Should You Use Software-Only Video Management Systems?
Software only has lots of the momentum. But should you use software only? While DVR/NVR appliances are increasingly viewed as antiquated, over 80% of end users still chose traditional appliances over software only. Are those buyers wrong?
Here are the key advantages of software only:
- Lower costs and more flexible for large camera counts (32+) within a high speed LAN (1Gb/s+)
- Lower costs for all IP camera deployments
- Less expensive for low camera counts (16 and under)
- Simpler and cheaper setup for Distributed stores/branches (e.g., bank branches, restaurants, convenience stores, small box retailers)
- Lower costs for Analog camera deployments
- Appliance vendor profiteering has made software only very attractive
- IT does not require software only but they object to appliance vendor profiteering
- Appliance offerings are improving, making the choice more competitive
- Software ony setup is complex and time consuming (relative to appliances)
- Software only generally requires the use of encoders to support analog cameras
- Appliances do not block 3rd party software integration
- For the next 5 years, appliances will be very attractive to almost 50% of the market
- In the far future, software only will dominante with managed video
- March Network's appliances run on Linux, are puprosed built computers for video surveillance (e.g., built in battery back up, docking station for easy maintenance, etc.). They were also sold at significantly lower cost than traditional DVRs and ideal for 16 cameras or under.
- Steelbox [link no longer available] apliances are optimized for very large scale deployments (1000s of cameras). Individual appliances can support up to 500 cameras at a cost of less than $70 per camera (hardware and software included). Read my review of Steelbox to learn more.
Software Only Requires Encoders for Analog Cameras
If you are only using IP cameras, then this is not an issue. And in the far future, when almost everyone is using IP cameras, this point does not apply. However, today, when 80%+ of the cameras are analog, this is a significant issue of cost and complexity.
Encoders are more expensive than using built-in encoding cards that are part of the DVR appliance. On a per channel basis, using external encoders with software only costs $200 - $400 USD. By contrast, that cost is usually only $50 - $100 USD for built-in encoding cards.
Moreover, appliances need to be configured separately, assigned IP addresses and are another device that may fail.
As such, end users should be cautious about deploying encoders and factor in the extra cost and complexity of these devices.
Appliances Do Not Block 3rd Party Integation
A widely spread fear is that DVR/NVR appliances block integration with 3rd party systems (like access control or intrusion detection).
For 3rd party integration, there is absolutely no technical difference between applainces and software only offerings. One can just as easily use an API from an appliance as from software only.
The 'truth' in this fear is that a lot of appliance manufacturers have attempted to control and lock in their customers to only the 3rd party devices the appliance manufacturer favored (usually other devices made by the manufacturer).
End users should absolutely check vendors on this element but they should be scared into thinking that appliances do not support 3rd party software.
Appliances Will Continue to Be Attractive
For branches and distributed offices (like banks, convenience stores, restaurants, small box retailers, etc) with 16 cameras or less, appliances will continue to be very attractive and the dominant choice. The easier setup and the lower cost will be the key factors. Appliances have also come down in price and their IT Security and reliability have greatly improved. All of this will keep appliances very strong in these segments.
Appliances Will Only Be Eliminated in the Far Future
The reality is that deploying appliances and setting up software only servers both have risks and challenges. The ideal future is one where end users do not have to store and manage video on their sites. However, this will require a massive decrease in the cost of WAN bandwidth which will only happen over a long time period. When this does, local video management systems will start to dissapear and be replaced by large-scale data center run by customized software running in server farms.
However, that day should not affect anyone's purchases for the next few years.
While the uptake of software only will continue to grow for large-scale camera counts, appliances will remain an important and favored choice for distributed facilities and small camera counts.