QNAP NVRs Low-Cost IP Video Examined

Author: John Honovich, Published on Nov 21, 2009

Network attached storage (NAS) manufacturers are rapidly entering the video surveillance market, offering low cost NVRs with advanced storage management compared to traditional video recorders.

Perhaps the most well known of these manufacturers and certainly the most commonly sold on-line is QNAP Security, a division of QNAP systems. QNAP offers a broad selection of NVRs ranging from 4 to 40 channel units.

QNAP and other NAS manufacturer offer an alternative to software only providers (like Milestone, Genetec, OnSSI, etc.) who charge $100 - $300 per channel just for software in addition to the purchase of separate computers to run the software (see our analysis of Intransa's NVR appliances for an attempt to simplify this but at a relatively high price).

While QNAP does not deliver many of the premium and sophisticated features that software only providers supply, QNAP's low cost, broad camera support and sophisticated storage management will be a better fit for a number of applications.

QNAP offers 13 models of NVRs ranging from 4 to 40 channels and from 1 to 8 bays for hard drives.

The models follow a clear naming convention:

  • All the models start with "VS" except for the Home units which start with "NVR." The "VS" units, which are the small business and enterprise models, support all IP cameras that QNAP supports. The home unit "NVRs" only support a subset (see comparison chart).
  • The first number in the model refers to the number of bays (e.g., the VS-2008 has 2 bays while the VS-5020 has 5 bays). There are 8, 5, 4 and 2 bay options.
  • The second number in the model refers to the maximum number of IP cameras supported by the unit (e.g., the VS-2008 supports a maximum of 8 cameras while the VS-5020 supports a maximum of 20 cameras).
  • An "RP" at the end of the model name means that the unit is rack mountable and offers redundant power (e.g., 24 channel systems are offered in both tower and rack versions - VS-8024 vs VS-8024-RP). Rack mounted, redundant power versions are offered for 16, 24, 32 and 40 channel models.

Limitations for IP cameras is based on total cameras licensed and throughput. QNAP has the following limitations on I/O throughput:

  • 300 Mb/s throughput for models in the 8 bay series
  • 138 Mb/s throughput for models in the 5 bay series
  • 62.6 Mb/s throughput for models in the 4 and 2 bay series

QNAP reports that this is the highest throughput in its class. We cannot assess this claim.

As an example, according to QNAP's specification, a VS-5020 has throughput to support 20 cameras each with an average bandwidth of 6.9 Mb/s. The highest end QNAP model (the VS-8040U-RP) is rated for 40 cameras at an average bit rate of 7.5 Mb/s. In both cases, this would be capable of supporting a large number of even 2MP MJPEG cameras (which often consume about 10 - 12 Mb/s).

QNAP does not offer license upgrades to support more cameras, even if the unit has sufficient throughput. The channel count of the appliance bought is the maximum number of IP cameras that may be supported.

Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox
Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox

Motion detection is not provided by the QNAP appliance. If motion based recording or alerting is required, this must be performed on the camera. This creates dependencies on the quality and accuracy of each camera's built-in motion detection.

All QNAP appliances are "headless" and require a remote PC to browse video or perform configurations. The Internet Explorer browser is required.

Hardware Features

All of the small business/enterprise "VS" series products offer a number of sophisticated storage management features:

  • Easy input or removal of hard drives without having to screw/unscrew carriers, etc.
  • Hot swappable hard drives
  • RAID 1 or 5 for storage redundancy and tolerance against the failure of a single drive
  • Online storage expansion - lower capacity hard drives can be swapped out for higher capacity units while the system is still running

QNAP does not support an internal video encoder card and therefore only interfaces with analog cameras through the use of separate encoder appliances.

Software Features

On the software side, the following are key elements:

Because the appliance is headless, all configuration/setup needs to be done via a web browser. The video below shows the use of a wizard for initial configuration:

Monitoring is also done through the web browser offering a limited virtual multiplex of up to 120 cameras. The video below provides an overview:

Basic investigation/playback functionality is provided as demonstrated below:

Enterprise Management

QNAP does not offer enterprise management of user accounts nor servers. Changes to configurations need to be performed at each individual appliance. The only 'enterprise' functionality is the limited virtual multiplex provided in the monitoring view.

Pricing

MSRP pricing is approximately $110 per channel which includes the software licenses and the NVR/NAS appliance. It does not include hard drives. Purchasing two to eight 1TB hard drives at approximately $100 each will not significantly add to the overall cost per channel.

