Testing Milestone XProtect Enterprise VMS Software (6.5f)

Author: John Honovich, Published on Dec 31, 2009

Milestone is one of the most used and well-known Video Management Software providers, with 4 VMS versions. Of them, Milestone XProtect Enterprise is the most commonly discussed and referenced by industry people.

In this report, we test Milestone's XProtect Enterprise Version 6.5f with SmartClient 3.6f and Video Device Pack 4.6. We tested Milestone with Axis's Q1755 MP camera, Canon's IP PTZ, Oncam's Panoramic camera and Lilin's PTZ using the ONVIF protocol.

Key results include:

  • Integrates and allows simultaneous use of a broad array of leading edge cameras
  • Without training, conducting investigations can be confusing and frustrating
  • A variety of usability issues exist across all aspects of the system
In August 2009, Milestone announced Enterprise Version 7.0, however it is not currently released. Milestone notified us that 7.0 would be released later this month. [Update: On January 12, 2009, Milestone released Enterprise Version 7.0] Additionally, a new version of their SmartClient is scheduled for later in Q1 2010. Review the test results of the SmartClient 7.0.

Overview of the System

In this 5 minute screencast, we explain the major applications and components of the system. Since there are 5 of these, it is important to understand how the system is segmented.

Usability Challenges

We encountered repeated usability challenges across almost all aspects of the system. In this 17 minute video, we examine and demonstrate those issues.

Administration Overview

Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox
Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox

We examine steps to administer/setup the system in the 14 minute screencast below.

Live Monitoring Overview

Investigations Overview

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?

All cameras are accessed through user defined 'views' which are customized layouts of specific cameras. The system does not offer a camera tree hierarchy to allow users to pick whatever camera they want. If you right click on a currently displayed video, you can choose to display a camera from the list.

What ways can I monitor many video feeds simultaneously?

The system allows 15 types of layouts to be defined as 'views'. These views include traditional 2x2, 3x3 matrix layouts as well other layouts like 1 x 3, 1 x 7, 2 + 8. Each view must be setup in the 'setup' tab. The cameras displayed in a view can be changed by right-clicking and selecting a new camera. However, the layouts can only be changed or added by modifying in the setup.

How can I be notified and review alarms?

In the 'live' view, configured events can trigger audible and visible flashes to notify an operator. In the 'browse' or investigation view, configured alerts can be searched.

The system does not support an event viewer in the live tab that provides rows for each new event with means to playback event video.

How do I search for recorded video?

The system provides a 'go to' time functionality in the Time Navigation pane that allows users to specify a specific time. The function is a row in the middle of 7 panes and can be overlooked.

The system also provides a smart search functionality. The functionality only allows for motion based searching in the time immediate prior or after a specific time. It requires the operator to set an 'interval' setting that defines how frequently a frame will be searched. Longer intervals makes the search shorter but is likely a confusing setting to those not specifically trained in the implementation of this function.

What ways can I search multiple video feeds?

The system supports simultaneous search and playback across multiple videos that are displayed on a predefined view.

How do you share images from video?

The system offers a right click 'copy' function but does not have a one step export to jpeg or bitmap.

How do you share video clips from recorded video?

The system offers two export functions - one to AVI and another to a Milestone proprietary format. The Milestone format (called a "Database Export" allows for exporting multiple videos including fisheye/panoramic views and for advanced controls of the enclosed video (panning/zooming, etc.). The Database export generates a new folder with numerous files including the playback executable (There is no wrapped single file player). Also, doing 2 database exports in a row to the default location (the desktop) will silently delete the first export).

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

The system has clearly defined 'live' and browse' tabs that respectively display live and recorded video. It would be very difficult to be confused about what mode one was in.

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

Live video and investigations are both conducted in the SmartClient (using separate tabs - live and browse). Most of the administration and configuration is divided amongst three applications - Image Server Administrator, Administration and System Status.

Administration
Note: all administration functions (except for live view configuration) can only be done by accessing the server running the Milestone recording software. This requires either a direct connection to the server or a remote desktop/console utility to access the machine.

How do I add/setup a camera?

The administrator tool offers an 'add device' button that provides a wizard to setup a single camera. The workflow is straightforward except for an extremely long drop down list to select the camera type. The system (6.5f) does not automatically discover cameras. It does offer to discover the type of the camera when an IP address is input but this process can be very long and may not always work.

How do you restrict access to the system?

From the Image Server Administrator, the system offers 2 types of user administration: basic and windows. Basic users are usernames/passwords that are specific to the Milestone system only. Windows users utilize authentication through Windows accounts, including Active Directory integration.

