Testing Axxon's Smart VMS (16 Channel Free)

By: John Honovich, Published on Jan 10, 2011

In this report, we test Axxon's Smart VMS. The most intriguing feature is a free version for up to 16 cameras that includes fairly broad 3rd party IP camera support. This is the second 'open' VMS to be offered for free (following Milestone's free Go offering and heavily discounted Essential version).

While Axxon is not well known in the Americas nor Asia, they are one of the leading suppliers in their home market of Russia. In the last year, they have accelerated their international expansion, focusing on Western Europe and North America. Offering a free option should help them expand.

For a budget / basic VMS, we think Axxon Smart is quite solid - a fairly simple and complete user interface for 'regular' surveillance users. Equally importantly, unlike Milestone, the limitations of the Axxon free version are minor and easily resolvable (at a low cost).

The two biggest concerns we have are: first, technical support for America customers - while Axxon says they will support anyone, the infrastructure for that is lacking (both via phone and the web); Secondly, IP camera support: while camera support is fairly broad, there do seem to be gaps and a lack of documentation about what models are actually supported.

Key Features of Axxon Smart

Let's examine some of the key features that impact the suitability / fit of Axxon Smart:

  • The free version supports a maximum of 16 cameras and 1 TB of storage.
  • Axxon Smart supports a thick client only (web client planned for latter 2011)
  • More storage can be supported; the additional cost is $495 MSRP per TB
  • More cameras can be added; the additional cost is $105 MSRP per camera (e.g., a 17 camera system with 1 TB of storage costs $105 MSRP total for the whole system)
  • 3rd party iPhone Mobile client can be used from DComplex [link no longer available] ($49.99, see our tests results of DComplex)
  • Axxon Smart supports a total of 4 servers, 64 cameras per server and 256 cameras overall
  • Smart is not upgradeable to Axxon's enterprise VMS - Intellect
  • No maintenance fees/charges for any Axxon product
  • Includes video analytics but no searchable PoS integration (planned for later 2011)
  • No 3rd party security integration (access, PSIM, etc.)
  • ONVIF support included (note: we did not test)

Comparison to Milestone Go and Essential

For overall features and cost, Axxon will be quite attractive compared to Milestone's comparable offerings.

Milestone has 2 comparable versions: (1) the 8 channel Go: free, no mobile client, storage restricted to 5 days and (2) the 25 channel Essential: $49 per channel and no storage limitations.

Axxon supports a very strong iPhone application at a very moderate price. Milestone's options - Mobideos and LexTech Labs- cost thousands even for small systems (fine for enterprises but prohibitive for basic / small systems).

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For less than 16 cameras, Axxon has a clear price advantage. Axxon's Smart free version's 1 TB storage limit with $495 per TB licensing is significantly more flexible than Go. Also, the Axxon version supports double the number of channels as Go.

Between 20 and 25 cameras, pricing is close with an edge to Milestone for 23, 24 or 25 cameras. For 25 cameras, the MSRP of Axxon is $945 (9 additional cameras x $105 each) contrasted to Milestone Essential's $1225. However, at 25 cameras, we would expect most users needing more than 1 TB of storage, placing Axxon's total MSRP at $1500 - $2000 (assuming 2-3 TB of storage use).

Above 25 cameras, Axxon offers a strong price advantage. Milestone users need to upgrade to the next level - Professional which has a significant jump in price - while Axxon users can continue with the same software and pricing structure.

On the downside for Axxon, Milestone has a much stronger track record for 3rd party integration and for technical support. While Milestone offers no phone support for Go, they have an online knowledgebase [link no longer available], video tutorials [link no longer available] and discussion form - Axxon does not. Also, for the Americas, Milestone has a well developed live phone support center for Essential users (both Axxon and Milestone are well staffed for European time zones).

Comparison to Paid VMS Software Offerings

Outside of Milestone, the overwhelming majority of VMS software providers sell 'open' VMS software for no less than $100 - $150 (for their entry level versions). This means for the prototypical 16 camera deployment, end user savings of around (or slightly more) than $1,000 (on a job size of $12,000 to $20,000) can be achieved from using free VMS software.

We believe that free (and heavily discounted) VMS software will be attractive and cause a significant number of end users to shift their selection practices. Milestone's January 2010 acknowledgement of 100%+ unit growth in their very low price offering is a good indicator of this in action.

Certainly many integrators will be comfortable with existing (and more expensive) offerings that they are trained on and know well. However, at the margins, as new integrators decide what VMS to use, we believe that they will disproportionately choose the free (or heavily discounted) versions.

Axxon Screencast Review

The screencast below provides a tour of the basic functionalities and issues in using Axxon Smart. The core VMS functionalities expected in a basic system are included - live, investigations, alerting, administration - all in a singular thick client:

Comparison / Overview of Axxon Larger Scale VMS Versions

While we focused on the free version of Axxon Smart, this is only one element of Axxon's portfolio. Axxon offers two higher end VMS versions: (a) Intellect Lite and (b) Intellect Enterprise. The best structural comparable is Genetec's Pro and Enterprise versions.

Like all VMS versions, the higher up you go (from Smart to Intellect Lite to Intellect Enterprise), more cameras and more features are available.

  • While Smart and Intellect Lite both support only 4 total servers, Lite's licensing allows for unlimited cameras per server while Smart allows 64 max; additionally Lite supports a few other options/features
  • The per camera licensing for Lite is $125 MSRP (or $20 more per camera than Smart). Also, note, that unlike Smart, the first 16 channels are not free).
  • Intellect Enterprise supports an unlimited number of servers and advanced features such as facial recognition, LPR, railway analytics and mapping
  • Intellect Enterprise costs $165 MSRP per channel; a number of other relatively modest fees also exist, include a one time server license and for some advanced features

Properly analyzing the competitive positioning of Intellect vs high end systems like Genetec, Milestone Corporate, DvTel, etc. is beyond the scope of this report. While the pricing is clearly less (30% - 50% less in many cases), a more careful analysis would be required to properly track what features are missing (relative to high end VMSes) or what issues offset savings.

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