Milestone XProtect Essential+ Free VMS Tested

By: Ethan Ace, Published on Nov 09, 2017

Milestone continues to expand its aggressive free and low-cost offerings, with this year, Milestone releasing XProtect Essential+, part of their new "plus" lineup based on the same code as the high-end XProtect Corporate VMS, including features not normally found in low-end systems.

How could is it? What strengths and weaknesses does it have?

We downloaded and tested XProtect Essential+, looking at:

  • Installation and configuration complexity
  • Live view and monitoring
  • Mapping and events
  • Playback, search, and export
  • Camera support
  • Mobile apps
  • Limitations compared to paid XProtect versions
  • How it compares to low-cost NVRs

See our full results inside.

********* ********* ** ****** its ********** **** *** low-cost *********, **** **** year, ********* ********* ******** Essential+, part ** ***** *** "****" ****** ***** ** *** **** code ** *** ****-*** ******** ********* VMS, ********* ******** *** normally ***** ** ***-*** *******.

*** ***** ** **? What ********* *** ********** does ** ****?

** ********** *** ****** XProtect *********+, ******* **:

  • ************ *** ************* **********
  • **** **** *** **********
  • ******* *** ******
  • ********, ******, *** ******
  • ****** *******
  • ****** ****
  • *********** ******** ** **** XProtect ********
  • *** ** ******** ** low-cost ****

*** *** **** ******* inside.

[***************]

*******

******** *********+ ** *** of *** **** ***** featured**** **************, **** ***** ****** ******* and ******** ****** ******** not ***** ** **** free ***** ** *** cost ****, **** ** storage ******** ****** ***** in **** **** *********. Additionally, ********* ****** ********* sped ******* ****, ****** cameras ** *** ********* server **** ****** ******, an ******** *******.

*******, *********+ ** ***** ******* and **** ********* *** setup, ************** *** *** for * ***** ***** / *****-***** ******. ******* are ****** ** ** confused ** *** **** components, ************ *******, ***********, and ****** *****, ****** these ***** *********+ ******* more ****** ** ** sold *** ********* ** integrators **** *********** ** end ***** **********.

Limitations ******** ** **** ********

******** *********+ ** *********'* latest **** *** *******, replacing ********* *** ** before **, **** ***** key *********** ******** ** other ******** ********:

  • ***** ********:*********+ ** ******* ** eight ******* ********. **** that "*******" **** *** always **** * ****** imager/camera, **** ******* **** as ******** *** *****-****** cameras ***** **** * single *******.
  • ****** ******:***** *** **** **** a ****** *********+ ****** at * ****, ********** of *** **** ******** are ********* ** **** server (*.*., ** ******* of *** *-****** ******* simultaneously).
  • ******* ***-***:*******, *********+ ** ******* in ***** ********* ***-*** may ** ****, **** only****** *****************.******** ***, ******, ***, *** Access ******* ****** **** paid ******** ** ********.

************, **** **** ****** features **** ** **** storage, ********* ************/********* *****, failover, *** *********, *** not *********.

****** ******* (*.***, ***** codecs, *******, ***********, ***.) and **** ***** ****** features (****, *** *****, events, ***.) *** ********* ********* to ***** ******** ********. 

No ********* ******

************, ****** **** **** VMSes ***** ***** ********* duration ** ***** ******* or ***** **** **** viewing, *********+ **** *** have *** ********* ******. Users *** ***** ***** as **** ** ***** disk ***** ****** (********, external, ** *******).

New ******** **** ********

***** *********+ ******** *** free ** ********, ***** may ******* ****** ** installing *** *** ******* on *** ** *** previous ***. ** ******** upgrade ********** *** *********, unlike ***** ********* ******** which ******* **** **** in ***** ** ****** new ********.