Here are a few representative MSRP price points for the product line:

  • NVR 104: $499
  • VS-2008: $899
  • VS-4016U-RP: $1999
  • VS-8032U-RP: $3699
  • VS-8040U-RP: $4099

Since QNAP is widely sold on-line, up to date pricing can easily be found using a Google product search. On-line pricing is generally quite close to MSRP.

QNAP Strengths

These features provide QNAP with a number of important strengths:

  • Low cost: At about $110 per channel for hardware and software, this is about the same price as low end IP video software that supports multiple vendor's IP cameras. Cheaper solutions are available but they usually only support a single vendor's IP cameras (e.g. D-Link, ACTi, Vivotek and many others provide free VMS software that supports only their cameras).
  • Broad IP camera support: They support over 2 dozen IP camera manufacturers including all of the top 10 selling manufacturers except for Bosch. 
  • Strong storage management: They offer storage management features that are generally not provided in PCs or NVR appliances (RAID, hot swappable drives, on-line hard drive expansion, etc.)

This combination of strengths will be especially attractive for customers that are using megapixel cameras and want the flexibility of deploying cameras from multiple vendors.

QNAP Weaknesses

At the same time, QNAP's product offering has a number of weaknesses:

  • Requires encoders for analog cameras: For most sites with existing analog cameras, QNAP requires the use of 3rd party encoders. This can eliminate the cost savings of QNAP relative to many hybrid DVRs.
  • Poor enterprise management: QNAP lacks central account management, LDAP integration and centralized recording configuration. All of these make it difficult to manage and use large number of NVR appliances.
  • Poor 3rd party integration: For those needing to integrate with video analytics, access control, PoS, ATM machines, intrusion, PSIM, etc., QNAP has very little options.  For those who need more than stand-alone video management, QNAP is limited.

For customers looking to migrate slowly from existing analog cameras, the cost savings may be minimal and better options may be available.

For customers that have large scale, sophisticated needs, QNAP will likely not have the features to meet such requirements.

QNAP Compared to Software Only

For those customers going all IP who only need a few hundred cameras across a small number of sites, QNAP could be a simpler, less expensive choice than purchasing and deploying a more sophisticated VMW software solution.

On the other hand, for thousands of cameras or for systems that must integrate with 3rd party systems (including analytics), features in 'open' system VMS software to accomplish these tasks will likely justify the additional cost.

QNAP Compared to Other Appliances

For small to medium sized deployments, the best alternatives to QNAP come from other appliance vendors.

Compared to Avermedia

For users migrating large numbers of analog cameras while adding in a few IP cameras, Avermedia's Hybrid/Analog Linux DVRs are likely to be a strong alternative. With 16 channel appliances under $2,000 USD, Avermedia essentially provides analog video encoding for free compared to QNAP (which will result in $500 - $1000 savings by eliminating encoder appliances). Avermedia also offers more sophisticated centralized management capabilities. On the downside, Avermedia provides no redundancy for storage and requires manually addition of hard drives (e.g., opening the lid and assembling/inserting the hard drives).

Compared to Exacq EL Series

Like Avermedia, the Exacq EL series are hybrid DVR appliances that eliminate the need for separate encoders when supporting existing analog cameras. Exacq also offers software only version of their VMS and broader 3rd party integration. On the other hand, the MSRP of the Exacq EL is approximately twice that QNAP's (closer to $4,000 USD depending on model).

Compared to NUUO NAS NVRMini

The most well known direct alternative to QNAP is likely the NAS NVRMini series from NUUO. The NVRMini offers the same fundamental architecture - a NAS appliance with embedded VMS software that supports a broad range of IP cameras (though note: NUUO's NAS IP camera support is significantly lower than QNAP's and NUUO's better known VMS's version support).

The NUUO NVRMini tends to be notably more expensive than QNAP with the 4 channel and 8 channel versions being almost twice as expensive (see a sample of online pricing for NUUO's NVRMini). Additionally, the maximum channel count for NUUO is 16, significantly less than QNAP's 40 channel limit.

On the positive side for NUUO, the NVRMini's can be managed and integrated with NUUO's other product offerings including their hybrid DVR card and VMS support. They also can be managed through NUUO's central management software.

QNAP Product Lineup Overview

QNAP offers 13 models of NVRs ranging from 4 to 40 channels and from 1 to 8 bays for hard drives.

