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VMS Buyers’ Guide

by Benchmark

In recent years, the arguments for switching from predominantly hardware-based NVRs to the more flexible VMS solutions have increased exponentially. Given the range of benefits on offer, coupled with ease of integration and the ability to create bespoke and innovative solutions, it is small wonder that many forward-thinking installers and integrators are embracing all that VMS offers. Here Benchmark looks at the leading VMS solutions and considers what they offer to various security applications.

VMS systems are increasingly becoming the solution of choice for many installers and integrators. Indeed, the VMS tag is slightly misleading, as most are far more than video management systems.

Offering proactive cause and effect programming, advanced event and alarm handling, remote connectivity and management, signalling and notifications, enhanced cyber security and an open platform approach allowing the creation of ‘best of breed’ solutions, VMS is hard to ignore if you are looking to differentiate your offering to customers.

This is to say nothing about the ease with which VMS packages allow third part integration, including with access control, intruder alarm, perimeter protection, fire, safety and building management systems.

Even specialised areas such as traffic incident detection, business intelligence, asset tracking and process control can be added by installers and integrators with no need to write code or carry out complex programming.

Despite the benefits on offer, there are many installers and integrators who have yet to switch from hardware-based NVRs to VMS systems. When Benchmark talked to some engineers, the feedback was varied, but two main reasons stood out: a lack of understanding about what the VMS would actually do, and a fear of complexity with regard to installation and configuration. In truth, in both areas, VMS suppliers haven’t done themselves any favours!

What does it do?

For some reason, many VMS suppliers are somewhat vague about what their products will actually do. Part of this comes from the historic route to market which relied upon end user demand. As a result, many talk in very general terms about ‘threat correlation’ and ‘situational awareness’.

While some have delivered information that is more meaningful to installers and integrators (you often have to search hard to find it, however), others still tend to rely on engineers ‘knowing’ what the VMS can offer. An example of this surfaces occasionally during Benchmark testing. Sometimes we cannot find a specific feature or function in the menus and so visit the manufacturer’s website to try and ascertain whether the feature is in a given version. Often we find nothing that actually indicates what functionality is available from the VMS!

This seems strange given that functionality is often the biggest differentiator when it comes to specifying one VMS over another. It is also critical for installers and integrators looking to specify a solution.

In the majority of cases, the functionality available from a typical VMS goes above and beyond that offered by NVRs. Because the VMS is effectively software ‘under the bonnet’, this means it is inherently more flexible, and much of the complexity has been addressed by the manufacturer. Creating scenarios that would be complicated or impossible with a predominantly hardware-based solution can often be achieved with ease, using little more than drop-down menus and simple selection buttons, with a VMS.

Are VMS systems complex?

The short answer is yes, VMS systems are complex. However, a microwave oven is complex too, but you don’t need to understand short-wave radio waves and molecular oscillation to cook a potato!

We all use software-based solutions in everyday life – word processors, databases, spreadsheets, web browsers, etc. – and while the software itself is complex, the user experience is actually very simple. The same is true of VMS.

What the software does, how it works, need not be a concern. For the installer or integrator, the value of the VMS lies in what it can deliver in terms of functionality, flexibility, scalability and ease of operation. There is a reason why few installers or integrators who switch to VMS ever go back to hardware-based NVRs!

Milestone: XProtect

Features: Milestone offers XProtect in a range of different configurations. These include three single-server versions (XProtect Essential+, XProtect Express and XProtect Express+) and four multiple server versions (XProtect Professional, XProtect Professional+, XProtect Expert and XProtect Corporate). The latter three multiple server versions offer central management of distributed systems.

The XProtect series includes a very flexible Rules-based engine for alarm and event handling, and this is included in the Corporate, Expert and all of the ‘+’ versions of the VMS.

Other features include support for H.265 video formats, hardware-accelerated video decoding, centralised management and Microsoft Active Directory support.

XProtect Express and XProtect Professional use an older code base, and while there is nothing wrong with these versions, the real power of VMS lies in advanced flexibility so the newer + versions, or Expert and Corporate, are the versions that Benchmark would recommend.

It is also worth noting that direct integrations have been implemented with over 6,000 third party devices from over 150 manufacturers, and as such you’re unlikely to find professional products that won’t work seamlessly with the VMS. ONVIF is also supported.

Applications: The XProtect range of products covers most applications. From the entry-level XProtect Essential+ package which is free of charge and suitable for applications with up to eight devices, through to XProtect Corporate which is ideal for campus-type sites with distributed buildings and a need for high security implementations, there is an option for most needs.

