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CCTV Test: VMS for free?

by Benchmark

Few commercial organisations will satisfy their shareholders by giving away products, free-of-charge. When such offers are made, there has to be an end plan, and this is usually to give purchasers a taste of how a product can improve their working lives. Once that is established, sales are bound to follow. Increasingly providers of VMS software are offering free solutions. These are not time-limited demos, but free-to-deploy solutions that offer video management and storage functionality. Benchmark looked at the leading options to see what you get without paying!

The video surveillance industry is increasingly seeing the benefits of video management software. For the installer or integrator who is migrating from hardware to a software-based solution, there are a few challenges when it comes to the specification of a solution. Not all video management systems are the same, and often it can be a case of finding the option which best suits a user’s needs in a specific application.

This doesn’t just come down to the performance of the VMS. Other considerations include how the site’s system is to be managed, what the user’s expectations and requirements are, the budget available and the implications of certain solutions on any potential return on investment.

There are a number of very good VMS products in the market-place, but there are an equal number of options which cannot be considered as credible security tools where video surveillance is being implemented. Once the right VMS supplier has been identified, the next task is to ascertain which of the solutions they offer is the most appropriate for a given requirement.

It must be said that many VMS providers who deliver outstanding products don’t always target the installer or integrator when it comes to the marketing message. Often the focus is on the end user, and as such sometimes lacks information about what the software actually will do. This makes a field trial an important task.

When it comes to selecting a software-based video management system, there are a lot of choices and that’s a good thing. As video surveillance has increasingly moved away from the restrictions of hardware-based systems, flexibility has become the sector’s watch-word. For those looking to deliver a flexible and bespoke solution, the proliferation of VMS options is nothing but good news.

If you are looking for high end video management, alarm and event handling, failover servers and multiple site solutions, there are VMS solutions for that. If you want single server systems for small sites with streaming to remote locations, again there are available solutions. If you want centralised recording or recording at the edge, you’ll find an appropriate VMS package for either approach.

Equally, the choices ensure that any user can enjoy the flexibility of a VMS, regardless of their budget. There are no real constraints when it comes to pricing, with enterprise systems available alongside tools specifically designed for low risk systems with a couple of cameras. All needs – and subsequently all budgets – are catered for.

It’s true that you get what you pay for, but in the world of VMS, some packages are available free-of-charge. This raises the question why a VMS provider would offer products without charging. The answer is simple: they want installers and integrators (and end users) to experience what they can offer. Once a positive field trial concludes, there will be no objection to paying a licence fee to obtain higher capacities and extra functionality.

The best way to really understand the potential available from VMS systems is to use them. The flexibility and ease of configuration in the field simply cannot be explained in a marketing brochure!
The packages we’re looking at in this test shouldn’t be considered on a like-for-like basis. They operate in different ways and are suited to differing applications.

We’ll be considering what you get in terms of functionality and what the limitations are.
All of the suppliers in this Benchmark test are credible and professional security companies. That cannot be said for some who offer free-of-charge generic video management software. The choice of professional security companies means that when the time comes to make an investment to increase device counts or to add functionality, you can be sure that the company will be fair, open and honest. With a few of the other more general free options, you might not find that to be the case.

Milestone XProtect Essential+

XProtect Essential+ is a new release and replaces the previous free-of-charge package: Milestone Essential. The latest VMS is also free-of-charge and supports a single recording server with up to eight devices. It can be connected with an unlimited number of Smart Clients, allowing a variety of users to interrogate the system with ease. It also supports mobile connectivity.

Despite being free, the VMS supports the integration of third-party video analytics as well as integral video motion detection with automatically adjustable sensitivity.

A change from the previous version sees the Essential+ software supporting Milestone’s powerful Rules engine. This was not possible with Essential as the software used a different code base.

The VMS supports hardware-accelerated video decoding to boost the performance of motion detection, as well as metadata management. Video can be managed in a variety of formats including H.265, H.264, M-JPEG, MPEG-4 and MxPEG.