The models follow a clear naming convention:

  • All the models start with "VS" except for the Home units which start with "NVR." The "VS" units, which are the small business and enterprise models, support all IP cameras that QNAP supports. The home unit "NVRs" only support a subset (see comparison chart).
  • The first number in the model refers to the number of bays (e.g., the VS-2008 has 2 bays while the VS-5020 has 5 bays). There are 8, 5, 4 and 2 bay options.
  • The second number in the model refers to the maximum number of IP cameras supported by the unit (e.g., the VS-2008 supports a maximum of 8 cameras while the VS-5020 supports a maximum of 20 cameras).
  • An "RP" at the end of the model name means that the unit is rack mountable and offers redundant power (e.g., 24 channel systems are offered in both tower and rack versions - VS-8024 vs VS-8024-RP). Rack mounted, redundant power versions are offered for 16, 24, 32 and 40 channel models.

Limitations for IP cameras is based on total cameras licensed and throughput. QNAP has the following limitations on I/O throughput:

  • 300 Mb/s throughput for models in the 8 bay series
  • 138 Mb/s throughput for models in the 5 bay series
  • 62.6 Mb/s throughput for models in the 4 and 2 bay series

QNAP reports that this is the highest throughput in its class. We cannot assess this claim.

As an example, according to QNAP's specification, a VS-5020 has throughput to support 20 cameras each with an average bandwidth of 6.9 Mb/s. The highest end QNAP model (the VS-8040U-RP) is rated for 40 cameras at an average bit rate of 7.5 Mb/s. In both cases, this would be capable of supporting a large number of even 2MP MJPEG cameras (which often consume about 10 - 12 Mb/s).

QNAP does not offer license upgrades to support more cameras, even if the unit has sufficient throughput. The channel count of the appliance bought is the maximum number of IP cameras that may be supported.

Motion detection is not provided by the QNAP appliance. If motion based recording or alerting is required, this must be performed on the camera. This creates dependencies on the quality and accuracy of each camera's built-in motion detection.

All QNAP appliances are "headless" and require a remote PC to browse video or perform configurations. The Internet Explorer browser is required.

Hardware Features

All of the small business/enterprise "VS" series products offer a number of sophisticated storage management features:

  • Easy input or removal of hard drives without having to screw/unscrew carriers, etc.
  • Hot swappable hard drives
  • RAID 1 or 5 for storage redundancy and tolerance against the failure of a single drive
  • Online storage expansion - lower capacity hard drives can be swapped out for higher capacity units while the system is still running

QNAP does not support an internal video encoder card and therefore only interfaces with analog cameras through the use of separate encoder appliances.

Software Features

On the software side, the following are key elements:

Because the appliance is headless, all configuration/setup needs to be done via a web browser. The video below shows the use of a wizard for initial configuration:

Monitoring is also done through the web browser offering a limited virtual multiplex of up to 120 cameras. The video below provides an overview:

Basic investigation/playback functionality is provided as demonstrated below:

Enterprise Management

QNAP does not offer enterprise management of user accounts nor servers. Changes to configurations need to be performed at each individual appliance. The only 'enterprise' functionality is the limited virtual multiplex provided in the monitoring view.

Pricing

MSRP pricing is approximately $110 per channel which includes the software licenses and the NVR/NAS appliance. It does not include hard drives. Purchasing two to eight 1TB hard drives at approximately $100 each will not significantly add to the overall cost per channel.

Here are a few representative MSRP price points for the product line:

  • NVR 104: $499
  • VS-2008: $899
  • VS-4016U-RP: $1999
  • VS-8032U-RP: $3699
  • VS-8040U-RP: $4099

Since QNAP is widely sold on-line, up to date pricing can easily be found using a Google product search. On-line pricing is generally quite close to MSRP.

QNAP Strengths

These features provide QNAP with a number of important strengths:

  • Low cost: At about $110 per channel for hardware and software, this is about the same price as low end IP video software that supports multiple vendor's IP cameras. Cheaper solutions are available but they usually only support a single vendor's IP cameras (e.g. D-Link, ACTi, Vivotek and many others provide free VMS software that supports only their cameras).
  • Broad IP camera support: They support over 2 dozen IP camera manufacturers including all of the top 10 selling manufacturers except for Bosch. 
  • Strong storage management: They offer storage management features that are generally not provided in PCs or NVR appliances (RAID, hot swappable drives, on-line hard drive expansion, etc.)

This combination of strengths will be especially attractive for customers that are using megapixel cameras and want the flexibility of deploying cameras from multiple vendors.

