When deploying video surveillance, one of the first questions typically considered by the end user is whether to go with the on-premises (NVR) or cloud (VSaaS) architecture. To choose which one to deploy, an understanding of the pros and cons of each is required.
In an NVR architecture, most of the equipment needed for video surveillance is on the end user premises – these include cameras, a network video recorder (NVR) with server, video management and storage capabilities, and a network switch.
One advantage to this is the user can leverage their internal bandwidth resources and record in high resolution without any problem. “The architecture is more straightforward as most of the equipment are link under local network,” said Daniel Lim, Project Manager at Prowler International.
“The NVR architecture is completely owned by the customer, and its functionality does not rely on an Internet connection. This is particularly relevant for areas where connectivity is unreliable,” said Rémy Javelle, Global Product Manager for Recording Solutions at Axis Communications.
“As a storage device, NVR can be directly deployed locally with the camera to form a single system in the LAN. It does not occupy public network bandwidth when the images are displayed in high-resolution mode,” said Wu Yang, Director of Cloud Business Department at Hikvision.
Further, the user has complete control over their video surveillance settings. “It will give more control to the end user in terms of operations and administration, and generally allows a richer user experience for the operators and system admins. You may also get deeper, native integrations for third-party hardware and software,” said Fabliha Chowdhury, Stratocast Product Marketing Manager at Genetec.
However, an NVR setup also has drawbacks. For starters, the cost of purchasing the on-premises equipment can be prohibitive for certain users. “You’re looking at a much higher initial capital expenditure to deploy your system, and it involves more people and more time to install, configure and maintain. It is therefore a larger commitment and higher upfront cost,” Chowdhury said.
“The initial investment needed could outprice smaller companies. These organizations must also consider the knowledge and talent within the business, as solution maintenance and trouble-shooting must be done in-house,” Javelle said.
Security is also a major issue with an NVR setup. “There are three concerns with NVRs – theft, damage and recording breakdowns. When a business is burglarized, chances are the NVR is often stolen. And if there’s a fire, the recording device is often too damaged to be useful in determining whether it was set purposely and if so, who was the perpetrator,” said R. Nandakumar, Founder of ATSS.
“NVR(s) can be subject to insider threats. In addition, a cyber breach of a company’s network could also contribute to a loss of recording and management, and the extraordinary costs of recovery and replacement,” said Chris Grniet, Regional VP for Security and Technology Consulting at Guidepost Solutions.
Finally, the NVR architecture gives the user less flexibility to add or reduce cameras, and simultaneous viewing and access to footage tend to constrain the system. “In an NVR setup, only a limited number of cameras can be connected. Performance is poor in general, especially when multiple users are attempting to use it at the same time; only a limited number of simultaneous viewers is allowed,” said Viachaslau Hrytsevich, Founder and CEO of 3dEYE.
The disadvantages of the NVR architecture, then, bring out the benefits of VSaaS, which typically requires only the cameras as well as a network switch or router to forward the video to the Internet. As such, the initial cost of setting up video surveillance is much reduced.
“There’s minimal hardware use, and VSaaS shifts the user to a predictable variable cost model, helping organizations leverage the solution’s cost efficiency to deliver better results,” said Keven Marier, Director ofr Technology Business Development at Milestone Systems.
“There’s low or no installation and deployment cost, which typically means very low capital expenditure with higher ROI. Any enterprise or organization can set up the surveillance system without buying costly hardware. They would just need to connect the IP cameras to the VSaaS cloud applications, and the cost of storage would also be low compared to any NVR/DVR systems,” said Ritesh Gupta, CTO of Product Engineering Services at Happiest Minds Technologies
“By removing the expense of purchasing servers, hard drives and camera licenses, end-users can expect to save up to tens of thousands on equipment that is likely to sit under someone’s desk or locked away in an electrical cupboard, thus allowing customers to invest that money into additional cameras or other aspects of their business,” Hrytsevich said. “Cloud surveillance solution vendors consolidate the cost of administration, networking and energy consumption into the pay-as-you-go pricing. Because the compute-heavy hardware and software are in the cloud, you don’t need to worry about the support or maintenance.”
“VSaaS reduces the total cost of ownership (TCO) even though 1TB of storage in the cloud is often 5 times the cost of 1TB of storage in on-prem disc. VSaaS also acts as a security force multiplier by enabling faster remote review of events that warrant attention,” said Carter Maslan, CEO of Camio.
Indeed, security and reliability become less of an issue for VSaaS solutions as maintenance and software upgrades are all done by the service provider. Marier of Milestone cites the company’s Xprotect on AWS as an example. “AWS’ reliable infrastructure reduces risk of service disruptions so you can enjoy a continuous operation,” Marier said.
“Since no on-site server installation and system configuration is needed, users need not to worry about maintaining IT team, hardware breakdown, patch updates and port forwarding,” said Dhananjay Birwadkar, Director for Homeland Security and Smart City at MitKat Advisory Services.
“VSaaS systems will have a continuous deployment of features and will always be secure and up-to-date,” said Dean Drako, Founder and CEO of Eagle Eye Networks. “A good VSaaS solution is cyber-secure with end-to-end encryption, TLS, and HTTPS. A quality VSaaS solution maintains multiple encrypted copies of the data in the cloud, creating a high availability and redundant solution.”
Finally, a cloud solutions is more scalable and flexible, allowing the user to expand or reduce camera counts based on their need. “As there is no need for physical hardware, scaling and increasing the surveillance area can be done very quickly. New areas can be brought under surveillance by just installing a set of cameras and connecting to the VSaaS,” Gupta said.
Yet VSaaS solutions also have certain drawbacks. For one, a reliable Internet connection is always needed to transmit the video data to the cloud. “Internet connectivity is always required unless cameras are configured with edge recording. To those ends, bidirectional firewall ports must be opened to allow for recording and viewing of data, Internet access is not always reliable, and the cost of edge recording solutions increases the CAPEX associated with initial installation and the OPEX of its maintenance,” said Grniet.
“VSaaS require huge bandwidth to the cloud storage/software, and the monthly cost can run into huge figures if there is a lot of cameras,” Lim said.
Further, with the bandwidth constraint, the quality of video may have to be sacrificed. “Recording may be lost when Internet connection is disrupted,” said Michael A. Silva, Principal of Silva Consultants. “Bandwidth restrictions may require compromises in image quality and recording rates.”
Finally, compared to the NVR architecture which has been in use for some time, cloud is relatively new and as such, the quality of service may vary from vendor to vendor. “VSaaS has no standard offering across the market and it is still evolving with service providers are trying to bring new and innovative features in their offerings to attract the users. In such scenario, it is highly possible that certain feature provided by one VSaaS service provider may not be available with others, which may cause an inconvenience to user,” Birwadkar said.
Aside from pure NVR and VSaaS setups, more users are considering a hybrid solution which combines elements from both NVR and cloud architectures. “There are hybrid solutions available whereby on-prem hardware for management, interfaces to other systems and short-term recording are used, and only long-term recording is moved to the VSaaS. This allows for a lower CAPX investment in hardware, controlled uploads of data to the cloud and lower storage costs given the shared loads,” Grniet said.
“Hybrid cloud usually deploys NVR locally for 24-7 recording on the premises, and with backup and supplementary event recording or key recording in the cloud. It ensures that the key recordings in the cloud will not be lost if the local NVR fails,” Wu said. “Meanwhile, for the hybrid cloud architecture, the NVR, like the camera, is also actively registered in the cloud. When users want to use a mobile phone or cross-site remote access to the NVR, there is no need to configure a public network fixed IP locally and perform NAT port mapping on the router.”
In some circumstances, the user can leverage an edge recording hybrid solution whereby the video is recorded to the camera’s own SD card first and then offloaded to the cloud. This has the advantage of having no additional hardware required.
“Most newer cameras provide what is known as ‘edge recording’ capability where video can be recorded on an SD card in the camera. With the introduction of higher and higher capacity SD cards, this can allow weeks or even months of video recording to be stored on the camera, eliminating the need for an NVR,” Silva said.
“Edge storage can create efficiencies: it will make the utilization of bandwidth far more efficient by only uploading reference images during high demand periods and the uploading the rest of the data at off-peak times,” said Danny Berkovic, SVP of Electronic Security at Securitas Australia. “This can have an impact on system performance if data is required urgently as it means the system needs to tunnel to the edge storage to retrieve the data. However, all solutions have their benefits and in most non-critical applications this solution currently makes a lot of sense in the Australian market.”
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