Other features include mapping, audio support, management of inputs and outputs and support for Microsoft Active Directory. In previous versions of Essential the retention time for video storage was restricted, but this is no longer the case with Essential+.

Milestone offers a single software download which can be used for all version of XProtect. There are also two versions of the Smart Client: server-side and standard. Both are available in 32-bit and 64-bit variants.

Because the single installer covers all versions of the VMS, the download takes around 15 minutes for the XProtect installer; the Smart Client download is around 2 minutes. The XProtect package does include a copy of the Smart Client, so unless you need to add others you will only require the core installation file.

It is worth noting that because XProtect uses one unified installation wizard, this makes future upgrades a simpler task, allowing Essential+ to have its functionality extended using an appropriate licence as and when necessary.

You will need to ensure that the server has the appropriate version of the Microsoft .NET framework installed before adding Essential+. This is a free Microsoft software package and is simple to add.

When the installation wizard is started you are prompted to attach a license file. If you are installing Essential+ there is a click-button and this automatically generates a licence file. An internet connection is required for this, but there is no need to register or provide company information. The licence is an actual file so can be moved to another server if the installation is off-line.

You are then prompted to select the type of installation (for Essential+ this will be a single computer), name your database, select the installation location and the wizard starts. It’s not fast: our installation took well over 20 minutes. However, once the process has started there is no need for any interaction.

The two main elements of Essential+ are the Management Client and the Smart Client. The former is used by the installer or integrator to set up and configure the system, while the latter is the user interface for day-to-day operations.

The two have very different looks. The Smart Client is sleek and minimal and reflects current trends with regard to HTML5 GUIs while the Management Client is, in a word, more industrial.

The Management menus use a simple ‘tree’ format. The sections are: Basic, Servers, Devices, Client, Rules and Events, Security, System Dashboard, Server Logs, Transact and Alarms. Clicking on the header of each section displays some short explanatory notes.

Discovering devices is straightforward, and is carried out by adding hardware to the Recording Server. Milestone supports a wide range of third party devices, with the current device pack including nearly 6,000 devices. These are specific integrations and as such will support additional functionality. However, for any non-supported devices you may come across, ONVIF-compliant devices can also be managed.

When adding hardware this will be automatically discovered; there is an option to add supplementary authentication details as many of these will have been changed from the default settings. Alternatively, individual devices can be added manually.

Devices can include cameras, audio devices, metadata streams, inputs and outputs. Device groups need to be created, but the system isn’t going to need much organisation with a maximum of eight devices. However, it’s best to start with a logical structure so that should an upgrade be desirable in the future, you do not have to restructure the system.

If you are building a system which will make use of event-based data for the triggering of actions, it is important to include any functions that will be included, such as audio, metadata and inputs/outputs when adding the cameras.

Many of the main Management Server menus are for general housekeeping and allow authentication settings to be implemented, site details to be attached and server details to be configured. With regard to performance, the most important steps are to established alarms and events, plus subsequent actions or notifications to be triggered when incidents occur. This is done via the Rules engine.

Rules make use of simple AND/OR logic and are easy and quick to implement. Some explanations of the processes we have read do make this feature seem overly complicated. The best way to understand how simple and flexible it is will be to connect a few cameras and get stuck in.

It isn’t possible to configure Rules to include functions that are not available, so it’s unlikely to create problems. Also, Rules can simply be deleted once you’ve experimented with the options.

At first the Management Client can see complex, but working through it in a structured way will reveal the depth of flexibility on offer. As well as configuring the VMS for surveillance functions, it is also possible to change all parameters of any supported cameras. This makes adjustments during configuration a very simple and quick task.

The Smart Client interface is different, almost minimalistic when compared with the Management Client. It retains a modern look and is clearly designed with the end user in mind. There are some configurations which needs to be carried out, such as setting display modes, inserting maps, creating overlay buttons, etc..

