Favorite SMB Video Surveillance Manufacturers 2015

By Brian Rhodes, Published Jun 15, 2015, 12:00am EDT

Most video surveillance manufacturers are fighting to expand their sales to the small to medium size business market.

With the high-end saturated from early IP camera adopters, premium brands like Axis and Milestone see SMB as their main growth opportunity. At the same, Chinese manufacturers, such as Hikvision and Dahua, view SMB as an easy entry into Western markets.

With so much interest here, what are people actually choosing? We surveyed 90 integrators to determine what they are using and why for small to medium-size businesses, defined as single site deployments with under 20 cameras.

On the camera side, 5 manufacturers took 80% of the selections, with 3 from Asia, 1 from Europe and 1 from North America. The consensus for those 5 was quite strong, with only 20% citing other brands.

On the recorder side, 4 manufacturers took 51% of the selections, with 1 from Asia, 1 from Europe and 2 from North America. The consensus was quite weak, with more than 20 other manufacturers splitting the other 49%. 

Key Trends

Low-cost camera manufacturers dominated the favorites, which just 3 of those companies - Hikvision, Dahua and Samsung taking 55% of the votes. This underscores how price sensitive the camera market is. All things considered, Axis did fairly well, squeezing in between the 3 manufacturers, coming in second place.

However, low-cost recorder manufacturers did relatively poorly, with more expensive / premium brands (like Exacq, Milestone, Avigilon, etc.) taking 3 of the 4 favorite spots. Only Hikvision placed in the top 4, largely driven by their big lead in camera sales and certainly helped by selling recorders for sub $500. Overall, though, these results, show that even in the price-sensitive SMB segment, far more differentiation still exists in recorders than cameras.

SMB Recorders

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Only 4 recorder manufacturers had notable mentions, with the rest of votes spread across more than 20 other providers.

Here is the breakdown:

SMB Favorites

Here are the top 5 for favorite camera manufacturers:

Hikvision Cameras Wins Big

In the SMB category, Hikvision has a clear preference even over entrenched incumbents like Axis or dealer-only lines like Avigilon. Many comments noted that camera brand preference differs for larger projects, but for SMB business, the chinese giant delivers in a big way:

  • "We have done Axis & are now doing Hikvision. We expect to now stick with Hikvision"
  • "The days of needing Pelco/Bosch or some other premium camera brand for your bigger projects is over. The quality is there with Hikvision and you still get the same 3 year warranty you would with any other premium brand."
  • "Now we started to use also Hikvision, but before we used Bosch SD camera."
  • "Hikvision mainly. Larger projects often involve end-users who are more brand sensitive and are still less happy with a Chinese brand and ask for a "better" one."
  • "We are usually offer Hikvision. On bigger project we offering more reliable brands like Sony & Milestone."
  • "We sell a lot of Hikvision cameras regardless of the camera count."
  • "For HD-TVI, obviously Hikvision. They only offer four varifocal models, two each of 720p and 1080p, so options are limited."
  • "When cost is a significant issue, we'll go with Hikvision/OnSSI."
  • "Usually HIKVision for smaller projects and Axis for larger."

Axis Cameras Still Solid

On the other hand, Axis high showing despite essentially ignoring the low end of the market.  Average Axis (median price of $770) prices range 60% to 85% higher than offerings from:

Despite this, the brand remains a solid recommendation for many resellers competing in the SMB space. Some commented they specify Axis in all jobs no matter the size:

  • "We only use Axis cameras."
  • "Axis cameras typically, would not differ on larger projects."
  • "Since we are primarily an Axis shop, we will typically lead with Axis products."
  • "Install Axis on almost all projects regardless of size."
  • "We generally offer Axis product across the board"

However, many who cited Axis explained the brand is a better fit for larger projects driven by specifications or brand acceptance:

  • "We offer Axis cameras, but due to cost we typically have to use no-name brand cameras to compete. On larger projects there is a spec with a bid so things are more comparable." 
  • "Our firm always emphasizes quality, so we would recommend Axis or Panasonic but that would also put as at a disadvantage from a pricing perspective."
  • "For larger projects, we will offer Samsung and/or Axis. Generally, on larger projects brand is more important."
  • "Bigger projects would likely be all Axis or Avigilon."
  • "High end - Avigilon or Axis/Milestone- Lower end Hikvision."
  • "Usually Hikvision for smaller projects and Axis for larger."

