OS for Windows VMS: Server vs. 7

By: Brian Rhodes, Published on Aug 21, 2012

How important is it to choose a 'server' version of an operating system? While every major VMS developer supports Windows 7, many new enterprise video servers are built using Server 2008 R2. Do the different versions impact performance? In this note, we contrast the two versions, describe how their differences affect VMS servers, and share feedback from VMS companies on which platform they recommend.

Key Differences

Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 share the same kernel, have the same network stack, and share the same GUI. Even by Microsoft's own account, the functional and stability differences are nominal. However, a deeper look at the two platforms reveal some differences that influence video management systems:

  • 32/64 Bit Architectures: Windows 7 can be installed in either version, while Server 08 R2 is 64 bit only. (However, older 32 bit software can still be run.) This difference may prevent older hardware from being used to run the server OS.
  • Maximum Physical CPUs: Not to be confused with 'cores', Windows 7 supports 2 physcial CPUs, and Server 2008 R2 supports 8 physical CPUs. The majority of surveillance systems will not require more than 2 physical processors. However, for deployments with hundreds of megapixel cameras, more processing power may be necessary. In this circumstance Server OS might be required if the resulting server requires 3 or more CPUs.
  • Incoming File Sharing Connections: Windows 7 support 10 simultaneous, while Server 2008 R2 supports Unlimited connections. Depending on the VMS software deployed this may limit the number of simultaneous viewing clients of the video database.
  • Power Management Mode: Windows 7 enables several energy conserving settings by default, and they must be disabled in order to assure recording is always able to happen. Server 2008 R2 does not have these settings enabled.
  • Video Driver Support: In many cases, aftermarket video cards do not have Server OS versions of drivers, since application servers are not typically required to handle high-end graphics or video streaming.
  • Price: Retail licenses of Windows 7 Professional costs between $150 and $300, while Server 2008 R2 Standard costs between $500 and $900.

Which Choice is Best?

System Size Matters: For smaller camera counts, there is likely negligible performance difference between versions. Given that smaller systems may require a 'multi-role' recording server that also serves as a viewing client, it may be advantageous to use Windows 7 given its expanded video driver support. Other constraints, like number of local drives needed, can influence operating system selection based purely on server size.

Default Choice: Interestingly, Windows 7 is not a preinstalled OS option when ordering a server from Dell or HP. This reinforces the suggestion that Server 2008 R2 is commonly specified because 'that is the way it has always been' and because 'Server 2008 is the baseline system globally used' by IT departments for servers.

VMS Feedback: We asked several VMS vendors for feedback on the question "Server 2008 R2 or Win 7?" We share portions of their detailed responses below:

  • "[With our VMS platform], there are basically there are no advantages in using Windows 2008 Server over Windows 7."
  • "Most IT departments will choose to deploy Server 2008 as it does offer some advantages in terms of deployment and security. It is something they "know" and are comfortable dealing with."
  • "In larger installations - with hundreds or thousands of cameras - Server 2008 can generally handle more resources, data, offers Active Directory security and is generally preferred for virtual installations."
  • "As for managing the OS, there may be some benefit for Windows 2008 server on a domain, for making it easier to manage and more secure, but Windows 7 is pretty good about that."
  • "In general terms, if you are using a desktop OS for a VMS server - whether it's on a mini-tower desktop or on a rack mounted box - it shouldn't be used for other purposes. It's a critical part of your security system and should be treated as such - no web surfing or YouTube on it."

Make sure to check with your VMS vendor to inquire about any restrictions or preferences for OS choice.

Windows Server OS Options

One option is to use Windows Server Foundation, a much less expensive version of Server 2008 R2, similar in price to Windows 7 Pro, that drops some server functionalities that are less likely to be used in VMS deployments. See this comparison for tradeoffs between Server Standard and Foundation version [link no longer available]. The most notable limitation for Foundation is no support for 'Hyper-V', Microsoft's virtualization platform.

For example, ipConfigure requires a Server OS for their VMS server software but supports Windows Server 2008 R2 Web version that provides many benefits of using a Server OS but at a much lower cost than the standard edition.

Conclusion

While tradeoffs exist when running a workstation OS in a server environment, the performance differences are minor and the tradeoffs center around management and administration. Users in our LinkedIn group report running up to 50+ cameras on Windows 7 [link no longer available] without issue.

