Getting VMS right is harder than you think.

When it comes to the challenges of VMS applications for integrators there’s certainly plenty to consider – starting with meeting customer requirements, finding a solution that’s affordable and manageable, and ensuring the expertise is available to install and commission necessary system components.

For electronic security installers and integrators, making the jump from big NVRs with integrated management solutions to server-based VMS is a frightening prospect. Getting the move right demands your business tick off a checklist of networking expertise, as well as showing up with the capability to undertake quality CCTV applications. You can depend on support from the manufacturer and distributor to a point, but training needs to be undertaken to ensure you’re able to get the solution across the line.

Integrators need to make sure they choose a solution which has the capacity to integrate sub systems, as well as offering iron-clad stability. A quality VMS will retain its stability during firmware upgrades and system expansions. End users don’t like having system servers surreptitiously rebooted to get around inherent frailties introduced by over-complex or poor designs – they like continuity of service. This means it’s better to choose a rock solid solution in the first instance.

And the VMS also needs to have serious cyber security credentials backed up by a thoughtful network design. It’s much better to have a video management system and a network design that’s more or less impervious to cyberattack than to try and harden a live CCTV system during or after an incident. If you muck up cyber security and compromise the integrity of the system’s operational performance, your customer will hate you for it.

It goes without saying you need to go through possible VMS choices and ensure that the solution you’re putting up meets the customer’s requirements. Do they want to use mapping, camera access via icons, integration with an obscure access control system? How will the system be handling viewing and recording? Will there be live monitoring in complex and fast moving environments? How much reporting is going on and how detailed must it be? Does the customer want to integrate analytics, is there a plan for face recognition? Is the site greenfield, or is it brownfield and likely to require support for legacy gear installed by nobody knows who, last century? Will you be creating redundancy using virtual machines? Are there remote locations?

You’ll need to pay attention to the hardware side, too. Don’t buy miserable servers then wonder why they don’t have the power to support your customer’s needs at peak moments. And don’t rely on paper specs from the internet. When the hardware arrives, check and make sure you got what you paid for before installation. If your customer needs the muscle to drive a CCTV network at multi-decimal GBs per second, make sure the gear that’s been delivered is up to the task. This applies to all components – links as well as servers. Customers don’t like paying good money for systems that offer patchy performance – weird resolution variations, unexplained drops in frame rate, random outs. If the hardware supplier doesn’t get the importance of your job be ready to jump up and down.

Something else to bear in mind is the fact that once a system is installed on site you will need mobile technical expertise able to support the system on site 24-hours a day, depending on the customer’s business requirements. You won’t be able to blithely port into the server/s remotely if the customer is maintaining a secure network profile – this may be an issue even before the system goes live. It demands planning and process control.

According to Mike Metcalfe of Milestone there are a number of things integrators need to keep in mind when it comes to VMS.

“The most challenging aspect of applying video management systems from the point of view of integrators is ensuring the specifications of the running hardware is done correctly and ensuring a seamless deployment while allowing the integrator to offer their end customers the option to scale after deployment,” Metcalfe says.

“With proper training, installation and configuration of the VMS shouldn’t be challenging, allowing integrators to deploy the solution faster – resulting in more opportunity to deliver more functionality to customers. Something else to consider is fundamental operator training, which should be easily accessible for integrators to help them deliver onsite as part of their own handover, but also allowing integrators to offer end user operators the option to access the VMS training courses in their own time, post-handover.

“At the heart of this is the fact that integrators need to select an open VMS which gives them the ability to easily build an integrated solution to offer their customers,” says Metcalfe. “This allows them the freedom to choose from a huge range of market-leading technologies. Coupled with this, integrators should choose a VMS which has local vendor setups and support teams offering professional and consultative services.”

George Moawad of Genetec argues that for systems integrators, ease of installation and maintaining the system in the future can be the challenging aspects.

“They need to be fully certified and attend regular training (ideally once or twice a year) in order to be up to date with the latest features, and new and improved software versions,” Moawad explains. “Integrators also need to work with VMS vendors that offer training courses, so they can be on top of the latest product features and industry trends.”

Staying ahead of the curve on functionality is a big deal, especially as video content analysis and deep learning begin to make a serious impact on the market. An integrator which is familiar with a particular VMS brand also needs to be across the brand’s technology partners – the nature of the market is such that a quality VMS is the centre of a cluster of solutions delivering key pieces of user functionality.

Getting analytics working properly relates not only to rules-based setup but ensure the proper training is in place to allow users to make the most of their analytics-enhanced VMS. The presence of analytics is likely to impact on the layout of video walls as well – intrusion events are likely to be thrown to dedicated alarm event monitors rather than being left in the background in the hopes an operator may notice trouble. Alongside this will be additional network complexity.

The beauty of analytics is that it increases control room efficiencies, as well as making investigations much faster. Around Australia end users are clamouring for analytics – all of it with clear operational outcomes – and no VMS integrator should be without the necessary expertise to deliver these new functionalities.

According to Larry Waite of Ipswich Council, the hardest thing about applying VMS from the point of view of integrators in his experience is multi-faceted.

“It’s about keeping staff skilled and up with the latest technology and networking behind the VMS, as well as the ability to fully support the product and the end user,” he explains. “Another challenge is ensuring adequate knowledge of network and cybersecurity practices. Integrators need multiple skilled people to draw from to address issues in real time – technicians with sufficient knowledge to enable a quick response and the ability to resolve any issues.”