Recommended for: Applications where a bespoke approach is required for event and alarm management, or where specific risks need to be addressed. Additionally, the range is ideal where integrations are important or where distributed sites may necessitate a flexible approach to scalability and performance upgrades.

Benchmark Verdict: Taking the Milestone XProtect route certainly will not be the cheapest option, but you do very much get what you pay for.

Over the years, the XProtect range of solutions has consistently scored highly in Benchmark’s independent VMS tests due to its advanced functionality.

Manufacturer’s Statement: With the flexibility that comes from being open platform, Milestone’s XProtect products allow installers and integrators to deliver tailor-made solutions with ease. Users gain all the benefits of third-party add-on solutions and high-end features, with the security of a seamless upgrade path as and when their video requirement grows.

Milestone Systems’ XProtect Essential+, Express+ and Professional+ products cover all installations from those with a handful of cameras to multi-site installations with thousands of devices. Essential+ is a free ‘entry’ product into the company’s portfolio, and provides a simple route into Milestone’s XProtect platform.

XProtect’s easy-to-use programming allows installers and integrators to adapt the software to fit a variety of needs, providing bespoke solutions with standard software. These could include automatically changing recording rates and camera behaviours according to alarms, so certain cameras can provide better evidence when incidents occur.

All these products support hardware acceleration, where system performance is boosted with the addition of a dedicated graphics card that handles the ‘heavy lifting’ in decoding video, allowing the system to handle other tasks. By passing decoding to the hardware, systems can save up to 80 per cent in processing power with lower energy usage as a result.

Milestone software supports more than 6,000 certified devices, allowing installers to freely pick and mix the perfect camera models and brands according to their customers’ needs.

Cathexis: CathexisVision

Features: Cathexis Technologies offers CathexisVision, which in independent Benchmark VMS tests has previously achieved Recommended status.

System capacity is dependent upon the licence, but the VMS is capable of supporting unlimited servers and cameras. Video formats include H.265, H.264, M-JPEG and MPEG-4, and multiple streaming is supported. The software can also manage inputs and outputs and audio streaming. CathexisVision supports direct integrations with a number of third-party cameras and encoders, as well as ONVIF compatible devices.

There are four licensing options: Lite, Core, Professional and Premium. Both Lite and Core support up to 48 devices running on a single server. They also support 3 and 7 client connections respectively.

Professional licensed systems support up to 150 devices with an unlimited number of servers and 10 client connections, and Premium licences allow unlimited devices, servers and client connections.

All variance of the VMS allow the use of edge analytics, fisheye-based camera dewarping, local VMD, motion search and camera mapping. They also make use of set-up wizards designed to simplify the configuration process.

Much of the GUI interface is tab-based, making it simple to switch between various system elements.

The VMS does have some very interesting features (for example, camera mapping allows the display of adjacent devices when viewing video streams) and the logical order of the configuration process helps to ensure that everything is covered.

CathexisVision is a very flexible product. Whilst it is aimed at applications with a requirement for higher levels of security, it retains a very security-biased feel and is not intimidating.

CathexisVision supports video analytics and third party integration, and can add business intelligence benefits to enhance operational efficiencies. Its ANPR solution offers fast recognition times, various number plate libraries and an advanced database search and reporting function.

Cathexis also offers dynamic video stream selection (DVSS), allowing viewing stations and video walls to automatically switch between high and low resolution video streams dependent on the screen layout. This increases the number of cameras that can be viewed on a single client machine. Processing is offloaded to GPU hardware.

Applications: While CathexisVision makes sense for larger and higher risk applications, it can equally be deployed for mainstream sites requiring basic but flexible video and event management.

Benchmark Verdict: CathexisVision boasts a high degree of flexibility, and is fully scalable from small SME applications right through to campus-type applications. It is arguably aimed at the higher risk sites and is very much geared towards distributed video management. However, at no point does the installation and configuration become in any way intimidating, even for installers and integrators who might be new to VMS deployments.

Manufacturer’s Statement: While video surveillance has become a key component in security management, a truly integrated security system requires that all aspects work seamlessly together, while being managed in the control room.

Real-time information, prompt decision making and immediate action can make the difference in preventing security breaches.

