Examining Cisco's Small Business Video Surveillance

Author: John Honovich, Published on Jun 10, 2009

Cisco is making a major push into the small business market. As part of this, Cisco is increasing both their product offerings and marketing of video surveillance products.

Cisco's success (or lack thereof) in the enterprise video surveillance market is a topic of frequent discussion within the industry (see my recent analysis of their situation).

In parallel to this, Cisco is investing over $100 M USD into the small business market. Video surveillance is one of their key areas.

The Cisco small business surveillance solution consists of 4 IP cameras, VMS software and a Storage Server.

How Will it Do?

While the offering needs a number of enhancements to expand, I think it has potential. Unlike Cisco's enterprise video surveillance offering, the cost and complexity of the small business solution is comparable to its peers. Given this, Cisco's marketing and distribution power should be able to promote the wide use of this offering.

The Cameras

Cisco's camera line-up currently consists of 4 products: 2 box cameras, a bubble camera, and a PTZ with only a 2.6 optical zoom. The PTZ and one of the box cameras supports PoE. The other two cameras support Wi-Fi.

There are no dome cameras. This will be a barrier for customers who care about aesthetics and/or discretion.

The PTZ's zoom is very limited. This will not suffice for anyone needing to cover more than a small area of 20 meter radius (sufficient for inside an office but not a parking lot).

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The Video Management Software/Recorder

The video management software is fairly basic. It only supports Cisco small business cameras with 16 cameras maximum. The software does not currently support remote viewing (you can only view video local to the server where the VMS software is running).

The Cisco VMS features and UI are very similar to NUUO's IP video software (compare Cisco's admin manual to NUUO's user guide). The UI for adding cameras and setting schedules are almost identical. [I have also been testing NUUO's software for the last month so I have hands-on experience with it. It also seems like the current Cisco version is only a fraction of the overall NUUO product offering.]

Video can be recorded to a PC or to a NAS device. If you want to use the VMS software to search video, the camera feeds must first stream to the PC running the VMS software and then the video will be relayed to the NAS device.

Cost Breakdown

The 3 fixed cameras may be bought via on-line stores for about $350 each. The PTZ is available for approximately $575 [click the 'buy now' buttons on the product comparison page to check price specifics].

The VMS software is free for all 16 cameras it can support.

The NAS server is available online for about $600 (supports up to 4 drives, not included).

For a PoE switch, they offer the SD208p which costs about $115 online. It offers 8 total ports, 4 ports for PoE.

For 8 cameras including recording and storage, the total cost can be under $4,000.

Comparison to Alternatives

Pricing and basics are fairly similar to mainstream alternatives (e.g., most small business offerings provide free software (e.g., ACTi, D-Link, Vivotek). Axis is the major exception)

A couple of key deficiencies exist:

  • Wider range of camera body options
  • Ability to run their cameras on 3rd party software
  • Remote viewing client
  • Higher camera counts (Axis goes to 50, ACTi to 75, Vivotek to 32, etc.)

For a security focused buyer, these deficiencies would likely be significant. However, for a buyer who just needs a basic solution (and is not looking to become an expert), the Cisco offering is probably good enough, especially with Cisco's reach.

Features Needed and Future Developments

Cisco is planning to provide remote viewing client and increase the camera count. Release dates for these additions were not available. Both will be important to expanding the use of the system. The lack of a remote viewing client is especially key as a main reason for going IP is to watch remotely.

Cisco reports that they plan to support their enterprise cameras on the SMB VMS software. They also plan to add PSIA support.

Comparison between Enterprise and Small Business Offerings

The product lineups are optimized for opposite ends of the market with the SMB market attractive to roughly the bottom 20% of the video surveillance market and the enterprise offering to roughly the top 10%.

The mid-market (retailers, corporate offices, etc.) generally wants a broad camera line-up, 3rd party camera support and enterprise management.

While the enterprise offering tends to be over-kill (too complex, too expensive) for the mid-market, the SMB product does not yet offer enough.

Conclusion

I think small businesses will find this product solution acceptable. It's close to the same price as incumbent solutions and while not yet as good, at the price and with Cisco's marketing power, it should be well received.

1 report cite this report:

Testing Cisco SMB Software and PTZ Camera (PVC300) on Jul 03, 2009
This report examines and shows the abilities and performance of key products in Cisco's emerging Small Business Video Surveillance product line....

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