Functionality can be added via simple ‘drag and drop’ operations, making customisation straightforward.

Given that XProtect Essential+ is a free VMS, it does deliver a high degree of flexibility and advanced functionality. The limitation with regard to devices will be what pushes the majority of installers and integrators to step up to Express+ (48 devices) or one of the other products that has no restriction on supported cameras.

Pelco VideoXpert Professional

VideoXpert Professional is a new VMS offering from Pelco, and is aimed at small- and medium-sized applications. It is based upon the VideoXpert VMS. VideoXpert Professional is available as a software-only package, but can also be supplied pre-loaded on a hardware appliance. The free version of VideoXpert Professional is essentially a base licence, and this is valid for one year only. There is a 60 day demo period within this time with full functionality.

In order to download the free version you do need to complete an on-line form.

The free version of the VMS only supports a maximum of four devices. These can be either Pelco devices or third party options. The latter are supported if they are compliant with ONVIF Profile S and transmit H.264 video streams.

The Pelco website states that the free licence has certain restricted functions, but a search of available marketing materials does not outline what these are, although you do have the 60 day demo period if you’re more interested in getting a feel for the full VMS system.

It does seem to be the case that the base licence is very much a quick start demo rather than the free version it initially appears to be ( and is promoted as).

The download is supplied as a single executable file, and the actual download takes around 10 minutes. If the computer the software is being installed on does not include the .NET framework from Microsoft, the Pelco wizard will automatically install it. If it does so, a restart will be required before the VMS installation commences.

There are relatively few options when configuring the software for installation: you can opt for a default or customised installation; the only other task is to identify the location for the storage of video files.

The process results in five system elements being installed. These are VxPro Server which runs in the background, VxToolbox which is used for system configurations, VxOpsCenter which is the user interface, VxPortal which is the web interface allowing access without using the hard client, and VxPlayer which allows exported video footage to be viewed.

During the installation there is no need for any interaction, and in our test the whole process took around five minutes. Once it is complete you are then presented with a splash screen from which you can start the configuration process.

When you download the executable file there is no additional documentation; this can be found on the Pelco website. There is a quick start guide and a full user’s manual available.

The configuration process is automatic and the next task is to set a password for the VMS. You will also need to add a company name. This is used to identify the system. Once this is done you can log into the system and add devices.

We did notice one anomaly with the camera discovery function. The cameras attached were all compatible with ONVIF Profile S, and all had been changed from default authentication due to the fact the devices have a secure password policy implemented. With one device, the VMS continually rejected the authentication details as incorrect, although this was not the case and we could log directly into the camera via a browser (and the other VMS packages on test). We could find no way of rectifying this, which of course throws up the debate as to where the blame for the issue lies: the VMS, the camera or the ONVIF profile?

Once the cameras have been discovered, a side window can be called up which allows configuration of the device and it is then added to the VXPro system.

Interestingly, when we added cameras the icon continued to indicate that they had not been added to the system. However, when attempting to add them again using the menu option for ‘configure and add’, we received an error message stating that this could not be done as they had already been added!

All in all, it must be said that the VxPro software generally works well. What few issues we had were down to simple problems such as the aforementioned status icons not updating.

With regard to the cameras shown as not configured or added, when viewed through VxOpsCenter rather than the VxToolbox they clearly had been added and were performing as expected. After closing and then reopening VxToolbox, the status icons were finally showing correctly.

Events can be configured for the individual video streams. These are accessed via the Events menu in VxToolbox. The system is both flexible and comprehensive, but at first glance is a little different to what you might expect. There is a very long and detailed list of system events, and these are categorised dependent upon how they are triggered. The categorisation is split into Admin, Analytic, Client, Hardware and System.

To give some examples, Admin events include devices being added to or removed from the system, privileges modified, schedules changed or alterations to users and their roles. Analytics events range from basic motion detection through a range of IVA rules such as object detection, loitering, vehicle movements, etc.. There is flexibility in that each event has an opposite condition: loitering, no loitering; directional motion, no directional motion; stopped vehicle, no stopped vehicle.