Disadvantage: ******* ************

******** *********+ ************ ** more ******* **** **** VMSes, **** **** ******* presented ** *** ****, without ***** ********, ********* single ******/*********** ****** *******, IIS *****, *** ******** Milestone ****** ***** ***** are ******** (****** ******, event ******, "******* *******", etc.) *** **** ***** familiar **** ************ *** not **********.

**** **** ***** *** simply *** "****" ** walk ******* ************ ******* changing *** ********, *** the ****** ** *********** presented *** *********** **** may ** ********* *** novice ***** (* ***** segment ** ***** ******* for **** ***).

*** ************ **** *** take * *********** ****** of **** *** ** the **** ** *** install (****** ***). ** our *****, ************ **** over ** ******* ***** to ******, ******* ** stall ** ******* ****** in *** *******, *** ultimately ********** ******* ******.

Advantage: ********* ****** *********

****** ************, ***** ****** common *********** *** ******* on ***** *******, **** XProtect *********+ ************* ****** cameras ** *** ***** network ***** ***** ** complete. *** *******, ** entered ***** *** ****, two ****** ********* *** cameras:

*** ******** ***** * cameras ***** ** *** **** ******* from * ******* ** manufacturers (*****, ****, *****, Geovision, *****) ******* *** manual ************. **** **** users **** **** **** 8 ******* ****** *** want ** ******** *** specific *******, ** ***** is ** *** ** control ***** ******* *** automatically *****.

Advantage: ********* ****** *******

******** *********+ ******** *** same ******* ** ***** versions ** ********, **** *,*** ******* ***** ** *** **** of *** ****, **** some ******* ********** **** many *****:

  • ******* ************ *.*** *******: ******** ******** * *************' H.265 *******, **** **** most *****, **** ** Exacq (* *************), ** Avigilon, ***** **** *** support *.*** ** ***. 
  • ***** *.*** *******: ************, ********* ******** *.*** via *****, ***** **** **** VMSes ***** ******* *** codec do ***, * ******* camera *********** ***** (*** our ******: *** *** **** ***** Will ******* *.***

************, ********* ******** ******* manufacturers' ******* *********, ******** configuration ** ****** ** multiple *************, ********* ***** codec *************, ***** *** I/O *** **** ********* devices, *** **** **** used ********, **** ** Mobotix's ***** *****, ****** it **** ****** ** support ******* ** ***** cameras **** **** *****.

Smart ****** ********

******** *********+ **** *** same ***** ****** ** other ******** ** *********, so ***** ** ***** versions **** *** ****** difference. **** ** **** good *** ***, ********* on ***'* ********** **** the ***** ******, ** some ********* *** **** intuitive ** **** ******* than ***** *****/*********, ********* briefly *****. **** **** we **** ***** ***** functions ** **** ****** in *** ********* ******** **** ****.

**** **** ***** **********

****** ***** *****, ** which ***** ****** **** cameras **** *** *** of ******* ***** ** a ******, ********* ******** users ** ***** ***** mode ** ***/****** ******* and ****** ******. ***** cannot ****** ****** ******* 2x2, ***, ** *** layout ** *** ***, without *********** **. ************, ******* cannot ** ******* **** a **** ******* ******** setup.

********/****** **********

********* ******** ******* ******** and ****** *****, ********* timeline, *****, *********, *** smart/pixel ******, ******** **** flexible ****** **** **** VMSes, *** **** ****** than ******* *** **** NVRs/CMS, ***** ********* ******* only ******** *** ***** event ******. ******** **** includes ************ *****-****** ******, not ********* ***** ** NVRs, *** **** *****.

*********: ********** ********** ***** (Events, ****, *** *****)

*******, ******** ******** ******** specialized **** ***** ***** may ** **** *** system **********, **** ** which *** ***** **** in ************ ** ********** systems.

  • ***** ****/*****:***** *** **** * list ** ****** **** a ******, ***** **** a ******** **** **** to **** ***** ***** as **** *****.

