Testing Exacq's VMS Software (exacqVision 3.7)

By: John Honovich, Published on Jan 10, 2010

Exacq provides VMS software and multiple lines of DVR/NVR appliances. While not as well known as some VMS providers, we regularly hear positive comments from integrators and competitors (in the North American market).

In this test, we examine the performance of Exacq's exacqVision VMS software, version 3.7. The test was performed running on Windows and Ubuntu (Linux distribution).  The VMS was tested with Axis's Q1755, Canon's VB-C60, Basler's BIP-1600 and StarDot's SD500BN.

2013 NOTE: This report is deprecated and should NOT be used for current decision making.

Key Findings from the Test

Key findings include:

  • Fundamental tasks -- administration and live video monitoring -- are simple to perform
  • Investigations can be confusing to use at first but is simple to scan recorded video and export
  • Limited advanced functionalities (both in availability and usability)
From an integrator's perspective, we find exacqVision to be particularly reliable and easy to use. The main question/concern we find is using the software in very large-scale or complex deployments where it lacks a number of key features offered by competitors.

VMS System Preview

The screencast below provides an overview of Exacq's VMS software and a preview of the premium report's analysis.

Exacq is one of a limited number of providers to offer both IP Video Software and a broad line of NVR/DVR appliances (including hybrid DVRs, NVRs and embedded hybrid units [link no longer available]) that are fully interoperable (one can view and manage video from all products with Exacq's single client)

Computing Platform Support

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Exacq supports Windows, Linux and Mac operating systems. Additionally, since it does not depend on huge Windows libraries, the size of Exacq's files is much smaller than competitors (The download executable for Exacq VMS is only 26.6 MB compared to 500 MB to 1 GB for many VMS systems). We deployed Exacq on Ubuntu and it installed in a minute and ran without any problems.

Third Party Support

Exacq supports a moderate number of 3rd party IP cameras. However, their support is not as broad as some other offerings (including Milestone/OnSSI, NUUO and Genetec).

Advanced Features

A number of advanced features important to large scale deployments are missing or limited in Exacq:

  • No redundancy for recording servers. If a recording servers goes off-line, recording stops.
  • Limited enterprise management: A single login can be used across servers/appliances. However, each appliance/server needs to be manually added on the client software.
  • No Active Directory integration (though scheduled for 4.0 software release this quarter - Q1 2010)
  • No virtual matrix across the network: Virtual matrix support only directs video on a single client workstation
  • Limited 3rd party access control, PSIM and video analytics integration [Exacq currently supports ioimage for video analytics and a few smaller access control providers]
  • Limited event monitoring capability through pop-up window that can make management of real-time events cumbersome 
Pricing
 
Exacq's VMS software has a per channel MSRP of $150 USD with 1 year of software upgrades. Additional years of software upgrade are $25 MSRP per channel (approximately 17% of base cost). For enterprise management, a per server license of $500 MSRP is charged (per camera cost of about $10-$30), assuming 16 to 48 cameras.
 
On the appliance side, Exacq's EL series features 16 channel hybrid DVR units with an MSRP of $5000 or less.
 
Exacq's pricing compares favorably to Milestone/OnSSI and Genetec whose MSRP is almost 100% higher than Exacq's VMS software. Exacq's pricing is similar to NUUO's (see NUUO test results).

Overview of the VMS System

The following screencast provides an overview of the layout of Exacq's VMS system. Key points include:

  • ExacqVision Client includes live viewing, investigations, and administration in a single application.
  • Live cameras can be organized by Cameras, Groups, or Views.
  • ExacqReplay can quickly access recorded video from 5 seconds to 15 minutes.
  • Search function can be organized by Cameras, Groups, Views, and Events.
  • Find IP Camera wizard can search network for connected IP cameras.
  • ExacqVision client summary: (1)Compact system , (2)All functionality accessible through the client, (3)Live, Search, and Configuration buttons are easily identifiable

Usability Examined

The following screencast examines usability of Exacq's VMS including particular challenges one might find. Key points include:

  • All functionalities are included in the client.
  • Challenge: Onscreen PTZ control button is not easy to identify.
  • Challenge: Terminology of Soft Trigger may be confusing to the untrained operator.
  • Challenge: Selecting Event Monitor reverted back to Virtual Matrix.
  • Challenge: Search functionalities are on the opposite sides of the screen.
  • Challenge: IP Camera Information may be cut off; scroll on the window pane to reveal the configuration.
  • If having issues with connecting to a camera, uncheck the Enabled box, then re-check the box.
  • Challenge: Client does not have a login prompt. Change to a different user at Add System, under System Information.