Dahua Cameras There But Trailing

What about the other Chinese giant? Well, Dahua still placed, but Hikvision and HD-TVI was mentioned nearly 3:1 more frequently than their IP or HD-CVI offerings. Indeed, no North American based responses cited Dahua as the 'only' offering in the SMB space, drawing focus on the dismal weakness of the brand's channel in several markets.

  • "All components (VMS and cameras) Dahua or Hikvision."
  • "Dahua, Hikvision, or Samsung. If there is another camera offered that will perform better in a certain scenario, then it will get used. "
  • "We like the Hikvision stuff and have also used various Dahua OEM's. We have also used various Axis and Arecont kit."
  • "Dahua or Hikvision. If going to be used proactively, rather than occasionally looking for an incident, we offer Avigilon."

Small vs. Big Project Differences

The majority cited their recommendations change based on the overall size of project. The second half of our question asked "Would [your under 20 camera recommendations] differ from bigger projects? How?"

As noted above, the most common 'large project' brand was Axis, but many other premium lines were frequently cited. In general, after Axis, there was no clear premium brand preference:

  • "Samsung and Axis or Avigilon would be the lead offering. "Value" offering would be HIKVision, Digital Watchdog or Honeywell."
  • "We use Dahua for analog HD and AXIS, ACTi, Grundig for IP based projects. For bigger projects we use AXIS and Sentry360."
  • "Hikvision and Acti; for larger projects, we will offer Samsung and/or Axis."
  • "Axis for big and small followed only by Samsung."
  • "Avigilon, Exacq, and Vivotek/Hik. We typically use the Vivotek/Hik on the smaller projects. Less VMS/enteprise licensing in this market."
  • "We deploy 3xLOGIC servers and cameras, butas systems grow beyond 32 channels we would normally deploy a different system."
  • "I tend to offer Hikvision camera. If they want the best then I'll offer Axis."
  • "20 cameras & under: Samsung WiseNet Lite, certain Samsung WiseNet III, HIKVision, Axis M series. For 20 cameras & larger: Samsung WiseNet III, Axis P & Q series."
  • "Advidia or Samsung. Generally it depends on the requirements of the VMS. If VideoInsight VMS will fit the bill, the choice is Advidia cameras. If we can sell the customer on some of the more advanced features of Genetec, we'll sell that with Samsung cameras. We generally don't sell VI with Advidia in Enterprise environments - its just a trust issue at this point still."

Many will downsell into analog if it fits the budget:

  • "We offer the small projects the cheapest analog camera we can get: mainly cameras like Hikvision DS-2CE55C2P, DS-2CE55C2P-IRP, DS-2CE15C2P-IR, etc."
  • "Hikvision, Dahua IP or HD analog 70%. No brand AHD 20% with NVR or DVR. Axis 10%. In bigger projects IP cameras will be more as it supports more scalable structure."
  • "Usually offer HD-CVI cams and DVRs. Some higher end clients (jewelers) still opt for IP, even with small camera counts."
  • "I typically use off brand, overseas stuff. They are making the equipment for most of the brand name companies. Bigger project I generally use IP cameras."
  • "I have been installing a lot of Flir IP kits. Price point is good and has decent quality. I also will install some FLIR analog systems. Depending on the customer I will also quote Axis cameras or Vivotek. This would definitely differ with bigger projects. I would not quote the Flir option or the analog option."

SMB Recorder Favorite Details

Again, here is the breakdown for favorite SMB recorders:

Exacq

Similar to the overall Favorite VMS standings, Exacq continues to have notable support:

  • "Exacq is a better fit for smaller projects because there aren't so many confusing features and levels and server types (credential, archiver, video wall etc.)"
  • "We only use Exacq. The difference might be that the devices are limited in number of IP camera's with regards to large projects where we use servers running virtual machines."
  • "We've also standardized on Exacq for our installs. We might use the Start version of the software vs Pro for small installs"
  • "Exacqvision appliance. Larger projects don't differ much other than the Exacq server gets beefier to handle the additional cameras."
  • "Exacq for both large and small. User interface and computability are the driving factor both large and small."
  • "Exacq for projects of all size. Allows us to be consistent."

Milestone

And Milestone was close behind:

  • "Install Milestone on almost all projects regardless of size."
  • "Always Milestone. We can price it from $50/ to $369/device license, depending on what the customer needs."
  • "Milestone. This does not differ. We select the appropriate trim line of software based on customer requests, cost, and camera count."
  • "Milestone Essential/ Express. Professional and upwards for bigger projects"

However, Milestone was commonly mentioned as one of several options integrators would offer, in contrast with Exacq that tended to be the 'single answer' regardless of project size.  Note the contrast in the responses below:

  • "We use Dahua HDCVI recorders for analog HD and Milestone Husky or Milestone XProtect Essential / Express for IP based projects."
  • "Standalone NVRs from Hikvision or Milestone Xprotect Essential. We will offer Milestone Professional (or better) for larger projects."
  • "Generally Milestone XProtect where possible but we have also used Axis Camera Companion on some installs."
  • "Avigilon, typically. We do still offer Milestone in some edge cases (special integrations), but it's becoming more rare."
  • "Axis Camera Station, Milestone Go or Essentials, This would differ from larger projects mostly by software capabilities."

