There is an ongoing debate in the video surveillance circuit that puts the Cloud Video Recorder vs the Network Video Recorder or the Cloud vs the venerable Microsoft Windows Web Server — Which one do you support?
Not able to make the choice… Let’s simplify it for you!
First there was the VCR – Video Cassette Recorder. 4-8 cameras fed video to one VCR, self-contained, no support issues other than changing tapes every 8hrs or so.
Then came the DVR – Digital Video Recorder. Now instead of a VHS cassette, video was stored on a hard drive. The DVR had analog ports on the back and typically supported up to 16 cameras.
Then came the NVR – Network Video Recorder. For the first time the recorder lived on the network, it could talk to cameras on the network — making network cameras useful. It also meant it needed a network stack and a GUI so developers did what you might expect them to do back then … put it all on Windows.
NVR software vendors such as Milestone and others providing Windows Applications written in C++ gained prominence. Direct attached storage (maybe RAID5) became a common option. However, the arrangement had many operational implications as well.
Want to access the recordings remotely? Use your Windows machine as a webserver, put holes in your firewall, port forwarding in your router to hang this Windows box out on the public Internet.
Want to see the cameras from your work computer? They have to be on the same LAN as your NVR (Network Video Recorder).
Want to see your fileserver from your computer? It has to be on that same LAN too.
That meant your Fileserver and your NVR (Network Video Recorder) are on the same network and the NVR is available for every bored kid in Eastern Europe and China to see if you’ve got all the latest security patches installed this week. If some of you are IT professionals then you’re probably having chest pains right now imagining the network insecurity this brings up. Of course, VPN is an option and you all know how much users love VPN’s… Or Not!
This is all bad enough if you’re running a gas station or small office, what if you’ve got buildings spread out across a corporate or academic campus? What if you have offices all across the country or around the world? How do you know which cameras are down? Which NVR’s are down? Can you be sure you’ll have the video feed when you really need it or are you going to log into each one two times a day and check?
Of course that was long ago, certainly the model has improved, right? Not really. In an attempt at simplification, some big vendors provide yet another thick client you can install and run at one of your locations and it will do what it can to check on your NVR’s at your other locations, but unless you’ve stitched together a global corporate LAN, that you magically kept secure, this solution is going to be more trouble than it is likely worth.
Unless, of course, you move to a Cloud model. Just like the Fileserver has moved to Dropbox or Box.com, financial software has moved to the cloud, and Salesforce.com has taken leads management to the cloud, Video Surveillance is available in a cloud model too!
Other than Network Video Recorder (NVR), there are two ways to do cloud video surveillance – Cloud Enabled Cameras or the CVR.
- Cloud Enabled Cameras: Dropcam is a notable example. The Dropcam camera will talk to the Dropcam cloud. Axis Communications has similar offerings where third party vendors host the cloud for Axis (they’re not Cloud geniuses!). Want both Dropcam and Axis cameras? and maybe some Sony and Panasonic too? Forget it, these cloud enabled cameras only talk to their own cloud — the ultimate in vendor lock-in.
- CVR: The Cloud Video Recorder, the next step in the evolution of the VCR/DVR/NVR, records from any network camera (or analog cameras via a separate video encoder), caches the video locally and uploads to the Cloud as broadband is available (so if broadband is temporarily down, or congested, no recordings are lost).
Let’s focus on the CVR. Some vendors, e.g. Avigilon, are still deploying on a Windows machine. That’s cute. At Cloudastructure our CVR’s are Linux based (CentOS). They don’t support any inbound connections. No one logs into the box, remotely or locally. All it needs is an HTTPS connection to Cloudastructure. It will automatically update its OS, video encoders, motion detection algorithms and all other code bases — nothing for the IT department to do.
Got 25 locations? With 20 cameras each? We add to your IT load exactly 0 hours per year. Plug your cameras into a PoE switch, give a CVR at each location power and Ethernet (DHCP), and you’re done. Log into the Cloudastructure Cloud Service from any web browser, anywhere in the world, and all your recordings are at your fingertips. The storage is in the cloud, so no big storage arrays to worry about either.
Of course, you can host Windows based webservers from your corporate LAN instead. And nothing will go wrong… Ahem!