Retailers on Migrating from Analog to IP

Author: Brian Rhodes, Published on Jun 27, 2012

Migrating existing systems from analog to IP is important to many retailers. At the recent NRF-LP show, a well attended breakout session titled "Transitioning from Analog to IP CCTV" gathered ~200 attendees for an all-retailer panel. In this note, we examine the main points and insights from that session.

Main Speaking Points

The tone of the session was decidedly 'pro-IP', and was not an 'analog vs. IP' debate. In fact, it clearly stated that the advantages of IP video were obvious, citing megapixel resolution, business continuity (off-site server imaging), and ease of integration with other networked systems as compelling reasons to begin migration. The thrust of the session was to 'address the unknown' and to educate those LP professionals in attendance unfamiliar with IP video. The session was moderated and the panel consisted of retail IT and LP members who have field experience switching over. Here's a list of their main discussion points:

  • IP requires all new network cabling, representing unexpected cost
  • Using IP cameras introduces security vulnerabilities (DoS risk was specifically mentioned)
  • IP networks have a 300' cabling limitation, and this could precipitate redesign/relocation of existing IDFs.
  • Network bandwidth capacity will be consumed by video, affecting other networked systems.
  • IP Video represents a huge HDD storage requirement
  • Some integrators oversell the performance of equipment: camera resolution, low light abilities, and VMS usability were implicitly suggested
  • Retailers on the panel recommending seeking out integrators specializing in IP video, and avoid trying to hang with an analog-centric CCTV provider as they make the transition themselves.

Interestingly, widespread use of video encoders were not prominently mentioned as a vital part of the migration plan.

Analysis

IP requires all new network cabling: Our surveys have validated this statement as being the experience of many end-users. A substantial number of video systems prefer to install a physically separate LAN for video. Even today, IP video surveillance is sold under the premise that existing LAN infrastructure can be leveraged for IP video, helping to defray the cost of the transition. However, this statement is not always true. A number of 'Ethernet Over Coax' adapters have entered the market, taking advantage of existing CCTV cabling in place.

Using IP cameras introduces security vulnerabilities: This is an uncommon objection even from staunch critics of IP. The concern was that expanding network access points (eg: an IP camera network connection) can increase risk. One panelist specifically cited "DoS attacks" on cameras as a method of "taking down" the camera and leaving surveillance system vulnerable to exploits. While being concerned with the vulnerabilities of IP cameras are not without merit (see our "Big Security Hole" in Trendnet Cameras update for one example) we think this concern was represented as being a bigger risk that reality dictates. In general, adding video surveillance cameras to existing networks does nothing to lessen existing network security measures. 'Camera hacking' does not yield significant return for the effort, and changing the default password seems to be a much more important first step to take.

IP networks have a 300' cabling limitation, and this could precipitate redesign/relocation of existing IDFs: This is only a practical issue for larger stores or distribution centers. The 100 meter length limitation is often circumvented through use of Cable extenders and other powered video baluns.

Network bandwidth capacity will be consumed by video, affecting other networked systems: This concern was especially prominent in the days before widespread adoption of H.264 compression. QoS, or 'Quality of Service' is a common administration method used to prioritize critical network traffic from being squeezed by bandwidth capacity, and a growing trend is the use of 'edge storage' to alleviate concerns of lost recordings during peak network usage periods.

The biggest bandwidth issue we see is upstream/off-site bandwidth. Retailers generally have low speed connections to their stores (e.g., DSL, cable modem, T1 etc.) and those need to be shared with critical transaction information. When selecting VMSes (or any recorders), special attention should be given to setting up bandwidth throttles and to checking system usability for remote viewing. Products can vary widely in their effectiveness on this metric.

IP Video represents a huge HDD storage requirement: This is likely part myth and part valid concern. On the one hand, moving to higher resolution, all things equal, will increase storage needs by 3 to 4 times. However, compared to previous generation recorders that typically limited storage to 500GB or 1TB of non redundant storage, now it is easy to find to offerings with 8TBs or more with RAID. These two factors probably cancel each other out as long as a new recorder is being deployed (which typically is).

Some integrators oversell the performance of equipment: This is useful to be aware of as many myths are perpetrated - like megapixel replacing PTZs, low light performance claims, image quality claims, etc. (see our Top 10 myths exposed report for more). Despite the bogus or misinformed claims, IP has benefits. While there may be some truth in these myths, overselling remains a risk.

IP Specialists rather than Traditional Integrators: There is an important meta point here that we agree with: just because you have an integrator or installer you know or have been friends with for years, does not mean they can make the 'migration' themselves. As our manufacturer survey results on 'Integrators Don't Know What They Are Doing' shows, quite a number of traditional integrators have serious problems in going to IP. Prudent retailers should carefully review the current credentials and expertise of integrators on modern surveillance technology.

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