How do you restrict access to certain features or functionalities?

From the Image Server Administrator, the system allows to select 'restrict user access' (though the default is to allow access to all cameras and functionalities). Users can then be limited to only using some functionalities and accessing a subset of cameras.

Note: there are no user groups so configuration of restrictions needs to be done for each individual user account.

Note: when restricted user access is enabled, adding in new cameras by default are restricted from all users. The administration must remember to manually enable access for the new camera(s).

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

The system (Enterprise) does not offer any built-in failover or redundancy capability for a recording server or master server going off-line.

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

The System Status utility displays a list of cameras identifying connected cameras with a green icon and disconnected ones with a red icon.

How can you upgrade the VMS software?

Each recording server needs to be upgraded individually. There is no push or one touch centralized upgrade. An administration needs to connect to each recording server (locally or through remote desktop tool) and perform the upgrade.
Usability

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

We noticed significant latency/delays in loading from: logging in to the smart client (regularly), logging in to the administrator (infrequent), exiting the administrator (sometimes), detecting camera type (frequent) and exporting to AVI (frequent).

We tested both with a Dual Core/4GB machine with local recording and user access as well as remote access to a Virtual Machine running Enterprise 6.5f configured for 2GB RAM on an Quad Core server. Latency results were similar for both.

While latency can vary significantly depending on the setup, Enterprise 6.5f latency was far greater than at least 5 other VMS systems we are testing in the same setup.

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

The viewing client displays an error message "The server has lost connection to the camera" overlayed on the last displayed video image. The system status tool displays the camera with a red icon.

The system is designed to automatically reconnect. There is no way to force a disconnect or reconnect to the stream. The presence of a picture from the last image captured can confuse an operator into thinking that the camera is still live.

What options does the VMS provide to reduce storage consumption?

The system supports motion based recording and a 'speedup' mode. The speedup mode allows the system to record continuously at a lower frame rate and then 'speedup' to a higher frame rate when motion is detected. It is our understanding that this works only with MJPEG streams and not MPEG-4 or H.264.

The system does not support frame dropping or pruning.

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

The system provides extensive help/supporting information but it is hidden. To access it, requires clicking on a downward facing arrow and selecting help or clicking the F1 key (neither of which is likely for an operator to guess or stumble upon).

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

In the live view, the lack of a camera tree picker will be confusing and frustrating for most users used to this common and key control in DVRs. In the browse tab, DVR users can be overwhelmed by the many options provided and the quirks of selecting amongst them.

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

Configuration of Milestone Enterprise is radically different from DVR setup. With key functions spread across multiple applications, untrained integrators will likely be confused by a variety of the issues and complexity of setting up basic functionalities.

How simple is it for an untrained operator?

While the system does not require significant IT expertise, the various usability concerns makes formal training to be very important to most operators.

How powerful is it for the expert operator?

The system offers a number of advanced options to setup the keyboard for personalized key combinations and the views for customized monitoring/searching.

Scalability
What ways can I add/setup many cameras at the same time?
In this version (6.5f), you cannot. In the upcoming version (7.0), Milestone reports you can.
How do you do restrict access when using multiple servers/appliances?
In the Image Server Administrator, user access can be restricted to an administrator defined combination of cameras and functions. This has to be setup manually for each recording server.
How can I watch live video feeds from different appliances/servers?
The system can display combinations of cameras from different recording server in the 'Live' tab of the Smart Client.
How can I conduct searches from video feeds stored in different appliances/servers?
The system can search and playback combinations of cameras from different recording server in the 'Browse' tab of the Smart Client.
Recommendations on Use and Application
Milestone Enterprise is widely regarded as a premium product and is premium priced. The most frequently cited positive for Milestone Enterprise is its broad third party support. In our tests with a variety of cameras including H.264, ONVIF, panoramic and PTZs, this was clearly the case.
With an on-line license price of $1995 per server plus $269 per camera, Milestone Enterprise is on the high end of VMS pricing (depending on number of cameras used per server, total price per camera can be $300-$400).
Given the usability issues that are likely to be faced, the need for training, the lack of redundancy and the simplicity of enterprise user management, integrators should be careful about choosing Enterprise, especially for the premium price of the system.
For scenarios where using specific 3rd party cameras, encoders or systems are key, Enterprise may be a strong solution but its numerous other drawbacks give reason for concern.

