Testing Milestone XProtect Corporate VMS

By: Benros Emata, Published on May 02, 2010

As IP video surveillance systems continue to grow, deployments of 1000 or more IP cameras become increasingly common. Larger systems often have special requirements for video management system (VMS) applications including more sophisticated enterprise management, 3rd party integration, alarm monitoring and video distribution.

While Milestone is one of the most well known VMS providers, its historical leading version (Milestone Enterprise [link no longer available]) has important limitations. To that end, Milestone has been aggressively developing its newer Corporate VMS version [link no longer available] to target the high end market.

In this test, we examine Milestone XProtect Corporate [link no longer available]. The test was hosted on a Windows Server 2003 machine connected to the IQInvision Series 4, Axis Q1910 and Axis Q1755 cameras. This test result should be read in conjunction with our report on the Milestone SmartClient. The SmartClient allows live monitoring and investigations for Milestone Corporate.

When evaluating Milestone Corporate, the following 9 key criteria / decision points should be considered.

Criteria Strength Description
 Pricing  Weak High even for large scale systems, plus many separately purchased add ons needed for full functionality
 Simplicity  Moderately Weak Investigations especially weak, need for add-ons (e.g., Central, Analytics, etc.) increases complexity; administration fairly simple
 3rd Party IP Camera Support  Strong Strong but be careful as some cameras are supported by Enterprise but not Corporate version
 3rd Party System Support  Strong Be careful that some 3rd party systems integrate with Milestone Enterprise but not Corporate
 Analytics Support  Strong With addition of Video Analytics add-on [link no longer available]
 Enterprise Management  Strong Be aware of requirement for using Windows only authentication
 Alarm Monitoring  Moderate With addition of Central and use of second client
 Video Distribution  Strong With addition of SmartWall (expensive $20k MSRP flat)
 Redundancy  Strong Be aware that Management Server redundancy requires Windows Clustering to be enabled/deployed

Recommendations

Milestone Corporate offers a quite comprehensive array of important high end features. The main drawbacks are complexity and cost.  As such, for users that know they are going to use many advanced functionalities or plan to use them in the immediate future, Milestone Corporate is a strong option.

Product Overview

Computing Platform Support

Milestone Corporate's Management Server supports only Server 2003 or 2008. Archiving servers support additional Windows OSes. Additionally, applications such as Windows IIS, SQL, etc. are required. A single executable will provide installation for the Management Server, along with the mentioned Windows Components (IIS, SQL, etc.) with a file size of 321 MB. Other controllers such as the Map and Recording Server can be installed by accessing the Management Server's Download Manager.

Third Party Support

Milestone Corporate offers an extensive array of 3rd party integrations - both for IP cameras [link no longer available] and for 3rd party systems (access control, PSIM, building management, intrusion, etc.). 

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Two notes for evaluating Milestone's 3rd party support:

  • While both Enterprise and Corporate support an extensive number of IP cameras, support is not the same. Some cameras may be supported on Enterprise that are not supported on Corporate. Before deploying, the Corporate 3rd party IP camera list [link no longer available] should be reviewed.
  • While Milestone 92 solution provider partners [link no longer available] including 20 just for access control, some integrations are only available for Enterprise but not Corporate. Before selecting, this should be determined and should be done directly with Milestone as the public documentation may not disclose all.

Pricing

Milestone Corporate licensing costs of 2 fees: a one-time base fee that is charged per deployment (not server), MSRP is $3,183.00. Secondly, a per camera/device license fee with an MSRP of $329. No license fee is charged for the SmartClient.

Licensing for SmartWall and Central are separate and additional to the VMS licensing. SmartWall license fee is $20,000 per deployment flat (regardless of number of cameras). Licesning for Central (enabling alarm monitoring) varies depending on total server and camera number (review our Central report for details).

Architecture / Overview

The following screencast provides usability highlights of [  ] VMS, in addition to items we found challenging. Key points include:

  • Pre-requisites for installation (00:25 min)
  • Server components (01:11 min)
  • Failover Servers (02:16 min)
  • Client Applications for Corporate (03:10 min)
  • Installation demo (03:55 min)
  • Download Manager demo (04:32 min)

Administration

The following screencast examines how to configure/setup [  ] VMS system. Key points include:

  • Recording Servers point to Management Server to establish communication (01:43 min)
  • Recording Servers are automatically listed when communication is established (02:18 min)
  • Auto detection vs. Assisted detection for IP cameras (03:11 min)
  • Utilizing camera hardware capabilities (03:52 min)
  • Clarification on the MJPEG setting
  • Use Windows Active Directory or domain controllers (05:58 min)
  • Recording Servers are not listed in 'Role' settings (07:22 min)
  • Backward compatibility with Milestone Enterprise (08:14 min)
  • Registered Services provides verification of services running (09:33 min)

Administration

How do I add/setup a camera?

From the structure tree on the left, navigate to Servers in the nodes windows immediately to the right, select the desired recorder. From here, the installer has two options using the hardware wizard, 1) use the hardware detection wizsard or 2) manually add the device. 

The 'automatic hardware detection' option will initialize an IP scan of the network and attempt to detect entities to add to the recorder. Optionally, the installer can choose the 'assisted hardware detection' option and will manually input the devices credentials (IP address, username, etc.)

 

How do you set up alarms to be displayed? 

Alarm cannot be displayed in any traditional sense within Corporate as an independent client (called Central) must be used for any type of alarm monitoring. Without the Central client, the administrator can only view alerts in the log reports (found at the bottom of the structure tree).

 

How do you restrict access to the system? 