Event details can be adjusted, and a severity level can be applied to each, as can the type of notifications delivered by the system. For the user, an event viewer is used to ensure that notifications are received. There is an option to ensure that notifications are acknowledged by the operator.

With regard to events, there is a good degree of flexibility. The software may not allow the creation of complex and bespoke alarm/action relationships, but for the vast majority of mainstream applications it will be more than sufficient.

Because of the way that VideoXpert Pro is structured, you do find yourself moving between the various system elements while you’re learning how the system works. As you become familiar with it, this becomes less of an issue and for users it won’t be a problem as they will predominantly use one of the two client options.

The test team did have something of a debate as to whether the free version of VideoXpert Pro is actually a long-term demo or a free-of-charge VMS. The bottom line is if you’re looking for a solution that will be in place for more than one year, this isn’t it unless you licence the software. Of course, it has to be remembered that the goal of free VMS packages is to ensure that installers and integrators do end up licensing them for more functionality or capacity, so it might not be an issue if you’re happy with the overall performance.

Axxonsoft Axxon Next Free

Axxon Next Free is a free-of-charge version of Axxon Next. There are three other versions which require licencing: Axxon Next Start, Axxon Next Professional and Axxon Next Universe. With Axxon Next Free, the manufacturer offers limited connectivity, but has included many of the advanced features of the VMS.

In order to download the software you do need to complete a brief on-line form. Once this is done the download is started. There is a single Zip file and the download takes around 8 minutes.

Axxon Next Free supports up to 4 devices, and makes use of a single server. Archiving of footage is limited to 1TB of data. Edge storage is also supported, albeit as a ‘viewing only’ tool, so there’s no option to pull the footage back to the server. With regard to alarm handling, macros can be written to instigate event-based triggers for alarms. The use of input and output boards is optional.

Other features include support for H.265 streams, dewarping for panoramic cameras, 3D mapping, bookmarking, bandwidth management and analytics tracking.

Searches can be carried out in thumbnail, alarm or transaction modes. The client interface makes use of a standard web browser, and mobile apps are available for both iOS and Android devices.

The VMS supports a wide variety of third-party devices via direct integrations. A brief look at the list of supported devices shows compatibility with the vast majority of professional camera manufacturers. The list is available from the Axxonsoft website, so if you are working with a legacy system and migrating it to use the VMS, this is a useful resource to check the level of support available. Other third party devices can be supported if they are compatible with ONVIF Profiles G and S.

Axxon Next Free includes many of the advanced features of the VMS, such as TimeCompressor, SolidStore and nine different detection rules. These include motion detection, background change detection, loss of video quality, abandoned objects, motion in a zone, stopping in a zone, loitering, zone entry/appearance and zone exit/disappearance. Line crossing with directional discriminations is included in the licensed version of the VMS but not in the free version.

TimeCompressor is a ‘synopsis’ tool which allows a lengthy time window of video to be presented in a short time-compressed clip. All detected alarms and events during the period are included in the synopsis video, with a tag identifying the time of each occurrence. By simply clicking on the tag the system will automatically jump to the relevant video clip, allowing the user to view the footage in real-time.

This represents a significant benefit for users who wish to quickly reference certain video clips without spending a long period of time reviewing footage. There are a few third-party synopsis tools on the market, but these generally do require licensing and integration with your chosen VMS.

SolidStore is a file system that resolves issues with fragmentation, and is also claimed to increase longevity of HDDs in the field. It preserves data if disk sector damage occurs. SolidStore does not allocate blocks for critical system information. Because of this, damage to any data block only results in that specific block being unavailable.

The main feature not included is MomentQuest, a search tool based upon metadata which allows video footage containing biometric facial information, number plate data and other similar information to be quickly and effectively searched.