Administration Overview

The following screencast examines how to configure/setup Exacq's VMS system. Key points include:

  • Each server is listed on the tree.
  • Find IP Cameras automatically scans network for connected IP cameras.
  • Make sure to configure recording format and quality setting.
  • By default, newly added cameras are set to record only on Motion. Change to Free Run if you require continuous recording.
  • Configure if you require bandwidth throttling on your network.

Live Monitoring Overview

The following screencast examines monitoring live video with Exacq's VMS software. Key points include:

  • Right click on video for contextual menu of functions.
  • ExacqReplay can quickly preview recorded video from 5 seconds to 15 minutes ago.
  • Digital PTZ can be controlled by the keyboard or mouse with scroll wheel.
  • PTZ control button located away from camera selection - upper right hand side.
  • Multiple actions may be associated to an event.
  • Virtual matrix pushes out video.
  • Event monitor will report historical triggered events.

Investigations Overview

The following screencast examines how to conduct investigations with Exacq's VMS software. Key points include:

  • Timeline shows linear progression of recorded video.
  • Yellow line represents the current point in time.
  • Right click in the live video to pull up it's contextual menu.
  • Select "Mark Export Start" to establish the beginning of your clip.
  • Select "Mark Export Stop" to establish the end of your clip.
  • Select "Export Video" to save your marked clip.
  • Exported video is packaged into a single executable file.
  • From live mode, quick investigations through ExacqReplay -- allows quick access to recorded footage from 5 seconds to 15 minutes ago.

The videos above explain most aspects and answer key questions. For completeness and ease of review, below are the answers written out.
 
Basic Use (Live and Recorded Video)
 

How do I watch live video?

Live video is watched through the live video page which is the default mode of the client software. Users can select a camera from a camera tree hierarchy, dragging it into a video pane. Additionally, users can create logical groups or pre-defined layouts of cameras (views).

What ways can I monitor many video feeds simultaneously?

Exacq offers 13 layouts (such as 2x2, 3x3, 4x3, 8x6, etc). Each layout has a button on the top left row. Clicking an icon will change to the layout. Cameras can be dropped into each pane or collected into views for automatic placement of multiple cameras.

How can I be notified and review alarms?

Exacq supports virtual matrix and event monitor functionality. Virtual matrix displays video in a dedicated pane when a specific user defined condition occurs. Event monitor displays displays a pop-up table of historical events in additional to displaying video in a dedicated pane.

We found setting up and using virtual matrix and event monitoring to be cumbersome. Event monitoring did not work in our test (sw v. 3.7)

 

How do I search for recorded video? 

Exacq offers 2 options: (1) Quick search (called exacqReplay): in the live view, right clicking on a video allows playback of the immediately previously 30 seconds to 15 minutes, useful to review the recent past. (2) The search page provides a dedicated investigative tool, allowing historical search. See the investigation video for a demonstration of the full functionality.

What ways can I search multiple video feeds?

Exacq allows users to search and playback video from multiple cameras by either clicking on multiple cameras or searching for video in a specific view.

How do you share images from video?

Right clicking on recorded video (in the search page or from exacqReplay) allows saving images or copying to clipboard. You can not save images from a live stream.

How do you share video clips from recorded video? 

From recorded video, right click on the video, and click on 'Mark Export Start' at the beginning of the clip desired and then 'Mark Export Stop' at the end of the clip desired. When both 'start' and 'stop' has been selected, 'an 'Export Video' option will be enabled. Select this and a single executable that wraps the video and all supported data will be generated. The player is cross platform compatible.

How do I know if I am in live or recorded video mode?

Live and recorded video is segmented into the live and search pages. Recorded video can be accessed through the live video page but it does so through a pop-up that does not replace the live video pane (making it simple to differentiate between live and recorded video).

 

How do you switch between live video, investigations and configuration? 

All functionalities are available in the single exacqVision client. Live video monitoring is performed in the live page, investigations in the search pane and configuration in the config page. 

The only exceptions are the ability to modify views and accessing recently recorded live video -- both from the live page.

 
Administration
 

How do I add/setup a camera?

It is a 3 step process which can be slightly confusing, minimized by those 3 steps being physically adjacent to each other. In the config page, (1) under the physical server/system setup, click on IP cameras. This allows finding and adding cameras. Once the camera is connected, (2) camera recording setup allows setting frame rate and resolution for the recording of all cameras. Finally (3) each camera has a link under the camera recording that allows configuration of specific settings for each camera (e.g., CODEC, quality, presets, privacy zones, etc.)

 

How do you restrict access to the system? 