CathexisVision a leading VMS suite from Cathexis Technologies, a global leader in surveillance technology. ‘The true power of a CCTV surveillance system becomes even more apparent when combined with sophisticated video management software,’ states Gus Brecher, business development director of Cathexis Technologies. ‘The world of CCTV surveillance is greatly enhanced by the association of synchronised video and full integration with other third-party security systems, including access control, alarm panels, fire panels, analytics, building management systems and so much more.’

CathexisVision is fully compatible with thousands of IP camera brands and can be fully customised to meet the unique requirements of every application. Providing an optimum solution across a wide variety of market sectors, CathexisVision has been installed for a multitude of applications in a wide range of industries.

Vicon: Valerus

Features: Valerus is the latest incarnation of the Vicon VMS platform. It has been designed to deliver ease of installation, simplicity of use and an open platform philosophy.

The VMS uses standard web browsers as its user interface, ensuring familiarity along with ease of use when connecting to the system from remote locations and handheld or portable devices.

Valerus is available in three versions: Try, Core and Pro. Try is a free version which supports up to 6 devices with a limited recording retention period of 7 days. Core supports up to 35 devices and 10 concurrent users while Pro is the unlimited version of the VMS with a range of advanced features.

Valerus includes three powerful search options to help users find recorded video evidence as quickly as possible. These are thumbnail search, museum search and events framework search, providing distinct methods for searching dependent upon the nature of the query.

Thumbnail search can be used to quickly review events over a long period of time. Museum search is designed to identify specific events in a defined area of interest. Finally, events framework search is used to easily interrogate data and correlated video from integrated third party software.

Another feature is an enhanced health dashboard. This delivers statistics and detailed graphs for every camera and NVR on the network, making it easier to assess system behaviour and diagnose problems.

The VMS features built-in dewarping and viewing controls for hemispheric 360 degree cameras, enabling users to get the most out of high-resolution fisheye cameras.

Multiple view perspectives provide the detailed coverage, and presets and pan/zoom capabilities increase the flexibility on offer.

Edge-based video analytics and motion detection from the camera are supported, and event notifications can be customised to deliver a flexible automatically triggered system.

Valerus is also compatible with VAX access control from Vicon. This ensures seamless integrations between the two systems.

Vicon has also looked at hardware support for the VMS, and security keypads and controllers can now connect to Valerus systems. This allows operators to call up camera views, presets and even web pages using numerical values.

Vicon has also launched Upgrade Protection Plans (UPP). Subscribers can download latest versions and new features and the system will automatically unlock the capabilities without any updates to licensing.

Applications: Vicon is keen to stress that Valerus has been designed for simplicity of installation, configuration and operation, and that the three variants make it an options for a wide range of sites, from small mainstream applications right through to fully scalable campus-type distributed sites.

The features on offer do lend themselves to use at sites where security personnel manage the system, rather than for applications where the system is designed to report exceptions and take actions automatically.

Manufacturer’s Statement: Vicon’s Valerus is designed to simplify the video management experience at every level, including deployment, operation and maintenance, while delivering all the power and performance of an enterprise scale VMS solution. Its thin-client architecture provides flexible access via browsers and mobile devices and facilitates fast deployment, while automated discovery and programming tools can have systems up and running within minutes.

A graphical health dashboard helps to diagnose problems and ensures all components are performing optimally. Video search tools allow users to quickly find video from all cameras. A single global activation key simplifies licensing while a central system upgrade makes it easy to keep all system software current. Valerus supports HTTPS encryption and IPV6 devices.

Vicon’s Valerus supports installations of any size, from single site, single server systems to multi-site campuses with distributed network topology. Built upon the ONVIF standard, Valerus offers open integration to a wide range of third-party software and hardware, making it the perfect foundation for comprehensive security solutions. It is available as software-only, or pre-loaded onto hardware optimised for surveillance needs.

Valerus is recommended for surveillance in a wide range of environments. Its thin-client interface makes it easy for the system to be monitored and managed from multiple locations.

Axis: AXIS Camera Station

Features: AXIS Camera Station (ACS) is aimed at small- to medium-sized sites and is optimised for use with Axis Communications’ own range of cameras. It supports other devices which use the ONVIF Profile S, but compatibility with these devices may be limited.

The VMS software is optimised for systems with fewer than 50 devices. It manages resolutions of up to 4K and frame rates of up to 60fps. Video formats include H.264 and M-JPEG.

The VMS makes use of the Zipstream bandwidth management system which optimises compression levels.

