The sunset industry of DVRs

Milestone Systems interviewed Roger Finger, Principal at U.S. systems integrator IP Pro Tech Inc. for expert tips about the newest surveillance technology.What do you tell customers looking at DVR systems?
We do not recommend investing in a sunset industry. There hasn’t been anything really innovative there in a long time.  Analog cameras are by definition limited to 480 TV lines (NTSC). So the biggest thing that’s happening in the video surveillance world right now is megapixel cameras, and they are only available on IP Video networks.  We constantly address the debate of analog versus digital in the customer’s mind - the industry is in a state of transition right now.  The DVR guys are going to come in a little bit cheaper than IP Video, so we have to teach why IP systems are worth more.

Return On Investment
It’s all about Return on Investment, as the system will be in place for about 5-10 years.  What is the likelihood that you will experience a loss during that period? If there are any cases of theft, shrinkage, workman’s comp, or liability claims, the system will pay for itself overnight. When you amortize the purchase over a five year life cycle, the cost differences between DVR and IP Video vanish and the real question becomes ‘How well is this system doing its’ job?’

Lately, with the megapixel cameras, we have a very dramatic talking point. We liken it to HDTV.  If you were going out to buy a camera right now for personal use, what would you buy?  Would you buy analog or digital? You would buy a digital camera, of course, and with the most pixels you possibly could. Would you buy a VCR or a DVD player? Of course you would buy the DVD; you know that the VCR is obsolete.

It’s the same thing with IP video surveillance systems. You can buy a DVR now, but you know you’re at the tail-end of that technology lifecycle. I would be very cautious about buying a low end DVR from a no-name manufacturer. There’s a lot of junk out there now.  In the long run you get better value with the IP approach because you are investing for the future.The real selling points are:

  • Upgradeability & Expandability
  • Simpler wiring, compatible with existing network infrastructure
  • Familiar IT environment:  uses the same equipment your IT staff is already familiar with
  • Overall quality – especially with high resolution cameras

What is the best transition strategy for companies that already own DVR systems?
We often encounter companies that have an existing DVR system and lots of analog cameras already in place. The saddest thing is when we hear that they just upgraded to a new DVR! There are better transition strategies.  They can switch over to IP Video now by running the analog cameras through a video encoder.  that’s a short term strategy, but a good way to preserve the existing investment.  Or they can start small by adding megapixel cameras on high value areas. IP Video systems scale beautifully – there is no artificial limit to expansion (unlike DVR systems where you run out of analog ports).

This is all very exciting, but aren’t Megapixel cameras more expensive because they are on the leading edge?
Megapixel cameras are very cost effective because they can replace a number of standard cameras, they give so much more detail and coverage, it takes fewer cameras to do the job and they do it better.  They work best when there are long unobstructed view lines. Surprisingly, the cameras aren’t that much more expensive, but system costs are higher.  They produce so much data that you’ve got to increase the storage and CPU requirements.  As for being leading edge, it’s an emerging technology and with any kind of new product, there’s a catch-up period for software support. Milestone software already supports several Megapixel cameras, and there are more on the way. You seem to be a forward thinker, so what is the next big opportunity?

The next big opportunity is the integration of IP video with access control. We are beginning to offer this. The most obvious application is secure door entry with a remote key lock that triggers the IP video camera, either taking snapshots of people as they badge in or from a central security desk buzzing people in after monitoring that they are who they should be.  This integrated solution is relevant for lots of government accounts, secure IT facilities, and educational institutions.  

Any Access Control solution we would recommend would have to integrate with the Milestone IP video platform. Two are at the top of our list: Paxton Access and S2 Security– both are Milestone Solutions Partners.  Our preference would be a solution that could run on the same serverTo download a free 1-camera XProtect™ licence, or for more information visit