In version 3.7, Exacq's provides users/accounts that are proprietary to Exacq systems (They do not integrate with LDAP nor Active Directory, though AD integration is scheduled for the next major release).

One important difference from many VMS systems is that login to the Exacq client happens automatically. There is no login prompt (and no option to enable one). Exacq uses the record of the last login to connect the next time the client is opened. If you want to switch to a different user, one has to go to Add System link (in the Config page) and change the username/password recorded to connect to an individual server.

How do you restrict access to certain features or functionalities?

In the config page, under users, new users can be assigned to specific groups that restrict access to subsets of functionalities. The system comes with pre-defined user groups such as 'Live + Search' that restricts users from accessing admin functionalities. Admins can also create their own custom user groups for more granular restrictions.

How can you setup the VMS to handle failures to servers/appliances?

Exacq offers no failure/redundancy to servers/appliances.

How can you access reports or alerts on the health status of the servers/ appliances/ applications?

In the config page, under the 'My Systems' link, a table provides detailed information on each system including system status.

 

How can you upgrade the VMS software?

The VMS client can be upgraded directly from the client. Click on the exacqVision button on the upper right hand corner, click on the "Connect to Internet and Check for updates" link. If an update is available, it will prompt to download it.
 
The VMS server requires upgrade by downloading and installing the new version on the machine running the server software. Download and install is relatively quick and simple as the server executable is only 26.6 MB (for current version 3.7).
 
 
Usability

What, if any, VMS functionalities regularly take more than 10 seconds to load? 

No functionality or application takes more than 10 seconds to load. Only 1 client needs to be loaded. The client loaded fast in all tests and each function (admin, investigation and search) loaded quickly.

The longest loading functions were downloading video for scanning recorded video (especially with low speed remote connections) and for finding cameras (though that was still almost always less than 10 seconds).

What happens when the VMS client cannot connect to a camera?

The client displays "VIDEO LOSS" in red and drops the last captured image after approximately 10 seconds. The user can right click to disconnect the stream and try to re-connect by dragging the video back into a pane. Additionally, the user can switch to the config page to quickly check the status of the camera and attempt troubleshooting.

What options does the VMS provide to reduce storage consumption?

The system supports motion based and continuous recording. However, the system does not support any more advanced functionalities such as frame dropping or pruning.

What help functionality does the VMS provide while using the client?

The client has a question mark button on the upper right hand corner that launches interactive help. The help is extensive and provides built-in search capabilities. The help opens to the section corresponding to the current functionality that a user has selected (e.g., if the user is currently setting up storage and clicks the help button, the storage settings help section is immediately displayed). The help window is large and overlays the main client window. We were initially confused and thought the help window blocked using the main client but it does not.

 

How similar is the use of the VMS client to a DVR?

The use of Exacq is quite similar to a DVR. It has relatively few functions and those functions are fairly clearly laid out. Indeed, the same VMS client is used for Exacq's DVRs.

 

How similar is the configuration of the VMS server to a DVR?

The configuration of Exacq is quite similar to a DVR. All of the functionalities are configured in a single page. Administrators can click through the options on the page to find the settings they need.

 

How simple is it for an untrained operator?

Because it is a single client with a constrained set of mostly basic functionalities, the system is likely to be easy to use for untrained operators.

 

How powerful is it for the expert operator? 

The system tends to lack advanced features of other, more IT oriented VMS systems. Operators that want more advanced functionalities may find this lacking.

 
Scalability
 
What ways can I add/setup many cameras at the same time?
 
Each camera must be added and setup individually. The finder can discover multiple cameras at a time, simplifying that part of the process.
 
How do you do restrict access when using multiple servers/appliances?
 
exacqVision 3.7 provides an Enterprise User Setup option. This requires an additional license beyond the basic camera license. While it allows a single account to access multiple server/appliances, the IP address/domain name of each server needs to be manually added to each client (or the configuration of a client must be manually copied from one client to the next).
 
How can I watch live video feeds from different appliances/servers?
 
The system allows watching any combination of cameras from different appliances/servers, including placed in groups or views.
 
How can I conduct searches from video feeds stored in different appliances/servers?
 
The system allows searching any combination of cameras from different appliances/servers, including placed in groups or views.
 
 

Recommendations on Use and Application

Because of its reliability, simple layout, similarity to DVRs, appliance offerings and relatively low price, Exacq's VMS offering should be a strong contender for security integrators and users migrating from existing analog cameras and traditional DVRs.

By contrast, for those very large projects where extensive 3rd party integration, real time event monitoring or application redundancy is critical, Exacq's offerings may be insufficient for one's needs and the competitive offerings available.

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