5 reports cite this report:

VMS by Segment: Small, Medium, Large Camera Counts on Nov 01, 2010
Frequently we are asked what is the best VMS for certain camera counts. For instance, if a project only needs 4 cameras, what are the most...
Testing Digifort's VMS (Version 6.3) on Mar 06, 2010
As video management software matures, more choices are emerging from around the globe. In the past year, we have heard increasing discussion about...
Testing LuxRiot VMS (Version 1.7) on Feb 28, 2010
As video management software matures, complaints increase about its high price. Even a small deployment of 16 cameras in a single site can cost...
What Makes an Analyst Independent? on Feb 05, 2010
Those who make recommendations on products need to be independent of those who develop them. We are committed to maximizing our independence.  An...
Testing OnSSI's NetDVMS and Ocularis Client Lite on Jan 17, 2010
OnSSI, one of the most well known VMS providers, gained significant attention with their 2009 announcement of the Ocularis 'platform'. The most...
Comments : PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

May 2018 Camera Course on Apr 20, 2018
Save $50 on early registration until this Thursday, the 26th. Register now (save $50) for the Spring 2018 Camera Course This is the only...
'Best In Show' Fails on Apr 19, 2018
ISC West's "Best In Show" has failed. For more than a decade, it has become increasingly irrelevant as the selections exhibit a cartoon level...
Worst Access Control 2018 on Apr 18, 2018
Three access control providers stood out as providing the most problems for integrators. In this report, we analyze the answers to: "In the...
Axis VMD4 Analytics Tested on Apr 17, 2018
Axis is now on its 4th generation of video motion detection (VMD), which Axis calls "a free video analytics application." In this generation, Axis...
Best and Worst ISC West 2018 on Apr 16, 2018
ISC West 2018 had strong attendance, modest overall new products, and a surge in Artificial Intelligence marketing. First, here are 20+...
Axis Launches ~$100 HD Camera on Apr 11, 2018
Chinese manufacturers, led by Hikvision, have come to dominate the low end of the Western market, driven by ~$100 cameras. While Axis has...
Eocortex / Macroscop VMS Company Profile on Apr 09, 2018
Eocortex is the international brand of Russian VMS manufacturer Macroscop. Macroscop was founded in 2008, and the Eocortex name created in 2013. We...
Axis Launches First Stereographic Panoramic Camera on Apr 05, 2018
Fisheye panoramics have not had much innovation in the past few years, with their multi-imager cousins getting most of the advances, e.g.,...
Hanwha Mega ISC West Product Releases on Apr 05, 2018
While overall new product releases have been slowing over the past few years, Hanwha is releasing a slew of 6 new offerings for ISC West,...
VMS New Developments Spring 2018 (Avigilon, Exacqvision, Genetec, Hikvision, Milestone, Network Optix) on Apr 04, 2018
What's new with VMS software? In this report, we examine new features and releases for Spring 2018 to track different areas of potential...

Most Recent Industry Reports

May 2018 Camera Course on Apr 20, 2018
Save $50 on early registration until this Thursday, the 26th. Register now (save $50) for the Spring 2018 Camera Course This is the only...
Global Real-Time Video Surveillance - EarthNow on Apr 20, 2018
A new company, EarthNow, with backing from Bill Gates, Airbus and more, is claiming that: Users will be able to see places on Earth with a delay...
Dedicated Vs Converged Access Control Networks (Statistics) on Apr 20, 2018
Running one's access control system on a converged network, with one's computers and phones, can save money. On the other hand, hand, doing so can...
April 2018 IP Networking Course on Apr 19, 2018
This is the last chance to register for our IP Networking course. Register now. NEW - 2 sessions per class, 'day' and 'night' to give you double...
Rare Video Surveillance Fundraising - Verkada $15 Million on Apr 19, 2018
Fundraising in video surveillance (and the broader physical security market) has been poor recently. Highlights are few and far in between...
'Best In Show' Fails on Apr 19, 2018
ISC West's "Best In Show" has failed. For more than a decade, it has become increasingly irrelevant as the selections exhibit a cartoon level...
Security Camera Cleaning Frequency Statistics on Apr 18, 2018
150+ integrators told IPVM how often they clean cameras on customer's sites and why.  Inside we examine their answers and break down feedback...
Worst Access Control 2018 on Apr 18, 2018
Three access control providers stood out as providing the most problems for integrators. In this report, we analyze the answers to: "In the...
Axis VMD4 Analytics Tested on Apr 17, 2018
Axis is now on its 4th generation of video motion detection (VMD), which Axis calls "a free video analytics application." In this generation, Axis...
Arecont CEO And President Resign on Apr 17, 2018
This is good news for Arecont. Arecont's problems have been well known for years (e.g., most recently Worst Camera Manufacturers 2018 and starting...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact