Small City Vendor Lock In RFP Review

By: John Honovich, Published on Dec 26, 2010

The worst kind of specification requires exact products, refusing any alternatives. This is such a bad practice that many organizations and government entities bar it. Unfortunately, a North Carolina City's recent Network Surveillance RFP [link no longer available] shows this bad practice in action. It's even worse because the City's needs are quite simple and the 'solution' is far more expensive than needed.

Let's start by reviewing the City's requirements:

  • Total of 13 cameras, all fixed, all SVGA
  • 4 cameras outdoors, 9 cameras indoors
  • Axis cameras hard spec'd (indoors the M3203-V and outdoors the P3343-VE)
  • OnSSI NetDVR and OnSSI Ocularis Client Lite
  • Technical specs are included but they are quite generic
  • "The solution to be provided shall meet all requirements as specified herein and no substitution of equipment shall be permitted."

Keep in mind that this is a small city facing budget pressure. Creedmoor, NC, USA has less than 4,000 people. Additionally, like most US cities, tax receipts and city budgets are down. Their annual city budget is less than $6 Million USD [link no longer available].

The city could easily save thousands with a few substitutions.

  • Analog cameras and DVR: Given the simple setup and small camera count, a traditional CCTV system would provide substantial savings. Ironically, the city's specification is very close to the 14 camera hypothetical scenario in the Axis 'study'.
  • Lower cost VMS: Even if you stayed with a 'pure' IP system, NetDVR is overkill and costs over $150 per channel. Switching to Milestone Essential would save about $1,300.
  • NAS Appliance: Given the simplicity of this system, a QNAP or Synology NAS device could eliminate the purchase and setup of a separate PC (as well as provide storage redundancy and easy storage expansion). This also could save $1,000 or more.
  • Indoor cameras: There are 26 dome cameras at or less than the price of the specified Axis camera (13 of those are megapixel). A number of options could reduce the per camera cost by $100 each for a total savings of almost $1,000.
  • Outdoor cameras: The specified Axis outdoor cameras (P3343-VE) are overkill for this application, packing in lots of unnecessary high end features at about $900 online price. There are 21 outdoor, vandal dome cameras more than $250 less than the required Axis. Any one of those could save another $1,000.

Even with an all IP solution, the City could save $3,000 and not sacrifice material functionality or performance.

The City should share some blame for refusing any substitutions but ultimately these specs are likely copied and pasted from a rep or territory sales person.

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