Alarms and events can be triggered by a variety of sources: motion detection, tampering, cross-line detection, inputs and outputs, action buttons and device events. Actions can include changes in recording, notifications, PTZ switching, control of inputs and outputs, and local alerts.

ACS has two licensing options: Core and Universal. Core allows the use of up to 32 Axis devices. Universal is required if more than 32 Axis devices are connected, or if any third-party devices are used.

Recommended for: ACS is aimed at the SME market and is optimised for Axis’ own cameras. Support for third party devices is there, but is limited. Given these provisos, AXIS Camera Station works well, as it should, because it is effectively a one-brand solution. For some that will be a limitation, but if a single-brand system is what you’re after, it is simple to install and configure.

Where it does differ from some of the other ‘supplier-centric’ VMS options is that it has been designed for simple integration. As such it handles not just video and associated analytics, but can also deliver access control, detection and audio management.

It also is specifically designed to maximise the effect of Axis’ proprietary technologies. These include active tampering alarms to detect incidents such as redirection, blocking or defocusing of cameras.

Zipstream technology uses dynamic features to analyse and optimise the camera’s video stream in real-time to ensure scenes containing important details are recorded at full resolution while non-essential areas are filtered out.

Lightfinder technology to deliver enhanced light sensitivity down to a claimed 0.18 lux. Noise reduction is also improved to ensure superior image quality in poorly illuminated scenes.

The WDR – Forensic Capture function makes use of algorithms to both lower noise levels and increase the video signal. This ensures that important video detail is captured in both dark and bright areas at the same time.

Benchmark Verdict: AXIS Camera Station is very much a tool for small- to medium-sized applications which are predominantly using Axis devices. It offers more flexibility with regard to event management than the majority of NVR-based systems, and it is on a par with a number of the more mainstream VMS packages. AXIS Camera Station is recommended, but with the proviso that it’s best suited to systems making sole use of cameras and other security devices from Axis Communications.

Manufacturer’s Statement: A solution using AXIS Camera Station is easy to use and maintain, which allows installers and integrators to solve problems such as delivering security and offering advanced protection so the customer can focus on their core business.

The VMS also allows the addition of functions for more efficient operations and improved protection, such as easy communication with visitors, secure entrances and exits, audio for deterrence and more, allowing the creation of a scalable solution that covers all surveillance needs.

Key benefits of AXIS Camera Station include effortless operation, efficient surveillance and the delivery of an easy-to-expand system. The software puts efficient surveillance at the customer’s fingertips with an intuitive interface that’s easy to operate, even for the occasional user.

The software has been developed with the user in mind. The clear graphical user interface makes it easy to navigate, manage incidents and take action. It also supports over 20 languages making it adaptable to a number of users.

The AXIS Mobile Viewing app allows users to keep up with events from the protected site even from other locations. It offers easy access to multiple systems and other features such as live view and time-line visualisation of recorded events.

Vista: qulu

Features: Vista’s qulu is a cross-platform VMS and can run on Windows, Linux or OS servers. It takes an open-platform approach, supporting direct integrations with many leading branded cameras and encoders.

The software makes use of a single installer, and this gives the option of installing the Server and Client applications, or either of the two. The process is automatic.

The VMS quickly discovers connected cameras using an automatic search; searches can be conducted manually too if required.

The VMS features an HTML5 interface, as do many current GUIs, so it has a familiar look. It uses contextual menus, which helps keep the interface clean. There are a number of icons (with ToolTips) to access system menus.

With regard to event management, features include automatic notifications with embedded links, a simple control interface for events and alarms, event-based searching and real-time alerts for incidents and system issues.

The VMS has a number of basic rules automatically implemented. These cover alarms such as server failure, storage failure, network issues, licence issues, network device IP address conflicts, etc.. Installers and integrators can also add rules.

Each event rule is made up of various parts: event, source, action, target and interval. These can be configured in a basic mode, or an advanced menu can be used to permit greater control over events and actions.

With regard to motion detection, qulu allows this to either be actioned by the camera (if supported) or through the VMS. The latter obviously uses server resources.

A range of events and actions can be configured to provide security and business intelligence benefits.

Event handling is simple to implement, but doesn’t allow the creation of more complex scenarios.

Applications: While qulu is scalable and includes features such as failover and clustering for distributed sites, it also serves the mainstream market where ease of installation and operation are pivotal.

Benchmark Verdict: Vista’s qulu fits the bill where installers and integrators are looking to improve on the performance of NVRs and DVRs. It is simple to install and configure, intuitive and it offers flexibility.

