Selecting the best higher education video recording solution

Colleges and universities should consider six key factors when they are determining what type of recorder and storage will best fulfill their video needs: identify essential requirements, key factors for storage and transmission, network options and concerns, embedded versus PC-based, what about a hybrid solution? and proprietary versus open architecture.

June 8, 2010
By Mig Paredes

Identify Key Requirements
Determine how the campus works. How many locations does it have? Is
there a legacy video system? What are the storage requirements? Check
on the budget and determine the purchasing cycle. Are the school’s
users sophisticated, and how many are there?

Determine which departments are involved. Each has its own focus and,
sometimes, one department is more important than are others. The loss
prevention department wants lots of coverage and clarity. Its staff is
focused on deterrence and apprehension. Various colleges within the
university and other departments might be contributing financially to
the system and will have a different perspective on what is important.
And the IT department is likely to be more concerned with network use,
open architecture and consumption of the institution’s resources.
Procurement wants to drive down costs. They may end up leaning toward
embedded solutions.

Key Factors for Storage and Transmission
Determine the manner of compression and whether navigating to H.264 is
an option. How many cameras are needed and what types? The higher the
resolution, the more bandwidth- and storage-intensive it will be. Use
low-frame rates on areas with minimal activities, such as most outdoor
applications, lesser used hallways and rooms not typically occupied.

DVRs usually specify how many remote users can be handled. Some DVRs
will let administrators go beyond their stated suggestion but,
typically, some level of performance may suffer. Some DVRs actually
drop a function or two to accommodate excess remote users.

Network options and concerns

Check out the existing infrastructure. Will this new video system bring
pain to any existing infrastructure? Check with IT to determine how
much bandwidth they can provide. They are likely to ask how much is
needed — don’t shortchange yourself. Leave room for potential expansion.

IT will worry that putting security video on the school’s network might
hurt its network performance. Be aware that the school’s current system
might cause you to lose recorded video. Should they share? Maybe two
independent systems are better, or perhaps you should segment the
existing network if separate systems are not obtainable. Working
together, both sides can ensure they each meet their mission objectives.

Discuss firewalls with IT contacts. DVRs must be able to talk to their
software through portals protected by firewalls that block out anything
not recognized. Therefore, it’s imperative to work with IT staff up
front and discover how best to accommodate their need for security,
while providing access to the DVRs through those same portals.

Embedded versus PC-based
Non-PC-based DVRs (embedded) tend to recover better from power
fluctuations then their PC-based counterparts. They are not as
susceptible to viruses, worms, Trojans or spyware. Not being
computer-based, they pose little threat to the school’s networks.
Updates and patches require minimal IT involvement. They cost less,
which the procurement department will like, and they are scaleable,
which everyone will like as the system grows. Embedded DVRs feature a
smaller footprint, and there are many models from which you can choose.

However, embedded DVRs tend to be hardware-driven. Some argue that they
are not as user-friendly as PC-based DVRs. And they can be harder to
integrate to other technologies, such as POS, access control, building
management and switchers.

What about a hybrid solution?

Hybrid solutions bring lots of benefits. Within one box, six, twelve,
18, 24 or 30+ analogue cameras — or up to 32 or more IP cameras — can
be supported. The college or university can have numerous audio
channels, alarms and relays, and several terabytes of internal storage.
PTZ control is a snap and GUI interfaces make operation easy. However,
hybrid solutions are usually more expensive than non-hybrid ones, and
some feel they contribute to putting too much in one box.

Proprietary versus Open Architecture

“Proprietary” tends to be a bad word these days. Yet, these systems can
be very feature-rich. Because they provide closed access, integrity of
the data is better managed. However, cross integration is limited, and
this could affect future upgrades.

Other benefits of an open architecture are the standards that need to
be incorporated by both the manufacturers and the software developers.
The institution will reap greater flexibility in deployment. Most
consultants recommend going to the open architecture whenever possible.

Use These Six Tips
By reviewing these topics, the college can assure that it ends up with a better solution.

Mig Paredes is sales engineer with GVI Security.