The Most Painful Technical Support Problem

By John Honovich, Published Jan 16, 2013, 07:00pm EST

Tech support calls - most integrators dread them and most manufacturers try to avoid them. And end users, well.

Not only is it costly all around, it can be very frustrating to take hours (or days) to get a problem resolved. However, one problem is so painful and common that it truly stands above all the others - remote access of video systems. And, today, it is no longer a nice to have. With ubiquitous smartphones and tablets, users expect to be able to monitor their surveillance systems wherever they are.

Unfortunately, 99% of cameras and recorders are not designed to work 'out of the box' for remote access. And making this happen is hard for non technical users.

That's why we are not surprise to see remote access configuration problems dominate the Top 5 most frequently asked technical questions of a surveillance e-retailer, including:

  • “How can I access my camera from the Internet?” – Port Forwarding
  • “I have port-forwarded but still can’t get access my camera!?” – Dynamic DNS setup
  • “I can’t access my camera on my local network!!” – NAT Loopback

Having to explain all of this is crazy. End users do not want to know all this and vendors aim to avoid spending so much time walking through each item.

Phone 'Home' / Plug N Play Solutions

Over the last few years, camera and recorder vendors have started adding in functionality that allows their devices to automatically phone home and be accessible remotely without the customer doing anything more than entering in the ID of the device. Typically this uses an application layer VPN directly from the device to a web service, which generally works well, though some use UPnP which fails frequently.

Axis is the best example of both the good and bad of using these phone 'home' techniques. Axis One-Click [link no longer available] is built into every Axis camera, allowing it to connect to an Axis partner's system, without any network configuration. Unfortunately, if you are not using one of those systems (e.g., connecting to a few cameras directly), One-Click cannot be used. Indeed, one of the major limitations of Axis's fast growing ACC offering is no One-Click support forcing users to try UPnP or do the network configurations themselves.

As IP surveillance providers try to meet the growing demand for mobile access as well as expand into the consumer / SMB markets, delivering configuration free remote access will be critical. Until then, it will remain the most painful, common technical support issue.

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