VMS vs CMS

By John Honovich, Published on Jul 15, 2015

VMS and CMS both refer to software that manages video surveillance recordings yet they are different.

In this note, we explain the differences in:

  • How this varies by geographic region
  • What functionality is core to each type
  • What is not part of each one

Remember - No Standards for These Terms

Neither VMS nor CMS is defined or regulated by a standard body or any single manufacturer. As such, companies are free to use them as they choose. In this post, we explain how they are most commonly used in practice.

Varies Geographic Region

In Asia, the term CMS is common. Outside of Asia, CMS is rare unless an Asian company is marketing or selling overseas.

Core and Non-Core Functionality

VMS is the simpler of the two to explain, since it is broader. VMS, or video management software, typically refers to all software functions involved in managing video including recording, remote monitoring, enterprise management, etc.

CMS, or central management software, generally does NOT refer or include recording. Instead, it refers to software that manages / interfaces with existing recorders. For example, you might have 10 NVRs deployed yet view and manage video through the CMS software.

Companies that market themselves as VMS software generally do NOT use the term CMS at all. Everything is part of their VMS.

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Companies that lead with NVR or DVR appliances, typically Asian, where the majority of appliances originate, frequently call the software used to access multiple appliances a CMS.

Examples

Asian manufacturers using CMS include ACTi (CMS), Vivotek Vast CMS and Dahua CMS [link no longer available]. Interestingly though Hikvision used to use the word CMS often, it now emphasizes the term VMS for marketing their offering internationally [link no longer available].

Better / Worse

As a rule of thumb, VMSes tend to better in pure / total software features (e.g., companies like Genetec, Milestone, OnSSI, Exacq, etc.) but with higher costs. Companies with CMSes tend to have lower cost appliances and less total software features. Because of this, the term VMS tends to have a better 'brand' / connotation than the term CMS.

In Practice

Remember, these are not hard and fast terms or standards. They reflect common practices by manufacturers that can change over time. Make sure to check what specific functions each software package supports.

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