do you have a preference for VMS brand or price?

The Intel NUC or Fit PC are small, general purpose PCs and work well with VMS software but cost in the ~$500 range.

There are some Chinese NVRs that are small form factor and inexpensive if you want to go that route.

You can actually buy some decent NUCs for less than $300

I would definitely recommend NUCs...

My comfort zone as an IT guy is a PC from a major manufacturer so I've got a decent warranty & support framework - I've been a Dell guy since Compaq disappeared into a black hole. But wanted to see what other people are using, what I might be overlooking as a less expensive alternative that still has decent capacity for hard drives, support, heat dissipation, noise level, small size, etc.

$500 or less would be nice... I've just escaped Geovision VMS hell and enjoying Milestone @ my main client, but that's a big industrial site that's not as cost sensitive as smaller environments. If I can stick w. Milestone's lower end XProtect with the smaller jobs, that'd be my first choice; but I'm still pretty wet behind the ears in surveillance and willing to learn more new tricks.

the HP SFF PC's (business class) are my choice for sub 10 cam installs, rock solid, set them to boot off an SSD and then use a decent recording disk and it'll be great for a while... should be able to set it up to send you logs of issues or problems.. you can also login remotely and do checkups if you want to set it up that way, just make sure it's i5 or above with lots of ram... we buy second hand ones for $250... good as gold :)

The reason I don't like Nuc's is largely do them not being particularly expandable, nor am I happy with their ability to remove heat from the chassis, and that's ignoring their limited storage options, I'm alergic to USB storage which seems to be the mainstay for NUC's

The latest NUC's use M.2 storage ?

can you get a M.2 4 or 8tb rotational drive to dump the files to?

Milestone VMS in that segement (Go or Essentials) does not allow exporting to NAS, so you are stuck with internal storage/USB or ???

"Milestone VMS in that segement (Go or Essentials) does not allow exporting to NAS, so you are stuck with internal storage/USB or ???"

I wasn't aware of this; if you use the Windows iSCSI initiator to connect to a NAS and mount that as a 'local' drive letter, would the Milestone s/w even know?

not sure, give it a crank and let everyone know, I tend not to fight with Milestone, you never know when an "upgrade" might break what your doing and suddenly your in a pickle.

so I just pay for Express, and if you can afford express you can afford a NAS + reasonably hardcore PC (I'm waiting for intel to release a more power efficient Octo core for the desktop) I still have concerns about the heat/noise that a NUC will be able to deal with... how do they go with people loading up Folding or something smashing CPU long term?

if people are ultra cheap/demo system I just go a second hand Business PC (like the Lenovo or whatever) I just memtest them for a week before hand to make sure they are stable + add SSD etc

on most sites (that I setup) running Milestone on a i5 the CPU idles below 20%, it's only when you get people remote viewing with decreased quality settings (we do that regularly) and or the Milestone Mobile Client (that does coding server side) that it will hike, so if the site has a security guard or someone that permanently has all the cam's open expect long term high CPU (and your box needs to cope with that)

M.2 is just a formfactor for SSD.

So you can just put in what ever size disk you want and have tons of internal storage.

you want to see how long dumping footage lasts on a SSD? I tried one for kicks and it lasted 9 months :)

I'm sorry. I must be missing something.

Why would exporting to a SSD be slow ? It's far faster then a HDD. And depending on the configuration, usually far faster then a SAN.

I think he means lifespan of the SSD itself? They have a very limited number of write cycles and using them for VMS storage would be foolish today.

Pretty much what Jon Says, if you record 24/7 (most serious people do) your dumping something like 40-100gb per day, per cam on your disk, pretty much all bar the single cell storage SSD's don't survive this for long, maybe if you spend $$$$ on a 2-3 tb disk? what's the biggest M.2 at the moment, anyone starting to do M.2 backplanes so you can throw say 4 of them in your NUC? does this add to the cooling issue?

I think I ended up dumping 340tb(it could have been 34tb I forget now) on my 240gb ssd before it fell over, but this was only something like 9 months of continuous operation, this SSD cost around $250, for example I could get a 1tb rotational for say $100 and it would last most likely 4-6 years, with a full sized pc you can throw in an 8tb (or a pair of 8tb if you have a removable cage where the CD-ROM is, some even allow a third under the CD-ROM in place of (in a previous life) they had space for a FDD drive.

now keep in mind these are just 3mp cam's, 4k/12mp is something we're getting quite serious about, and with them dropping in price fast (we get the 3mp for $120, the 12mp have just dropped under the $700 mark) your starting to talking a bucket load more dump rate (mb/s)

just my 2c

I'm sorry, but that is already a thing in the past.

SSD's can last quite a while now-a-days.

test it and get back to me... I tested it on a SSD that was new at the time, and the test was conducted in 2015...

you'll see what I mean.

That test is a very small sample. I'm sure I can find Caviar Greens that worked in a DVR for 10 years too. Doesn't mean it is proper to expect that from every drive. I will stick to MFG recommendations. Until they say otherwise, I will stay with platters.

We're using Lenovo Thinkcentre M83 Tiny's. They're bigger then Intell NUC's, but it's what our IT department wants to use, so I'm kinda stuck with them.

As for performance, they're equal to the NUC's have had the liberty to test. So far I haven't gotten Intel Quick Sync Video to work, as we're using Milestone and I would had loved to see that work.

But even without the Intel Quick Sync, it's holding up nicely when you have a limited amount of camera's showing. Max is around 6-8 1080p camera's. It would be running between 60%~80% then.

Do you know if they have m.2 slots in addition to the 2.5in drive bay? It mentions up to three 2.5in drives as well. Is that all internal or some sort of expansion box?

Ive used both customer provided Lenovo Thinkcentres as stated above, but also ionodes has some nice, quiet, small form factor units that have pretty good performance specs. They definitely cost more than NUCs but have a couple other advantages as far as Im aware (stateless config, low power consumption), but I also am only really familiar with NUCs as a HTPC/streaming box type of config.

From my experinces, small installs like this are better served with dedicated NVRs, but if that won't suffice, then a small PC loaded with a VMS should give you more options.

We tend to use Lenovo TS140 ThinkServers due to their very low cost. We add in an SSD for OS and as many Seagate Surveillance hard drives as needed.

Next big question is if it is a headless PC? Do you need to run the client on the PC? Or do you have another PC for the client? Maybe just a tablet or phone?

Dell does make a small form factor PC as well, but it will cost more than the Lenovo, be less upgradable, and slower.

Is there a reason it has to be such a small form factor? It really limits your storage capacity.

The 3xLogic VIGIL systems we use, for at least a decade were available in a Shuttle system. Some of those earliest units are still in service, and we still use a few retired ones for loaners.

They also produced a "mobile" version, the MVR, for several years, in analog, hybrid, and full NVR versions - we never installed one in a mobile setting, but they were very handy for sites with minimal space.

More recently, I ran across this little doo-dad on a site, abandoned in an elevator machine room, running XP Embedded and Milestone server:

Of course, all these options require you either keep a keyboard, mouse, and monitor around... or if you run headless but sometimes need to do local service to the system, you have to bring them with and hook them all up. Or... you could always use a laptop - built-in keyboard, mouse, and monitor cuts down on wasted space, and the built-in battery means it can run for hours in a power outage (you'll still need a UPS for your PoE switch, of course).

If you need to perform local service, just pull it out and open it up. All you need plugged in is power and network - close the lid and tuck it somewhere out of the way (allowing for proper ventilation, of course). Additional storage can be provided via external USB drive or separate iSCSI RAID unit that can be tucked away somewhere unobtrusive.