  • ******* ****:******** ****** ******* *******, allowing **** ** ** nested, ******* ******, */*, audio, ***** ***** *******, server ****** ***********, ***., allowing **** ******** **** than **** *** ****/**** platforms, ***** *** ********* limited ** ******* ****.

  • *** *****/******/****:*******, ***** *** *** web ***** ** **** as ****** ****** ** text ** ******** *******, typically ******** **** ** enterprise ***. ***** ******* may ** **** ** display ****, ************, *******, external *******, ***., ** the ******.

Disadvantage: ************* **********

***** *** ** ******** Essential+ *** **** ************** and ************* **** ********* than ***** *****/****, **** some ****** ***** ********* additional ************* ***** ***** may *** ** ******* to **** *********** ***** of ***** *****.

*** *******, ******* ** simply ******* * ********* schedule ** ********* "**********" as ********* ****, ***** must ****** * *** rule ** *** ******* to ************ ****** ** XProtect ****, ******* ******** **** the "******" *** ** camera *****.

************, ***** ****** **** VMD ** ********* *******, requiring ***** ** ****** an ***** (******, *********, I/O) ** ******** ****** it *** ** ****, while ***** *****/********* ****** receive ***** ****** ************* from ********* *******. 

Advantage: **** ******** ****** ******/**** ******** ****** ***

******** *********+ ******** ********* Mobile ****** ** ** additional ******, ********* ** default. ***** ********* ****** apps, ***** *** **** live *****, ********, *** event ***** **** *** Essential+ ******, ***** *****. In *** *****, ** saw ** ***** ******* this ****** *** ** to * ******* ** the **** ****** ** recording *** **********, **** CPU **** **** ********** a *** *******. 

Compared ** *** **** *********

******** ** *** **** NVRs **** ** ***** or *********, ***** *** several ********** ** ******** Essential+:

  • ****** ****** *******:******** ***** **** *,*** devices ** *********, *** direct ******* *** ***** Profile *. ** ********, most *** **** **** mainly ******* *** ************'* own *******, **** ******* support *** * ******* of ****** ******* *** ONVIF. ** *** *****, third ***** ******* ** typically ****** ** ***** recorders, *** ****** ** XProtect.
  • ****** ****** *** ******: ** *** *******, ********'* search *** ****** ******** are ******** ** *** cost ****/*** ********, **** more ****** ******* (*********, smart ******) *** *****-****** export **** *********** ******.
  • ****** *** ********: ******** ******** ******* ******** not ***** ** *** cost ****, **** ** screen *********, ******* *****-**** maps, ******** *** *****, event **********, *** ****.

*******, ***** *** ******* drawbacks, ** ****:

  • **** *******/**** *********:****** *** **** **** which ********* *** ** unboxed *** ******* ***** immediately, ***** **** ******* a ** *** ******* software **********, ******* ****** to *** ****** ** time ********* *** ****** setup.
  • **** ******:*-******* *** **** *** be ***** ****** *** $300-400, ******* ** *** pricing ** *** ******* PC ******** *** ********* installation. ************, ***** **** supply * ******** *** switch, ** ********** $***-***, making ** ******** *********+ recorder/switch ****** ***** *** price ** ** ***-**-*** NVR.
  • ** ***** ******/******** **** forwarding ** ***:*******, ***** *********+ ******** the ********* ****** ****** at ** ********** ****, users **** ******** ******* router ***** ** *** VPN *** ****** ******, while **** *** **** NVRs *** ******* **** cloud ******, ********* ** port **********.

Comments (29)

Good evaluation Ethan.

I recently completed testing and implementing the corporate version here. During that process, Milestone released free Essential+ so I replaced my paid version at home with Essential+. It surprisingly has a lot of features for a free VMS.

I feel the only issue with Essential+ is that the average consumer might have trouble configuring the system. For example, I prefer to record 24/7. Although its easy for anyone proficient on these systems, I do not see the average consumer understanding or even being aware of how to create a rule to do this.