QNAP Weaknesses

At the same time, QNAP's product offering has a number of weaknesses:

  • Requires encoders for analog cameras: For most sites with existing analog cameras, QNAP requires the use of 3rd party encoders. This can eliminate the cost savings of QNAP relative to many hybrid DVRs.
  • Poor enterprise management: QNAP lacks central account management, LDAP integration and centralized recording configuration. All of these make it difficult to manage and use large number of NVR appliances.
  • Poor 3rd party integration: For those needing to integrate with video analytics, access control, PoS, ATM machines, intrusion, PSIM, etc., QNAP has very little options.  For those who need more than stand-alone video management, QNAP is limited.

For customers looking to migrate slowly from existing analog cameras, the cost savings may be minimal and better options may be available.

For customers that have large scale, sophisticated needs, QNAP will likely not have the features to meet such requirements.

QNAP Compared to Software Only

For those customers going all IP who only need a few hundred cameras across a small number of sites, QNAP could be a simpler, less expensive choice than purchasing and deploying a more sophisticated VMW software solution.

On the other hand, for thousands of cameras or for systems that must integrate with 3rd party systems (including analytics), features in 'open' system VMS software to accomplish these tasks will likely justify the additional cost.

QNAP Compared to Other Appliances

For small to medium sized deployments, the best alternatives to QNAP come from other appliance vendors.

Compared to Avermedia

For users migrating large numbers of analog cameras while adding in a few IP cameras, Avermedia's Hybrid/Analog Linux DVRs are likely to be a strong alternative. With 16 channel appliances under $2,000 USD, Avermedia essentially provides analog video encoding for free compared to QNAP (which will result in $500 - $1000 savings by eliminating encoder appliances). Avermedia also offers more sophisticated centralized management capabilities. On the downside, Avermedia provides no redundancy for storage and requires manually addition of hard drives (e.g., opening the lid and assembling/inserting the hard drives).

Compared to Exacq EL Series

Like Avermedia, the Exacq EL series are hybrid DVR appliances that eliminate the need for separate encoders when supporting existing analog cameras. Exacq also offers software only version of their VMS and broader 3rd party integration. On the other hand, the MSRP of the Exacq EL is approximately twice that QNAP's (closer to $4,000 USD depending on model).

Compared to NUUO NAS NVRMini

The most well known direct alternative to QNAP is likely the NAS NVRMini series from NUUO. The NVRMini offers the same fundamental architecture - a NAS appliance with embedded VMS software that supports a broad range of IP cameras (though note: NUUO's NAS IP camera support is significantly lower than QNAP's and NUUO's better known VMS's version support).

The NUUO NVRMini tends to be notably more expensive than QNAP with the 4 channel and 8 channel versions being almost twice as expensive (see a sample of online pricing for NUUO's NVRMini). Additionally, the maximum channel count for NUUO is 16, significantly less than QNAP's 40 channel limit.

On the positive side for NUUO, the NVRMini's can be managed and integrated with NUUO's other product offerings including their hybrid DVR card and VMS support. They also can be managed through NUUO's central management software.

9 reports cite this report:

New Surveillance Products Spring 2011 Final on Apr 06, 2011
In this report, we provide a single source listing new video surveillance products announced in Spring 2011 and in conjunction with ISC West.For...
NLSS Competitive Positioning Examined on Mar 01, 2011
NLSS is likely the most interesting recent startup in the video surveillance market. The founder's last startup was sold to Cisco. Plus, NLSS has...
Examining Synology's Surveillance Station 5.0 NVR on Oct 29, 2010
In this update we examine Synology, a NAS manufacturer targeting the SMB market. Synology offers an NVR application add-on to their NAS appliances...
Examining GVI's All-in-One NVR (Razberi) on Oct 17, 2010
GVI Security has released an 'all-in-one' NVR called the Razberi that integrates an 8 channel PoE switch, a single hard drive and 16 channels...
New Products Reviewed Fall 2010 on Oct 12, 2010
In this report, we aggregate all our new products reviews for Fall 2010 announcments. Products Reviewed The following new products are reviewed....
Examining QNAP VioStor Pro Series NVR on Oct 03, 2010
QNAP now offers an alternative to their formerly all 'headless' NVR appliances.  The VioStor Pro Series (firmware version 3.3.0) includes 12...
The State of the VMS Market 2010 on Sep 12, 2010
Video Management Software is undergoing a violent transformation. Evolving from its niche beginnings, VMS has matured into a core component of...
What's the Best Video Surveillance for a Hotel Chain? on Dec 14, 2009
What's the best video surveillance solution for a hotel chain? In the US alone, there are about 50,000 total hotel properties requiring safety and...
Testing Avermedia's Hybrid DVR (EH5216+) on Nov 23, 2009
Hybrid DVRs make the transition to IP simpler. Plus, if the units are close in price to entry level analog only DVRs, the case is easier even for...

