Consumer Vs Professional VMS: What Should I Choose?

A high level executive came to me to say that our choice in Video Surveillance is too complicated and expensive. It takes trained people to install and maintain. He suggested that the system should be based on licencing, low cost mobile support (iPhone, iPad, android), ease of use, ease of setup, ease of maintenance. He also suggested that we should look closer to producs such as Zoneminder , Eyezm and iSpyConnect as examples of simple and easy products.

Given that the first set of requirements is always at the top of the list the other requirements I look for is, scalability across the enterprise, the impact of network bandwidth for streaming, impact on client application due to network latency, the need to garantee recording cability and playback, the need to have strong control over authentication and authorization and many more items.

The question is, how should be differentiate commercial consumer based products such as those in the links above versus known surveillance VMS systems that provide all that and the additional requirements for company use knowing the the price is different. What are the dangers of moving to consumer products, or inversly the benefits if they can prove to be solid.

A lot of times what we face continuously is the company executives who sit in the airport executive lounges and read managment publications that advertise products that do a great sales picth with nothing else behind it.


Why does the high level executive drive a Lexus to work instead of riding the bus? Riding the bus is easier and cheaper.

Why does the high level executive use a Blackberry instead of an easier to use, cheaper model?

Why does the high level executive get his oil changed in his Lexus instead of doing it him/herself? Some might say it is easier, and everyone would agree it is cheaper.

The answer to these questions (and many more I could craft) is that the high level executive sees value (beyond cost) in doing things the way he/she does them in the scenarios above.

So.... it is quite obvious that the high level executive does not see the value in your current surveillance solution.

I'd start there. :)

You've already noted some very important criteria that you use to evaluate your companies surveillance needs:

"scalability across the enterprise, the impact of network bandwidth for streaming, impact on client application due to network latency, the need to garantee recording cability and playback, the need to have strong control over authentication and authorization and many more items."

Either the high level executive isn't aware of the importance of your benchmarking criteria - or he/she is discounting that importance.

If it's the former, then you will need to educate them. If it's the latter, then I'd start looking for a new job... :)

First, some references: We have a test of iSpy that should help give a sense of its strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, we have a test of Xeoma which is a super low cost VMS. Finally, to clarify for others, Eyezm is an app for Zoneminder, so those two are more of a pair than alternatives to one other.

The biggest difference is in features. There are easily hundreds of features available in different VMSes. Typically, the open source or free ones lack the more advanced features that corporations need. For many corporations, it often comes to down to a handful of 'must have' features that eliminate lower cost / free VMSes.

Here are some common features unavailable in lower cost VMSes:

  • Does not run as a service, a big risk for systems that must run 24/7
  • Does not support multi-camera simultaneous playback, a big problem for someone doing an investigation across a facility
  • No or extremely limited enterprise management of multiple servers
  • No integration with 3rd party systems - whether access control, PoS, PSIM, etc.
  • No integration or support for video analytics
  • Integration limits on using external storage, not tested with storage systems like Pivot3, EMC, Coldstore, etc.
  • No VM (virtual machine) support validated, run at your own risk
  • No alarm management
  • No mapping
  • No network video wall / distribution
  • Export single cameras only as AVIs instead a wrapped player (see our exporting test).
  • No multistreaming or transcoding support (see our remote monitoring test)
  • No panoramic / fisheye camera support
  • While ONVIF makes integration easier for low cost / free VMSes, if a camera has issues or advanced features are not supported, with a low cost / free VMS, you are pretty much screwed.

That's not every feature commonly unavailable but it starts to give you a sense of the common showstoppers.

The other big structural issue is support. Free or low cost VMSes typically default to forum based support and NO phone support. There's lot of things that can go wrong with even the 'best' VMS given the complexity of what VMSes do (between integrating cameras, using advanced features, etc.).

That's not to say that free or low cost VMSes are worthless. They are very attractive to a home or SMB who only uses a few cameras infrequently (similarly so too are surveillance kits).

However, if your company is big enough to have 'high level executives' you are certainly too big to use free or super low cost VMSes.

Thank you John and Marty. Firstly what I was looking for was existing evaluations, and secondly a discussion on the pros-cons. I hope that I may have opened up for others who subscribe to IPVM.

Excellent Review John, Could not be said better .

You get what you pay for, usually the low end systems are not expandable or compatable with other systems.

lots of limitations.

Thanks for the reviews

Marty brings up a good point. You have a fundemental value proposition problem here.

A couple of things seem wrong out of the box on this...

  1. High level executives usually have lower level people doing this stuff for them.
  2. It's fairly rare to have a high level executive come back to you with their own research and requests on products.
  3. You are already into a conversation on expense and complication. Complex doesnt mean difficult but can often be a word that mean " I dont understand this"

I wouldn't bet the farm on this but I have seen it before and I'd say you are very close to a big money losing proposition here. You may either have a nosy, micromanaging busybody with no technical savvy and no trust in integrators, OR a person who has already assigned a money amount to the project and cant budge on it no matter what OR a person who knows little acts like they knows a lot and then uses cost as a minipulating excuse.

I have spent good money after bad trying to extricate myself and oher from these people. I have learned my lessons and now I can see trouble coming across the prairie.

Maybe I'm wrong and you simply have to do some education. That is is minimum you should do. If it doesnt get better immediately after that meeting, bail. There will always be other jobs with other referrals. If you pull down your sail and stuff it into the leaking hole in the boat, you still die at sea. You just die slower.

In terms of simplicity HD Witness is easily at least 2x faster to setup then Zoneminder. In terms of scalability iSpyConnect is probably the worst and easily uses 3x the CPU resources of Milestone, HD Witness, Luxriot et al.

Try the trial version. Typical setup time is 1 min per camera.

Marty hit the head on the nail. You need to sell the value of your system and maybe even your department. Sometimes it's impossible as some Executives just don't care...until something bad happens. I left a job because they saw no value in what I was trying to provide them.

I really think the whole 'sell the value' concept is overkill for this. Anyone who conflates Milestone with Zoneminder, etc. just needs to be educated on some basic functional differences. I really doubt after that any corporation would still not recognize the difference.