The VMS supports video in a variety of formats including H.265, H.264, M-JPEG, MPEG-4, Wavelets and MxPEG. The compatibility list identifies which formats are supported on specific devices.

Once the installation process is started there is very little interaction required. You only need to select whether to install both the server and client on a single machine, along with whether the recording server is added or will be linked at a later time. The full installation took around 12 minutes, and once complete the VMS can be run.

The first task it to activate the software. As standard it runs in demo mode, but will only be active between the hours of 8am and 6pm, based upon the time settings of the server. To remove this restriction it needs to be licensed as a free version. This is either done with the server on-line, or a licence request file can be generated.

Once the VMS is activated and running, the home screen reveals the configuration menus in a tabbed format. These are Devices, Archive, Detection Tools, Users and Options. There is also a quick link to the System Log.

Adding devices is simple. You select the server from the tree view menu, click add device, and a search screen is generated. Searches can include fully supported devices, manually supported devices or unsupported devices.

Our system found the connected cameras immediately and the only interaction required was to enter the correct passwords which had been changed from default.

The cameras can be individually selected and this brings up configuration screens for each device. Any changes that are made can then be sent to the relevant camera directly from the VMS GUI.

The Archive menu is used to assign HDDs which are to be used for recording video footage from the VMS. Either individual drives can be selected, or a designated amount of archive space can be set for each drive. Capacity can either be entered as a numerical value or a slider is used, which gives an act-a-glance overview of used space, archiving capacity and free space on each drive.

Recording mode, pre-alarm record times, frame rates and the camera stream to be recorded can be set for each individual device. Again, the process is very straightforward and will not present any challenges to installers or integrators.

The Detection Tools menu allows events to be linked with individual cameras. The options are varied and include typical video detection rules (motion, object tracking, number plate recognition), tamper and quality-based events (tamper, blurred image, compression artefacts, noise, positional change and loss of signal), as well as audio-based alerts. When a specific detection tool is selected, its configuration menu is then presented. These are intuitive, which makes them easy to set up and adjust.

Finally, the Users menu allows the addition or deletion of authorised persons who can access the VMS, and the Options menu includes a number of additional features such as the creation of hotkeys, scheduling, alarm processing priorities, etc..

With the system configured, you can switch to the main GUI. This initially appears to be very minimalistic, but makes use of fly-out side panels and contextual menus. Because the VMS is free-of-charge, the supplier does not offer any support. You can find documentation online, but in reality the quickest way to familiarise yourself with the GUI is to explore it. There is nothing challenging about its operation, and whilst it does differ slightly to most of the other VMS options, you soon get the hang of it.

In general, Axxon Next Free does present a credible and flexible VMS for a limited number of devices. Performance wise we did see the occasional dropped frame but nothing that severely impacted on the overall usability of the VMS. Other functionality was as expected.

Luxriot Evo

Luxriot Evo is a free-of-charge version of the company’s Evo series of VMS solutions. There are two other versions which require licencing: Evo-S and Evo Global. The free-of-charge Evo package includes a high number of performance restrictions, and as such does not offer a chance to explore the full range of functionality available from the VMS, as the other packages do. Essentially, it’s a free video recorder software option.

In order to download the software you need to visit the Luxriot website. There is no registration process required for the download, which is a single executable file. The download only takes a few minutes as the installation file is little over 250MB.

Luxriot Evo supports up to 9 devices with a maximum resolution of 1920 x 1080 at 25 frames per second. The system can only supports a single server and a single video output. It does not include any advanced features.

There is no capability for managing complex events and actions, video content analysis, maps, video walls or Active Directory authentication. Basic events and actions are supported, but the emphasis is very much on ‘basic’.

While the other free VMS packages in the test are very much aimed at allowing installers and integrators to sample the full flexibility of a VMS system (obviously the manufacturers want that taster experience to translate into sales of licenced systems), Luxriot Evo is very much aimed at those who want a basic software video recording system. There’s less emphasis on bringing the engineer into the growing market for flexible and bespoke solutions, and the free version certainly doesn’t highlight what the licenced Evo range can deliver. Because of this, we do feel that Luxriot has missed a trick.

