Testing Milestone XProtect Central
Alarm monitoring and response are key elements for monitoring large surveillance systems. With hundreds or thousands of cameras, many users prefer to receive important information rather than attempting to watch all their cameras.
While Milestone is a well known VMS vendor, none of its VMS versions, including Enterprise [link no longer available] and Corporate [link no longer available] directly support alarm management. To do so one has to add XProtect Central [link no longer available].
In this test, we examine XProtect Central Version 3.7 to better understand the usability and setup of adding in alarm management.
Key questions users should consider:
- Do you need alarm management?
- How well can you monitor your system with functionalities split between the VMS client and the Central client?
- What level of complexity and cost does adding in Central incur on your deployment?
XProtect Central [link no longer available] is an add-on designed to be used with Corporate or Enterprise VMS versions. Central consists of a sever and client. The server connects to Corporate or Enterprise systems. The Central client can be deployed at user's workstations along with the 'regular' VMS client for Milestone - the SmartClient [link no longer available].
Notable features that should be considered in Central include:
- Server Installs on Windows based Operating Systems 32 bit or 64 bit (Vista requires specific instructions for install)
- Provides centralized alarm management functionality that is lacking in the VMS
- Client may be installed on multiple systems so many operators may handle alarms from a unified source
- Incoming alarms can be logged and printed out into a report
- Supports maps, but not as functional as the maps feature included in the VMS
- Users and groups are imported from Active Directory, or from pre-defined users / groups located on the Central Server OS
- Alarm and live video can be pushed to a remote Smart Client workstation
- Feature access rights is performed by creating Roles
- An event must first be created on XProtect Enterprise or Corporate before you can define an alarm in Central: No direct integration with cameras
Central is licensed separately from the VMS so the cost for Central is in addition to the VMS licensing.
Central's licensing has 2 components:
- A one time "base' charge for the Central server - MSRP $1995 (i.e., only one Central server is needed for one user)
- A per VMS server charge of $299 (i.e., for each 'recording' server for Corporate or Enterprise, an additional charge of $299)
Assuming you have a system with 10 servers and 30 cameras per server, the additional cost for Central is effectively $16.50 MSRP. With very large systems (dozens of servers), the effective price becomes close to $299 divided by the number of cameras (as low as $5 assuming 64 cameras). However, for small systems (say 2 - 5 servers), the base charge can raise the per camera MSRP to $30.
Monitoring / Use of Central
The following screencast provides an overview of the features in Central and shows an example workflow of how a security operator would use it's functions. Key points are noted:
- Interface is organized by multiple functional panes
- Alarm Overview pane displays incoming alarms and shows the organization of acknowledged alarms
- The Map pane displays a visual representation of camera and server locations
- Information pane displays a quick preview, device, and server information
- Security operator double clicks on the alarm in the list of the Overview pane to view details of the alarm
- Security operator can play back the recorded video of the alarm as well as view the camera's live feed
- In the Alarm Detail window, clicking the New Entry button opens up a journal for the operator to log acknowledged video
- Clicking on a site in the map will open a lower level map of the selected site
- Right clicking on a camera icon in a map gives the option to call up live video of that camera
Setup / Administration of Central
The following screencast overviews the administrative features and tasks of the Central Server and Client. Key points include:
- Central Server requires IIS and Microsoft .Net framework 2.0 installed
- Server configuration is performed inside the Navigation pane of the Central Client
- Panes can be hidden from view
- All server configurations in the hierarchical tree are accessed by right clicking the specific function and opening a contextual menu
- Alarm definitions work with defined events that must be set up in Enterprise or Corporate beforehand
- By default, alarms are set to always be enabled
- Video of associated alarm can be setup to automatically be pushed to a remote Smart Client
- Creating Roles and associating groups to the Roles can manage the output of what a user can control or see
In determining whether Central has value for one's application, the first question is "Do you need alarm monitoring?" Most users do not use alarm monitoring at all while many large organizations prefer to do so from their access control or PSIM system.
For those interested in alarm monitoring inside their VMS system, Central must be selected as part of a Milestone package (as Central only integrates with video from Milestone VMS servers). As such, a decision on Central is a decision on a 'complete' Milestone solution.
A key competitive issue for alarm monitoring is that it is rare for 'large scale' VMS vendors to not integrate alarm monitoring directly into their main monitoring interface (notice how alarm monitoring is integrated into live monitoring for DvTel, Genetec, Avigilon, even Axis Camera Station). Milestone's lack of integration of alarm monitoring into their SmartClient is uncommon and a disadvantage competitively.
Since Central and SmartClient are separate applications, it forces users to switch back and forth between them (e.g., Central has no multi-pane matrixes and no advanced searching, etc. so the SmartClient will need to be routinely still used).
Also, given the two application, Milestone requires an additional installation and cost that is not needed in other 'large scale' VMS vendors. The cost is not 'huge' (perhaps $5-$20 per camera) and the install is not terribly complex, however it is still a premium and added point of complexity.
Central does offer a number of higher end alarm monitoring features such as setting alarm priorities, acknowledging alarms, documenting notes on alarms, etc. As such it's alarm functionalities are similar to other VMS systems and likely usable for large scale alarm monitoring.
In conclusion, Central is likely best for users who already have Milestone or have a strong desire to use Milestone but still need alarm monitoring with their VMS system. Central rectifies a weakness in the core Milestone platform more than it provides meaningful competitive differentiation.