Of course this is good news for integrators but it is not likely an integrator would be selling & installing the free license anyway. So maybe to only negative would be for the DIY consumer.

Huh!  Dwayne your statement vaguely reminds me of something.....  What could it be....  What could it be.......  Oh yeah!  When Ethan wrote:

"Disadvantage: Configuration Complexity

Users new to XProtect Essential+ may find administration and configuration more difficult than other VMSes/NVRs, with some common tasks requiring additional configuration steps which may not be obvious to even experienced users of other VMSes.

For example, instead of simply setting a recording schedule or selecting "continuous" as recording mode, users must create a new rule to set cameras to continuously record in XProtect 2017, totally separate from the "Record" tab of camera setup."

Just teasing, but found your comment oddly familiar so had to grab that.

I installed at my home to familiarize myself with Milestone. One thing that I found frustrating - it appears to block push notifications to mobile app or SMS notifications.

Did you try to set this up?

I got push notifications, but I didn't try SMS. Let me look into it quickly.

Milestone documentation was lacking in the push notification department. Would you mind sharing what it took to get it working? 

That's the interesting thing...I don't think I did anything! It just seemed to work. Let me take a look and get back to you. 

Hi U1,

The alarm push notification only works on the local LAN with Essential+.  This is also the case with the paid versions unless the system has an active Care Plus or Care Premium.

From a setup perspective, the only thing that needs to be done is making sure that "Receive Notifications" is enabled for that system in the Mobile Client (it is enabled by default).  To check, you will need to go into the edit section for the server in the Mobile Client where you would enter the address, username, etc.  On the screen will be an option to enable/disable "Receive Notifications". 

Let me know if you have further questions.

Push notifications with Milestone is supposed to require an active care+ subscription.

Never tried it with free essential though. 

Users will have to get familiar with the Knowledge Base for sure.   They do have a specific one pertaining to a 'always record' HERE

The KB area helps a little when the manuals are 'light' on the subject matter such as this one.

Many Thanks for this article, as a reseller I can fully agree with all mentioned above, and that the Essential+ is getting its way more among our clients, even though I think ill have to argue with your drawbacks point of more costly; because well its like the lets say worst scenario where the setup is all clean, but many of our clients already have cameras, poe switches & PC so its mostly the case where only programming the SW is needed, so perhaps it can be added that it depends on the client/user environment setup and needs.

I think the Essential+ is a very good idea.

Since companies like Milestone/Avigilon/Genetc are not even considered as an option for small scale installations, they actually do not lose much or anything by offering this free version.

For large installations the Essential+ will not be considered an option so it doesn't hurt their business.

I think other big brand should consider doing something similar....

We've done a couple of Essential+ jobs BECAUSE it was free.

The cost of the Dell PC (on sale) was still a bit more then an NVR but no biggie.

Only problem I've run across is that a couple of times (once on my test setup and once at a customer's site) we lost live and recorded video.  The services showed to be running...but stopping and restarting the services "fixed" the problem.  

No time has yet been spent trying to replicate and therefore determine the cause...and since it's free no tech support is offered.

For us the only real negative difference between VMS and NVR is adding PC support to our knowledge base.  Being an A/V integrator primarily, that's not within our standard business model.

Great info, thanks. I am planning to install it and test it soon. Maybe to replace my existing VMS.

Question 1

Seems like it will support/use H.265 via ONVIF -- even when the device' status in compatibility testing implies they haven't added the H.265 feature for many models of equipment I like. Haven't quite finished building the machine I will be testing it with -- but... what's the consensus? 

 

IF the camera encodes in H.265, will Milestone Systems record it in that codec?

  - or - 

Will I have to wait for the device(s) to have the H.265 [seal] added to their model #?

 

Question 2

Can I set up rules for storage; to move from 'layer' to 'layer' with a 'time decay' to their importance? 

