Why is Most VMS Software So Damn Hard to Use?

Author: John Honovich, Published on Dec 19, 2009

I am shocked at how damn hard most Video Management software is to use. At first we thought it was just one or two but now that we have done significant testing on a dozen VMS systems, it is becoming clear that this is a widespread problem. VMS software may have technical advantages over DVRs but the ease of use is regularly far worse.

On the other hand, I rarely, if ever, hear people complain about the usability of VMS software so maybe it's just us or maybe it's not a big deal.

What Do You Think?

Traditional DVR Usability

Most DVRs are easy to operate and administer. The traditional DVR interface is divided into 3 components: live viewing section, playback/investigation section and configuration. Usually, all 3 of these sections can be accessed through the main interface which usually displays live video.

With DVRs, the most common used functionalities (like displaying live video or selecting a time for video playback are usually prominently displayed). More advanced (and rarely used) functionalities tend to be hidden in a second level.

By contrast with VMS systems, we routinely see the following:

  • Core functionalities are split amongst numerous applications making it challenging to figure out where to go to accomplish basic tasks
  • Complex video recording setup that requires detailed knowledge of changing settings in a variety of seemingly unrelated places
  • Controls for common / basic functionalities mixed in with numerous advanced /rarely used ones, making it hard to do 'basic' video surveillance monitoring
  • Each VMS is seemingly difficult/cumbersome in its own unique way, making it difficult to leverage learning from one VMS system to the next

Why Usability Counts

The major users of video surveillance systems are (1) security managers and (2) security technicians - neither of which are experts in using complex, cumbersome IT systems. Worse, turnover in users tends to be significant making quick learning key to ongoing operational success.

Regardless of the power or 'openness' of these VMS systems, if they are hard to use:

  • Users will use the systems less and get less benefits
  • Technicians will be resistant to use them and push for easier to use VMS systems
  • Integrators will have difficulties training and sending out different technicians
  • VMS developers will face more technical support calls and field issues
What Do You Think?

I am especially interested to hear from people that think I am wrong about this. I encourage vigorous objection on this.

I think most of these systems suffer from poor UI design but I am happy to be proven wrong.

1 report cite this report:

How Should Video Management Software be Evaluated? on Dec 27, 2009
In this report, we propose criteria to evaluate Video Management Software (VMS). Those selecting VMS software may find this useful. Moreover we...

Related Reports on VMS

Axis Video Revenue Down on Oct 20, 2016
An important milestone. Axis revenue for video products is down year over year. But Axis is now focusing on 'diversification'. In this report, we...
Worst Access Control 2016 on Oct 19, 2016
Two access control providers stood out as being the worst to work with for integrators. In this report, we analyze the answers to: "In the past...
Mobotix Founder Out, Company Embracing Open Platform on Oct 13, 2016
The founder of Mobotix, Dr. Ralf Hinkel, is out of Mobotix, just 7 months after the company was acquired by Konica-Minolta. With his departure,...
IndigoVision Going Head-To-Head Against Milestone, Genetec on Oct 12, 2016
Cameras are commodities, the money is in VMS. This is the new philosophy of IndigoVision, long known as a closed end-to-end systems provider. The...
VMS Installer Sizes Getting Out of Control on Oct 11, 2016
Huge VMS file sizes increase installation size and can cause problems in the field.  As VMSes become more mature and add features their file size...
Axis Employees Get $100 Bonus For Beating Out Avigilon on Oct 11, 2016
Axis offered its employees a $100 bonus for beating out Avigilon's VMS, according to an Axis communication obtained by IPVM. Axis...
How And When ONVIF Will Support H.265 on Oct 07, 2016
ONVIF Profile S does not support H.265. And Profile S is what literally every ONVIF device supports today for video. So what happens to H.265...
Axis Zipstream 2 Tested on Oct 03, 2016
Smart codecs are one of the big trends in the industry now. Axis was the first manufacturer to launch a smart codec, releasing Zipstream in Spring...
Hiring Spree At Aimetis 6 Months After Being Acquired on Sep 28, 2016
Aimetis was acquired in April 2016, and is now expanding almost all of their departments, hiring employees from Axis and other industry...
Axis Secretly Paid Anixter Sales People To Push Axis NVRs on Sep 26, 2016
Internal Axis communication shows how Axis paid Anixter and Tri-Ed sales people with secret bonuses to push Axis NVRs. In this report, we examine...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Security Consultants Speak Episode 1 - Protus3 on Oct 21, 2016
This is a first of a series of conversations with security consultants. If you are a security consultant that wants to talk and can share frank...
Sony and Samsung Breaking VBR on Oct 21, 2016
For years, users have known variable bitrate (VBR) as one thing only: bandwidth varies, compression stays the same. This is not an accident but an...
Pelco Matrix End Of Life - End Of An Era on Oct 20, 2016
Pelco Matrix switchers, once the pinnacle of large SD analog installations, are now literally impossible to build. The Matrix products were not...
Axis Video Revenue Down on Oct 20, 2016
An important milestone. Axis revenue for video products is down year over year. But Axis is now focusing on 'diversification'. In this report, we...
Worst Access Control 2016 on Oct 19, 2016
Two access control providers stood out as being the worst to work with for integrators. In this report, we analyze the answers to: "In the past...
Hacked DVRs Surge To 400,000 on Oct 19, 2016
The global internet is under attack from record breaking botnets. And it is getting worse, Mirai doubled in size in the last month. Shamefully,...
Longse Rips Off Hikvision on Oct 19, 2016
Longse is on the attack, and now they are targeting Hikvision. Evidently not content just to rip off Milestone and Video Insight, Longse has now...
China "Unswerving Leadership Over State-Owned Enterprises" Like Hikvision on Oct 18, 2016
The PR agency of the Chinese government declared: President Xi Jinping stressed the Communist Party of China's (CPC) unswerving leadership over...
Move Aside Cisco, Axis Has A Network Switch For Integrators on Oct 18, 2016
Cisco is a common choice for network switches, including in our Favorite Network Switches survey, but now Axis is releasing a 16 port PoE+ switch...

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