When a VMS server is designed to be included in a server farm managed by an IT department, keeping with a server OS helps maintain 'sameness' and maintains manageablility. However, for less formal environments and stand alone surveillance deployments, Windows 7 regularly provide the same 'bang' for less 'buck'.

Comments : Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Avigilon ACC Cloud Tested on Jul 08, 2020
Avigilon merged Blue and ACC, adding VSaaS features to its on-premise VMS, offering remote video and health monitoring that was previously limited...
VMS 101 on Mar 03, 2020
This guide teaches the fundamentals about video management software. Inside, we cover: NVR vs VMS Viewing Video - What are common client...
Video Analytics 101 on Mar 16, 2020
This guide teaches the fundamentals of video surveillance analytics. Inside we cover: Why Use Video Analytics Video Analytics Warning Where...
K7 Wall Mounted IR Temp Gun Tested on Jun 26, 2020
The original K3 model was missing a number of important features but the newest K7 model is specified to have them. But how well do they...
Worst NVR / VMS Manufacturers 2020 on Feb 10, 2020
For the second time in a row, a global manufacturer has been selected by integrators. 200+ integrators answered: In the past year, what VMS /...
Genetec Security Center 5.9 Release Examined on Feb 06, 2020
Genetec released the next major version of Security Center, less than a year after version 5.8. This also follows no Genetec major releases in...
Milestone Launches Multiple Cloud Solutions on Feb 18, 2020
Milestone is going to the cloud, becoming one of the last prominent VMSes to do so. Milestone is clearly late but how competitive do these new...
VSaaS 101 on Mar 25, 2020
Video Surveillance as a Service (VSaaS) is the common industry term for cloud video. But what does it mean? How does it all work? Inside this...
FLIR A Series Temperature Screening Cameras Tested on Jun 04, 2020
FLIR is one of the biggest names in thermal and one of the most conservative. While rivals have marketed fever detection, FLIR has stuck to EST...
Video Surveillance History on May 06, 2020
The video surveillance market has changed significantly since 2000, going from VCRs to an emerging AI cloud era and now impacted by...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Remove Dahua and Hikvision Equipment "Immediately" Or Else Banned From US Government Contracts on Jul 10, 2020
The US government has directed contractors to remove covered equipment, such as Dahua, Hikvision, and Huawei Hisilicon products, "immediately." If...
ZeroEyes Presents Firearm Detection Video Analytics on Jul 09, 2020
ZeroEyes presented its Firearm detection Video Analytics system at the May 2020 IPVM Startups show. A 30-minute video from ZeroEyes...
Directory of 162 "Fever" Camera Suppliers on Jul 09, 2020
This directory provides a list of "Fever" scanning thermal camera providers to help you see and research what options are available. There are...
Clinton Public View Monitor (PVM) Mask Detection Tested on Jul 09, 2020
Face mask detection, or more specifically not wearing one, is expanding amidst the pandemic. Clinton Electronics has added this capability to their...
These Florida Real Estate Agents Are Now Selling "SafeCheck USA" Temperature Detectors on Jul 09, 2020
The "Kakon Brothers", William and Nathan, are self-described "south Florida Power Agents specializing in Luxury Real Estate" who "have closed over...
Avigilon ACC Cloud Tested on Jul 08, 2020
Avigilon merged Blue and ACC, adding VSaaS features to its on-premise VMS, offering remote video and health monitoring that was previously limited...
Hikvision's India Dominance Faces Threat on Jul 08, 2020
While Hikvision has become a dominant video surveillance provider in India, recent tension between the governments of India and the PRC is...
The US Fight Over Facial Recognition Explained on Jul 08, 2020
The controversy around facial recognition has grown significantly in 2020, with Congress members and activists speaking out against it while video...
Sperry West / Alibaba Tablet Temperature Measurement Tested on Jul 07, 2020
In April, we ordered a ~$500 temperature tablet from Alibaba. We set it to the side while doing 18 other temperature screening tests but, after...
Facial Recognition: Weak Sales, Anti Regulation, No Favorite, Says Security Integrators on Jul 07, 2020
While facial recognition has gained greater prominence, a new IPVM study of security systems integrators shows weak sales, opposition to...