Hikvision

Compared to Exacq, Milestone and Avigilon, Hikvision's recorder is nowhere close in terms of capabilities or user interface but Hikvision has two huge advantages: their strong camera positioning and their far lower price point relative to those VMS providers.

  • "I try to use milestone for everything but i will use hikvision nvr to win the job if necessary."
  • "We use Hikvision DVR or NVR for these kinds of small projects"
  • "We sell a lot of Hikvision NVR's up to 16 channels as their NVR's have onboard POE switches so very cost effective."
  • "Try for Avigilon/Exacq but often times have to switch to HIK's recorder with free software, etc. These jobs are about price, not about enterprise solutions.
  • "We typically offer Hikvision DVR/NVRs. On bigger projects we use server with VMS."
  • "Standalone NVRs from Hikvision or Milestone Xprotect Essential. We will offer Milestone Professional (or better) for larger projects."

Appliances Strong

While VMS software flexibility is especially appealing to larger projects, in the SMB market, many integrators called out the use of appliances / NVRs as being important:

  • "Using appliances mostly for smaller jobs. The head ends differ - cameras don't need to differ"
  • "We sell a lot of Hikvision NVR's up to 16 channels as their NVR's have onboard POE switches so very cost effective."
  • "NVRs from Dahua or Milestone Husky"
  • "Standalone NVRs from Hikvision or Milestone Xprotect Essential. We will offer Milestone Professional (or better) for larger projects."
  • "If they want more of an appliance, we have had good success with the Samsung SRN-1000 and SRN-4000. The only difference in larger installations is that we don't like to use Avigilon appliances (server + switch in one unit) for those, and we'll probably upgrade to ACC Enterprise. Samsung stays pretty much the same as you scale up, you just build out the boxes."
  • "I have been quoting a NUUO NVR that comes with it's own VMS. If the customer purchases a Flir system, they have their own NVR and VMS software."
  • "Our office is primarily a DVTel house, using new small form NVR's."
  • "Depends on the system, again small projects require more simplified applications and a DVR on analogue system would achieve that for the small business owner."

Multiple Recorders Offered

One notable trend was a sizeable minority listing multiple recorder offerings, further showing a lack of conensus on the recorder side. For example:

  • "March Networks, Salient Systems and Avigilon."
  • "XProtect Pro, Essentials, Aimetis, Dahua."
  • "I have been quoting a NUUO NVR that comes with it's own VMS. If the customer purchases a Flir system, they have their own NVR and VMS software. Lately, I have been selling a QNAP NAS and then using Axis Camera Companion or using the QNAP surveillance Station VMS."
  • "We us aimetis, SeeTec Cayuga, KiwiVision VMS for our projects."
  • "Axis Companion, i-VMS4200, DW Spectrum."
  • "Our office is primarily a DVTel house, using new small form NVR's. We also use OpenEye and Exacq."
  • "20 & under: Samsung, Video Insight, HikVision"

Avigilon Commentary

Avigilon was the only manufacturer to show up on both sides (cameras and recorders), helped by their strongly loyal channel:

  • "Avigilon ACC5 on all projects."
  • "Avigilon."
  • "We quote the same Avigilon products regardless of size."
  • "We again will lead with Avigilon, but for a really large project we might go with Milestone or OnSSI if the customer has seen these VMS's before."

However, some Avigilon dealers chose to break ranks for SMB project.  While they may lead with ACC, many mentioned they have alternatives at the ready if pricing or end user preference leads elsewhere:

  • "Try for Avigilon/Exacq but often times have to switch to HIK's recorder with free software, etc. These jobs are about price, not about enterprise solutions."
  • "Exacq or Avigilon. Smaller its more about easy of use. Larger projects are more about what the client's main criteria and how the VMS will address the CFS's (Critical Success Factors)."
  • "Dahua \ Hikvision. Purely budget driven solution. Bigger projects - Avigilon. Main thing is usability - up to 16 cameras on a Dahua\Hikvision is ok to manage. Avigilon just much easier for an end user to navigate through."

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