The installation package is supplied as a single executable file; this installs within a few minutes and adds a Server, Monitor and Console system element to the PC. On first boot-up you will need to add the licence which is done via an online connection.

Once licensed you are presented with a log-in box requesting a password. If you try and establish a password at this point, the authentication will be rejected. Instead you need to login leaving the password field blank, which will bring up a dialogue box to reset the password. Leaving the Old Password field blank, simply enter the new password and you can sign in.

Luxriot Evo makes use of a configuration wizard; the first step is to add devices. The choices are to scan the entire network adapter address range, scan a specified address range or scan attached devices. There is also a field to enter authentication details for cameras. This is done by entering the username and password separated by a comma. Multiple combinations of authentication details can be added.

The VMS found all of our attached cameras which were then added to the system. The amount of flexibility and control that the installer or integrator has via the VMS GUI is very limited. The downside of this is that should problems being encountered, the ability to troubleshoot and diagnose faults is pretty much non-existent.

We found that certain cameras would be detected and added, but then showed as having no video stream. Ironically, moving to another VMS revealed that those cameras were fully functional. The limited interaction from Evo meant that some cameras simply could not be used with the VMS.

That anomaly aside, those cameras which showed an active stream could then be viewed via the VMS Monitor application. This allows a moderate degree of interoperability, but as the software is very basic, this does tend to be limited to basic functions such as playback control, searches, etc..

Motion detection is supported and can either be from the connected device or via the software. As with much of the functionality of Luxriot Evo, this is basic.

At one point we did wonder whether we had missed something, maybe a hidden menu which allowed some insight into how the Evo series differentiated itself, but the reality is this free version of the VMS is significantly stripped down.

If you are expecting a taster of what is available from the licensed versions, you are not going to get that with this package.

Axis Companion

Axis Companion is a free-of-charge VMS software package from Axis Communications which supports up to 16 video inputs. It differs significantly from the other software packages in this test, as it is not designed to be a taster for a fully functioned VMS solution. Indeed, Axis Companion is a standalone software package designed to deliver a complete system to small- and medium-sized applications.

While the other VMS manufacturers in the test are looking for installers and integrators to upgrade to a licenced software package with their products, Axis Communications takes another approach. Axis Companion offers advanced functionality to those who use its cameras, as these are the only devices supported by the package.

It could be argued that Companion presents a use-case to push SME-type businesses into putting their full investment into Axis hardware, as they can save budgets on additional servers and software.

Axis Companion allows users to access live and recorded video via a PC or mobile devices using supplied apps. Video recording is carried out at the edge, meaning that the surveillance systems do not require a server, DVR, NVR or other recording media.

Additionally, Companion-based systems do not need a server or PC for day-to-day operations. However, a PC or laptop is required for initial set-up, and either an App or an on-line device will be required to view footage.

Video footage is recorded either to SD cards located in the cameras or to supported network attached storage (NAS) devices. If opting for SD cards, each camera will need a card. NAS devices can be shared.

Recording options include scheduled, continuous or event-based.

As stated, the VMS only operates with Axis hardware, although the manufacturer does offer a cost-effective range of cameras designed specifically for use with the VMS. Other Axis devices running firmware v5.5 or higher are also compatible. The software supports all resolutions and frame rates, and makes use of H.264 streams.

Axis Companion is downloaded directly from the company’s website; a registration to the MyAxis on-line service is required for this and is also necessary for system activation and site management.

Download takes no more than a few minutes, and the software is supplied as a single executable file. It does require Microsoft .NET framework to run and if this is not loaded the Axis installer will add it if the PC has an Internet connection. If it does not the .NET installation will fail. The installation is relatively swift: ours took just under 10 minutes including loading the Microsoft element.

