The Hidden Costs of Onsite Video Surveillance Systems

Installing and deploying an onsite video surveillance system can be fraught with hidden costs and complications.  

 When was the last time you installed your own mail server?  Gmail and Outlook365 have taken over the market for a reason. 

Planning to install a video surveillance system? 

Are you thinking… “I just need a Windows PC and some software. That’s easy enough to cost out. Set up is probably not hard at all!  And then it will all just run on its own. Perfectly. Forever.”   

If that is what you’re thinking, you’d be wrong.  The reality of hosting an onsite video surveillance system is quite different. Here’s what needs to be done: 

Scenario 1: 

  1. Set up the PC.  This may be a multi socket server with a fiber channel storage array, RAID controller card, and other advanced systems requiring expert skills.
  2. If you’re going to access the system from off site, give the PC a fixed IP address. 
  3. Open a hole in the firewall on the PC [maybe show “danger” or unlocked icon 🔓]
  4. Open a hole in the firewall on your router🔓
  5. Set up port forwarding in your router. 
  6. Make sure your broadband service has a fixed IP address too.

 

Count on at least a few hours of a network Engineer’s time to get this all right. 💰

Additionally, you’d be hosting a web server from your corporate LAN. This is a BAD IDEA from a network security standpoint. Your IT department is unlikely to go along with it.  Instead, they might set up a VPN for you so your users can access the system securely. That is, as long as they can figure out the VPN (get ready for support tickets!), especially from mobile devices.

Setting up a VPN takes about a week of a network engineer’s time.💰💰💰

Scenario 2: 

Alternatively, your engineer kicks you out to a dedicated broadband connection. They get a new cable or DSL line just for you. That way, if you get hacked, the bad guys can “only” compromise your video and access control systems. In reality, this is *when* you get hacked, unless someone is doing all the software patches immediately as every new exploit gets published.  The security video of your facilities being available on the Internet is not going to help your corporate image. 

In any case, that’s a cost of $1,000 a year for a dedicated broadband, plus equipment (modem, router, etc) and setup time, all upfront.  💰💰

Pitfalls

You can buy an extended warranty from Dell (or whomever manufactures your PC) to cover the cost of a new machine when this one breaks. 💰  

Now you just need to figure out how long you can stand to have your cameras offline.  Even when they ship you a new box, you’ll have to set it back up from scratch again. Is it going to be a problem to not have surveillance working for a few days?

So now that you’re up and running, the Windows box will update its own operating system and reboot itself as needed. That always works, right? No. It does not. 

Pro tip 1

2 Fresh start

Plan on manually intervening when updates and reboots need attention. Your system will be down until you do. 

Remember there is a new version of Windows to install every few years.

Video Surveillance Software

The next thing you must factor in is the video surveillance software itself.  Some vendors will have you believe that you can just download the software and set it up yourself.  If you have not done this before, be forewarned: it’s not obvious the first time you do it. I recommend that you not try it on a busy week. Alternatively, you can hire someone to set it up, so you will need to factor that cost in as well.

Videum 1.1 Standard VidCap

A typical IT department internal charge is about $250 per month for every server on the network they have to support. That does not include the video surveillance software running on it. The video surveillance software will require a special support contract. Count both of those costs in.  

Now you’re up and running!  

What did that cost?  

Visible costs:

  1. Server (with operating system and maintenance contract) 
  2. Video surveillance software

Hidden costs:

  1. Network setup: fixed IP, hole in operating system firewall, hole in router’s firewall, port forwarding in router.  Half a day of a network engineer’s time = $500
  2. VPN or dedicated broadband connection  
  • VPN: one week of a network engineer’s time, plus a VPN software solution and ongoing support.  $5,000 down, whatever your IT department wants to charge per month, or
  • dedicated broadband connection: modem, router, setup fees, plus monthly = $1,000 year (if we’re being generous)

     3. VPN or dedicated broadband connection 

  • Video surveillance software setup and support.  Your vendor might include this. If not, assume it will take at least a few days to get it going, if you have a technical  support number to call.
    1. The video surveillance software license with all the upcharges, like:
      • Support

     4. Ongoing IT support costs $250 per month, per server.

     5. Ongoing software support is typically 15% of the total installation cost.

The Solution

Or, of course, you can go with a cloud-based model.  Cloud-based video surveillance has:

  • No Windows machine onsite, no RAID array, etc.
  • No broadband or networking setup required  

You buy a Cloud Video Recorder (CVR) and pay for service.  Done.  

Get with the times. Go with the Cloud. Go with Cloudastructure

All of the hardware is warrantied for the life of the service and unlimited support is included.

When was the last time you installed your own mail server?  Gmail and Outlook365 have taken over the market for a reason.