User management is handled through Microsoft Windows users and group credentials. The workflow would be to add the Windows users to a group, then assign that group 'roles.' This is conducted through the Security, Roles Settings options. To further clarify, those Windows users/groups must exist locally on the Management Server.

 

How do you restrict access to certain features or functionalities?

The navigation is the same as the previous question - separated by tabs, the administrator can choose various levels of restriction (e.g. play back video, restrict live in Smart Client, Smart Wall, etc.)

 

How can you setup the VMS to handle failures to servers/appliances?

Both the Management Server and the Recording Server can be configured for fail over; however, only the Recording Server can be assigned within Corporate Management Client. 

Accessing the download manager web page hosted on the Management Server, the administrator can download the Recording Server installer and during the wizard specify a Failover Server (vs. Recording Server). This will install the failover server services. An important note is that either Active Directory or Windows domain controller must be in place to properly utilize failover features. Proper privileges that rely on these Windows components are necessary that are not possible in the workrgroup.

 

How can you access reports or alerts on the health status of the servers/ appliances/ applications?

Milestone recommends the use of e-mail notifications (e.g. camera offline)as there is no built in health reporting. 

Optionally, the logs are available to view any issues across the surveillance system.

 

How can you upgrade the VMS software?

Installers and administrators should take careful note regarding the specific process to upgrade the Management Server - if not properly followed, the database hosting server, camera, rule, etc. conifgurations may be lost. The license code and file may also be required so its best to thoroughly read the documentation or contact Milestone technical support.

Upgrading the Recording Server would entail, uninstalling / re-installing but need to be sure that the prompt to keep video is selected.

 

What are the key steps to install the server?

The key components vary depending on the server being configured. The clarify, Milestone deploys in a distributed architecture and is outline as follows:

 

  • Management Server - hosts database conifgurations, handles user roles, etc.
  • Recording Server - server conducts recording and communication with cameras and other nodes
  • Management Client - used by the integrator or day-to-day operator administering the system ; provides various functionality from setting up camera, users, rules to viewing log entries

 

Required components may vary depending on the type of deployment. For example, the Management Server will require SQL database as it hosts the information mentioned above but a Map Server will not need this service.

Are there any complex steps or potential problems in the server install?

Larger corporate environments will likely be able to utilize the current infrastructure and IT department to setup components such as Microsoft IIS, SQL database, etc. Those outside the technical IT level may find all the required components intimidating. The documentation does provide information on installing the programs and can alleviate some confusion.

Are there any complex steps or potential problems in the client install?

The installation process is straightforward. An option that the administrator has is to access the Management Server's download page, whic provides the option to download and insall the client from a remote workstation. This allows the administrator to move across physical workstations without the worry of  'carrying' the installation file with them.

 

Usability

 

How does the VMS handle the higher resolution of megapixel cameras?

The system will detece various hardware features of camera and provide proper native settings during setup.

How does the VMS perform with low bandwidth connection (256 kb/s)?

Frames dropping occurs.

What, if any, VMS functionalities regulary take more than 10 seconds to load?

Within the hardware configuration wizard, scanning for devices can take much longer. This would be expected behavior if scanning a range such as .1 - .255.

 

What happens when the VMS client cannot connect to a camera? 

Under the Recording Servers hierarchy, the icon will change and display a small exclamation mark. See page 56 of the manual for all status indicators.

What options does the VMS provide to reduce storage consumption?

Corporate will detect a camera's multistreaming capabilities and can be configured with a different compression format for live viewing and/or recording.

Additionally, archiving per camera and per Recording Server is also possible. This means that recorded video can be offloaded to a secondary server and can reduce the likelihood that the primary database reaches full capacity.

What help functionality does the VMS provide while using the client?

The main Help context menu at the top of the client will provide a help file with detailed information on administering the Management Client.

How similiar is the use of the VMS client to a DVR? 

The dsitributed architecture with Corporate detracts the realtion to a traditional DVR. Furthermore, the segmented clients from Central (event management), Smart Client (Live Monitoring, investigations), etc. further delineate the system from a tradtional DVR's workflow.

How similar is the configuration of the VMS server to a DVR? 

Considering the high end targeted market, advanced functionalities such as video distribution positions Corporate far from a DVR's configurations.

How simple is it for an untrained operator? 

With the architecture implementing various Windows compoenents such as SQL, IIS, browser based access, etc., an untrained operator may find Corporate administration to be overwhelming. We definitely recommended operators to be trained.

How powerful is it for the expert operator? 

Expert operators can utilize numerous advanced functionalities within the system. Hardware features from cameras, for example, will provide flexibility in processing alerts, options for advanced rules and large scale video distribution through configuring options such as Smart Wall.

 

Scalability

 

What ways can I add/setup many cameras at the same time?

The hardware configuration wizard will allow the installer to detect and/or add multiple devices simultaneously. Once the devices have been added to the Recording Server, they can be added to a group where bulk configurations can be applied. An important note is that entities grouped together for bulk conifurations should share the same settings. For example, if Camera A is capable of multiple streams but within the same group Camera B does not have this capability, the bulk configuration will not work.

 

How do you do restrict access when using multiple servers/appliances? 

Corporate utilizes Windows users and groups to apply within the surveillance system. Based on an IT centric infrastructure, large organizations will likely have this in place already and can eliminate redundant user/group management withing the Management Client. To clarify, these users must exist locally on the Management Server.

If utilizing failover features, Active Directory or a domain controller will need to be in place.

 

How can I watch live video feeds from different appliances/servers?

Use Smart Client

 

How can I conduct searches from video feeds stored in different appliances/servers?

Use Smart Client

 

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