Once the installation is complete, the software needs to be activated by logging in to the MyAxis account. After this you need to create a site and set a password for access privileges.

Discovering devices is an automated process, although there is an option to add cameras manually if required. Once discovered, it is a simple case of entering updated passwords and the devices will then be added to the system. During this process the VMS will also check if new firmware is available for the cameras, and if so these will be upgraded.

Once installed, there is the opportunity to further tweak the camera settings with regards to appearance (saturation, contrast, brightness and sharpness), white balance, image orientation, exposure, WDR, day/night switching and privacy masking. Quality settings for both the high-resolution and low resolution streams can also be tweaked with regards to resolution and frame rate.

Performance-specific camera configurations can also be accessed from the Companion software. For example, any changes to motion detection, such as zone layout, sensitivity, etc., can all be accessed via the Companion interface.

Whilst it must be accepted that Companion is aimed more at the end-user than the installer or integrator, initial configuration of the system is more likely to be carried out by an engineer, and as a result the high degree of connectivity on offer is useful.

Because of the use of a MyAxis account, remote connectivity is straightforward, allowing users to connect to the system from any location. When Companion was originally launched (as Camera Companion), it did require reconnection from a PC or laptop for viewing or playback.

Axis Companion could be argued to be a utility rather than a full VMS, but it does offer an alternative for small- and medium-sized users seeking a simpler video surveillance solution.


Milestone Systems: XProtect Essential+

XProtect Essential+ is a relatively new option from Milestone, and whilst the VMS provider has always offered a free VMS package (previously XProtect Essential and prior to that XProtect Go) it is fair to say that they didn’t really offer a chance to fully appreciate the flexibility on offer.

Essential+ is limited to eight devices and lacks some of the high end features of the other packages, but it does not include restrictions on archived video (in terms of data size or retention period) and now includes the very flexible rules engine.

In the test it was the package that felt least restrictive, and our thinking is that installers and integrators will quickly see the benefits on offer and upgrade! As such, it achieves Recommended status.

Pelco VideoXpert Professional

VideoXpert Professional is another relatively new VMS package, and is a variant of the enterprise-level VideoXpert VMS which has been tweaked to appeal to mainstream applications. The limitation is support for four devices.

Whilst we all accept that the reasoning behind free versions is to allow the installer or integrator – and the end user – to experience what is on offer, Pelco’s licence structure does mean that if you’re not convinced within 12 months (or have no need to upgrade) the free use will come to an end.

We did experience a few software glitches, but none were significant and will be addressed in time, so it does achieve Recommended status.

Axxonsoft Axxon Next Free

Axxon Next Free does include many of the advanced features of the licenced VMS options, and as such delivers a good idea of how the software will hold up in a larger and more complex installation.

It is limited to support for up to 4 devices, and the single server VMS also has a restriction of the amount of video footage than can be retained, with a maximum cap of 1TB of data.

Performance is as expected, and aside from an occasional dropped frame there is little to quibble about. We’d expect many to upgrade to the licenced versions, and as such it achieves Recommended Status.

Luxriot Evo

Luxriot Evo is slightly confusing, as it has so many restrictions with regard to performance that you don’t end up getting a real ‘feel’ for the fully functioned VMS packages. As such, none of the test team felt that they would be tempted to step up to a licenced product on the basis of this version, given the other alternatives.

It offers support for nine devices, but functionality is limited to recording, playback, searches and basic motion detection. As such there’s little to illustrate what differentiates the Evo series from generic software or hardware.

Because of this, it does not achieve Recommended status.

Axis Companion

Axis Companion differs from the other free-of-charge VMS software packages, in that it is a tool for those who have invested solely in Axis hardware. That said, it does deliver an alternative to mainstream systems, in that all recording takes place at the edge, and site management is carried out via an Axis on-line service.

Access to the system is via Apps or standard IT-based hardware, which does introduce a degree of economical design. It works well, and as such it achieves Recommended status with the proviso that the user is happy being locked into a single hardware brand.

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