I want to record initially to SSD - unless there's someone here who's recorded:

~10x 4K cameras
Maximum FPS
Maximum quality (VBR with HQ selected - and allow the camera to decide)

 

Question 3

Use of additional server required to stream to mobile clients? 

 

Question 4

Can I use any NAS I elect - as a means of both backing up and playing back from - albeit, obviously it will be SLOWer. 

 

Question 5

Or, should I use an NVR as my basic recording device - and the Milestone system merely to view it? Will something like a Hikvision high(er) end unit allow for quickly locating events I want to watch, and not 'sputter' ? Because I will require the assurance of those with experience to believe that my results will suddenly be different. As I said, SSDs were instant, and NAS pro drives, NEW, were frustratingly slow. 

 

Thank you all. 

 

A couple of comments.

1)  Pay close attention to the 'writing load' on the SSD.    They will fail if you do too much.  4K makes lot of data.

2) the new Intel QSYNC works well with 4K streams.   We I tested this in our lab on our xeon E3 solution (which has QSYNC) I was able to handle 90 4k streams at 30FPS and 16Mbits in size....With Archiving and with Server Side VMD.   Our system would be like an i7 CPU so with 8 cams you could most likely be able to do it on an i3 based system.   A variable would be how much local viewing which could put you in an i5 CPU after 4 streams.

3) The Mobile function is a Client stream transcoding task which will use as much resource as local viewing or even more.  Your use case will define the need for a separate machine.  An old rule of thumb was 10 cams worth.

Gut feel is you will want an i7 class machine (or one of our e3 Xeon ones ;-))

The 'data grooming' question #2 is only available on the Expert/Corporate versions.

 

I would recommend taking the 3 day Milestone technical training.  I have been an Exacq guy since 2007, and was amazed at the configuration abilities on this system.  You have to be familiar with “rules”, and “storage/archiving”, to really harness the power of this system.  It would take awhile also learning all the other abilities via programming this system offers, but once you do, the capabilities are endless.

You present this a not being “cookie-cutter” as a draw-back, but Certified Milestone dealers should be taking the training anyway, which will clear up the complexities.

Offering the free system is awesome for Certified dealers and their techs to have access to working demo systems.  The + offering with upward migration, especially for “seed” customers is enticing with similar pricing with Pro + to other options on the market.  (I will admit that the smart client has never been intuitive for the non-technical users).

 

 

 

 

 

Jeffrey,

Have you installed any Milestone systems yet?

If so, being an Exacq guy can you give us more of your thoughts on how they compare?

One specific question:

I have heard that Exacq is much cheaper in the long run when compared to Milestones paid versions.  Is that true?

Hi, I apologize for how remedial this is going to sound - but, the cameras on my network aren't being found by Xprotect Essential+. 

1. I can open all cameras from IP addresses on my network via the computer I've installed a fresh OS on to run XProtect.

2. I entered the 3 passwords Hikvision, Samsung, etc., mandates the password sophistication satisfy. Again, all of which I'm able to enter from a browser and view the cameras from the same computer. 

3. I haven't turned off windows defender but I'm going to - although, I doubt this will make a difference. I have 5 cameras, all of which are on the same domain, subnet, as the computer the server is installed on. 

4. I'm going to install the Arcus server and locate/open all of them (except the Samsung Hanwha, as those I believe aren't ONVIF compliant?). 

Why is there no way to custom install cameras which aren't detected? This is the peculiar thing to me... why can't I just specify an IP address, username and password as well as the model/manufacture if it can't extract the info to configure the camera? Or is there a way to do this that I'm not thinking of? 

I'm sure this is a remedial question, but right now I have no way of accessing my surveillance except by using Back to my Mac, and viewing the IP interface for the cameras... which only works sporadically with [some] companies goodies. Such as (bizarrely), Uniview has an OS X web plugin, but doesn't have one for windows!? Though it prompts you to download the plugin? lol. Or maybe their navigation isn't intuitive on their website. 

Okay, thank you to all/any people who take the time to help. 