Related Reports

H.265 Usage Statistics on Apr 19, 2019
H.265 has been available in IP cameras for more than 5 years and, in the past few years, the number of manufacturers supporting this codec has...
The Fastest Growing Video Surveillance Sales Organization Ever - Verkada on Apr 17, 2019
Verkada has the fastest growing video surveillance sales organization ever. In less than 2 years, they already have more salespeople in the US...
Dahua Repositionable IR Multi-Imager Camera Tested on Apr 16, 2019
Dahua has released their first repositionable multi-imager camera, the Multi-Flex 4x2MP, claiming integrated IR, true WDR, and flexible...
Axis Supports HD Analog on Apr 15, 2019
In 2017, Axis declared 'Everything is IP': Now, in 2019, Axis has released support for HD analog, with their new encoders.  Why the change?...
Alarm.com Favorability Results 2019 on Apr 15, 2019
The once dot com startup has evolved to become a core provider for home security and is now expanding into commercial. In their first entry in...
ISC West 2019 Report on Apr 12, 2019
The IPVM team has finished at the Sands looking at what companies are offering and how they are changing their positioning. See below for 50+...
Pole Mount Camera Installation Guide on Apr 11, 2019
Poles are a popular but challenging choice for deploying surveillance cameras outdoors. Poles are indispensable for putting cameras at the right...
Hikvision AI Problems Criticized By Chinese Publication on Apr 09, 2019
Hikvision's facial recognition works poorly, causes delays and worsens learning, according to a new investigation by one of China's leading...
Spring 2019 50+ New Products Directory on Apr 08, 2019
We are compiling a list of new products for Spring 2019 and have over 50 already. Contrast to Fall 2018 New Products Directory and Spring 2018...
Airship VMS Profile on Apr 03, 2019
Airship has been developing VMS software for over 10 years, however, with no outside investment, and minimal marketing, the company is not well...

Most Recent Industry Reports

H.265 Usage Statistics on Apr 19, 2019
H.265 has been available in IP cameras for more than 5 years and, in the past few years, the number of manufacturers supporting this codec has...
ACRE Acquires RS2, Explains Acquisition Strategy on Apr 19, 2019
ACRE continues to buy, now acquiring RS2, just 5 months after buying Open Options. One is a small access control manufacturer from Texas, the...
Access Control Course Spring 2019 - Last Chance on Apr 19, 2019
Register for the Spring Access Control Course. IPVM offers the most comprehensive access control course in the industry. Unlike manufacturer...
Riser vs Plenum Cabling Explained on Apr 18, 2019
You could be spending twice as much for cable as you need. The difference between 'plenum' rated cable and 'riser' rated cable is subtle, but the...
Verint Victimized By Ransomware on Apr 18, 2019
Verint, which is best known in the physical security industry for video surveillance but has built a sizeable cybersecurity business as well, was...
Milestone Drops IFSEC on Apr 18, 2019
Milestone has dropped out of Europe's largest annual security trade show (IFSEC 2019), telling IPVM that they "have found that IFSEC in EMEA no...
The Fastest Growing Video Surveillance Sales Organization Ever - Verkada on Apr 17, 2019
Verkada has the fastest growing video surveillance sales organization ever. In less than 2 years, they already have more salespeople in the US...
Door Operators Access Control Tutorial on Apr 17, 2019
Doors equipped with door operators, specialty devices that automate opening and closing, tend to be quite complex. The mechanisms needed to...
Securadyne CEO: IPVM 'Entertaining For An Ignorant Few' on Apr 16, 2019
Securadyne's CEO Carey Boethel is unhappy with IPVM's report - Failed Integrator Rollup, Securadyne Sells to Guard Giant Allied. Indeed, he...
Dahua Repositionable IR Multi-Imager Camera Tested on Apr 16, 2019
Dahua has released their first repositionable multi-imager camera, the Multi-Flex 4x2MP, claiming integrated IR, true WDR, and flexible...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact