Milestone Arcus VMS Tested

By Ethan Ace, Published Oct 21, 2015, 12:00am EDT

For more than a decade, Milestone was a Windows only VMS. With the Internet shifting power away from Windows OSes, Milestone launched a new VMS, called Arcus, which can be embedded onto Linux devices.

One such device is the Western Digital DL4100 NAS appliance [link no longer available]. Based on a recent partnership between WD and Milestone, Milestone's Arcus VMS is offered as an application that can run on WD's MyCloud NAS devices.

We recently bought that WD device and tested Milestone Arcus. The image below overviews some of the areas we tested:

We examined the following questions:

  • How difficult was the initial and remote access setup? What technical expertise would it require?
  • How easy to use and how sophisticated was the client interface?
  • What support and what quality of support was provided?
  • How does Arcus compare to Milestone's other VMSes?

Positives

Arcus is easy to install on WD and simple to setup and use on the local network.

Arcus on Milestone's own Husky appliance (M10) includes support for the more sophisticated Smart Client (see this as part of Milestone XProtect 2014 Tested).

Negatives

Arcus is one of the least powerful VMSes we have ever seen, with less advanced features and capabilities than a Dropcam, and far less than any of Milestone's other VMS offerings.

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Arcus on any Milestone partner device only comes with the rudimentary web client.

Support may be an issue as well. Despite being released more than a month ago, Milestone and WD support were confused, each referring us to the other for support. Milestone says they are rectifying this and that support will be handled by WD, though we are skeptical about WD's ability to effectively support Milestone's VMS.

Other more detailed concerns:

  • No technical documentation exists on Milestone's website. Though Arcus is simple, if you need technical help, options are limited.
  • WD's Arcus support page [link no longer available] is broken. We reported this to Milestone and WD 12 days prior to publication and as of publication, it is still broken.
  • Connecting cameras can be problematic, given that Arcus had problems connecting to some cameras and gives no details about what went wrong. Also, there is no option for connecting via RTSP or MJPEG URL as a fallback.
  • No security by default. Open access to the application unless a user is manually created.
  • Arcus version 2.1 displays a message about the application having a Software Upgrade Plan (SUP) with an expiration date but no ID number. Milestone first told us to update the app and that the SUP ID number would then be displayed. However, later, they told us that SUP is not offered on Arcus and that the reference would be removed from the next release.

Market Impact

Minimal. Since Arcus' 2013 release, there has been little integrator demand or market acceptance, and our test results underscore why. Arcus is simply not competitive even as a low cost ($50 per channel) VMS. For example, for the same price, Exacq Start provides far more capabilities. Any number of free or super low-cost VMSes provide more capabilities.

Recommendations

If you buy a device (like a WD or LenovoEMC NAS) that supports Milestone Arcus and want to record a few basic cameras with minimal capabilities, Arcus is acceptable.

If you buy the Husky M10 that comes with Arcus yet supports the Milestone Smart Client, this might be an attractive offering for $1,000-$2,000 sub-8 channel applications, though certainly not cheap for its class.

Setup

The WD NAS does not ship with Arcus pre-installed but setup is simple. Users must load it from the NAS' web interface, with download, installation, and NAS reboot all occurring automatically, a ~5 minute process. Arcus is free to install, with two free camera licenses included, and $50 USD for each additional channel up to 16.

Adding Cameras

Once loaded, Arcus automatically detected supported cameras on the local network. There are several issues with this process, though:

  • No way to change driver: If a camera is not properly detected, there is no way to tell Arcus what driver it should use. This may lead to some cameras simply not working, but...
  • Limited troubleshooting info: If a camera does not work for reasons other than wrong credentials, no troubleshooting information is supplied. We experienced this during our tests, with an Axis camera not properly functioning in Arcus until it was factory defaulted.
  • Unwanted cameras re-added: Additionally, there is no way to turn off auto-discovery, so any new camera plugged into the network is added to the VMS, whether it is intended to be added to Arcus or not. Cameras may be disabled individually, though.

In our tests, cameras from Axis, Bosch, Sony, Samsung, Hikvision, and Dahua were all discovered and added properly (aside from one Axis model, noted above).

Camera Configuration

Once added, camera configuration is basic, limited to CODEC, FPS, and resolution, with no advanced control of compression, I-frame interval, etc., often found in full blown VMSes, such as XProtect. Note that some models, such as Axis, allow camera rotation to be changed via Arcus, but most do not.

Finally, users may set up video motion detection via Arcus, which is performed on the server (despite a "VMD type" dropdown box). VMD defaults to a 12-region grid, 4x3, coarse compared to even basic IP cameras. Users may assign greater processing time to VMD on a camera specific basis, but note that this may result in drastic CPU usage spikes in high motion scenes.

No Security by Default

When first installed, Arcus does not have a username and password. Users simply log onto the NAS's IP address, port 8081, and live video is immediately available.

Creating a user enables security, with the system warning users that username and password must be entered from that point on.

IPVM Image

Review Video

We review the installation and configuration process in this video:

Live and Search

Arcus' live and playback functions are simple to use, but basic.

Live View

Users simply click on a layout or camera to enlarge it, and use mouse wheel to digitally/mechanically zoom. Layouts and single cameras may be viewed full screen. Live and recording indications are given for each camera in the top right.

Playback

To enter playback, users click a button in the lower left of the video pane, which brings up basic play forward/backward and fast forward/reverse controls. Users may click a button to bring up a basic timeline which can be scrolled through. However, no indications of motion or other events are shown in this timeline, only date, hour, and minute.

Export

Users launch the clip exporter from a single camera which launched a dual timeline window showing the selected start and end frames. Users must scroll through start and end time to select, with no option to manually enter times/dates.

Once exported, clips are saved to the "Exports" section, and are then available for playback and download (.mkv format). No standalone executable player with multi-camera export is available, only these .mkv clips.

Review Video

We show these issues in the live/playback operation video here:

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