Regards, 

Truman

All your cameras are made by Milestone, correct?

Just kidding!

Anyway have you made sure they are all in the Milestone supported device list?

The manual says you should have these choices in the Add Hardware Wizard:

 

U3 is correct.  On the Add Hardware wizard, there are three options with the XProtect Essential+ software.  If the cameras are not found using the Express method, then the Address Range scanning or Manual method should be used.  Both of those methods will allow you to narrow down what drivers should be included in the scan.  The Manual method will also let you explicitly choose a driver if you know for sure what driver the camera uses.  Also, on the password selection page in the Add Hardware wizard, I would recommend unchecking the "Factory Default" option.  I have seen that cause issues with ONVIF cameras that aren't using the default username/password that our ONVIF driver uses (which is admin/admin).

 

This IPCamTalk discussion is a good example of the strengths and weaknesses of the free Milestone version:

The positive side is that he was impressed with the functionality (with makes sense given what if offers compared to other free or low cost offerings). The downside is that the guy almost gave up because it was hard to get started.

What is a bit ironic with the 'hard to get started' reference is that Milestone has several video tutorials that will do a decent job of getting you started with the various versions.

Milestone Video Tutorials

What is a bit ironic... several video tutorials that

If a user needs to watch several video tutorials to get started it means the product is too hard to use.

To be clear, I am not criticizing Milestone for having such videos. I am emphasizing that the product should be easy enough to get started that such videos are not a requirement.

Also, Mike, you specialize in VMSes/servers so I think it might be hard for you to empathize with people just getting started. I mean that primarily as a compliment!

Can Essential+ be configured to use/install Onvif Bridge?

Hi Sebastian,

ONVIF Bridge only works on the paid products from the server side.  However, if ONVIF Bridge was installed on one of our paid products, you could use Essential+ to connect to that.

Thanks Ethan for the evaluation of Essential+. 

 

A note I'd like to make on this piece:

  • Limited add-ons: Finally, Essential+ is limited in which Milestone add-ons may be used, with only Screen Recorder available. XProtect LPR, Retail, POS, and Access require higher tier paid versions of software.

 

It is accurate that Milestone does not sell the Milestone add-on products you mention (and other custom Milestone integrations as well) with the free Essential+.

However, Essential+ is fully open to our MIP SDK (Milestone Integration Platform) for in effect any integration that someone would create for any Plus / Advanced version of Milestone software. 

To me, this is could be a huge deal. Anyone who wants to develop a custom integration for their video management system can do it - fully functionally - with our free version. Not demoware, not evaluation freeware with storage and client limits or other caps - a complete (of course capped at eight devices) VMS.

However, Essential+ is fully open to our MIP SDK (Milestone Integration Platform) for in effect any integration that someone would create for any Plus / Advanced version of Milestone software.

To me, this is could be a huge deal.

To play devil's advocate, if someone has the talent and time to do this, they'd easily be able to bill thousands for doing such work so the free 8 channels are not likely to be a significant barrier to many in this situation. I am sure there are a handful of developers out there who might want to do this for fun but I don't imagine many developing their own integrations for an 8 camera or under system.

"if someone has the talent and time to do this, they'd easily be able to bill thousands for doing such work so the free 8 channels are not likely to be a significant barrier to many in this situation."

To devil your devil's advocate, that's true for large-scale commercial installations and integrations, but what about a plug-in for the Milestone client or other management-side integration that makes most sense for the (tech-savvy) home or small business? Drone integrations? 

I see this as an extremely low barrier-to-entry for the hobbyist or fresh out-of-school programmer to make their own custom surveillance system on a very robust platform...

 

I see this as an extremely low barrier-to-entry for the hobbyist or fresh out-of-school programmer 

In the pie chart below, the white area is the proportion of people in that group, the black everyone else:

You said it could be a 'huge deal' and I am countering that it will not since so few people are (1) able and (2) willing to do such work.

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