Event management is simpler than some VMS; if there isn’t a demand for complicated scenarios, qulu is a viable option.

Manufacturer’s Statement: Vista’s qulu is designed around the user experience and has been developed to deliver an intuitive and simple-to-use platform. This means there is no need for extensive training courses; installers and integrators can start using the software and be interrogating video almost immediately.

qulu 3.0 includes qulu Cloud. Users can log-in from any location and share access to the system without port-forwarding set-up and coordination. This gives customers the ability to control systems from one place, saving time and resources.

qulu offers a small download size and easily optimised camera settings as it discovers cameras on the network and automatically configures them.

qulu provides a high degree of stability and supports an industry-leading number of cameras on a single server. The software takes advantage of multi-core processors and, combined with advanced graphics capabilities, gives unprecedented video management power.

qulu allows users to simply drag and drop cameras, and images can be resized and rotated.

qulu offers architecture failover;, should a server fail, the cameras will be immediately transferred to other servers within the system. Once the failed server becomes available, the cameras will return to their original server.

Bookmarks prevent information being missed by enabling users to highlight segments of video to be reviewed. These also enhance quick searching using information such as start/end time, name, description and tags.

SeeTec: Cayuga

Features: Cayuga is the VMS series from SeeTec. It is differentiated from many other VMS solutions by its ability to have the core functionality supplemented by sector-specific extensions, allowing it to deliver security and closely targeted business intelligence. Available extensions include logistics-ready integrations, ANPR, warehouse management, retail, etc..

As a standard VMS package, Cayuga is available in four options to meet a range of surveillance needs. Cayuga S50X supports up to 50 cameras on a single server. Stepping up from the base level is Cayuga S100, supporting up to 100 channels on two servers along with basic video analytics, motion detection and advanced event management. Cayuga Infinity supports unlimited devices and unlimited servers, along with a range of video analytics options, and Cayuga Infinity X builds on this with failover recording and video wall management.

Cayuga takes an open platform approach, supporting in excess of 1,000 devices via direct integrations. Additional devices are supported by way of ONVIF compliance, and smart drivers are utilised to simplify the potential integrations with third party applications.

Cayuga has been designed with installers and integrators in mind. Installation is simple: the only configuration required during the process is to identify the IP address of the server for installation. Basic configuration is straightforward, and this remains the case when establishing alarms and events. There is a wizard for creating alarm management profiles; alternatively a manual approach can be taken which allows greater flexibility.

VoIP-based communication allows bi-directional audio connections directly with attached camera s. Cayuga enables direct voice communication in both directions without the need for any additional components.

Applications: Cayuga Infinity X can be specified for a wide range of applications, and has the potential to manage complex scenarios. However, the additional sector-specific modules make it ideal for certain applications and business use-cases.

Benchmark Verdict: Cayuga is a VMS that sometimes flies under the radar despite its high degree of flexibility and functionality. More installers and integrators should take a closer look, as there is a depth of additional functionality on offer.

The VMS has rated highly in Benchmark’s independent VMS tests.

Genetec: Omnicast

Features: Omnicast is Genetec’s VMS element of its Security Center unified security platform. Security Center has been expanded in recent years and offers high end security management including Cloud-based elements and Software-as-a-Service provision.

Omnicast is available in four versions: Compact, Standard, Pro and Enterprise. Licensing is either perpetual or subscription (Compact is only available as a subscription product). Supported device numbers are 25, 50, 150 or unlimited respectively. Compact and Standard versions support up to five clients and a single archive server. Pro supports up to 10 clients and 20 archiving servers, and Enterprise is unlimited. The latter version also supports federated architecture, as well as failover support for the management database and archiving servers.

The VMS makes use of GPU-accelerated processing, enabling future adoption of machine learning-based solutions.

Genetec has also focused on bandwidth management using techniques such as intelligent dynamic streaming, video trickling (making use of edge storage devices) and cloud archiving which is a service to allow the creation of hybrid data storage if required.

Omnicast is open platform with direct integrations to most third party products.

Recommended for: For many installers and integrators, the appeal of Omnicast is its inclusion as a part of Security Center, and as such it is more relevant for complex or high risk installations looking to implement a complete multi-disciplined security solution.

Pelco: VideoXpert

Features: VideoXpert adopts a modular approach and enables installers and integrators to build a system which meets the needs of a given application. Pelco set out to deliver a system which was intuitive and allowed the operator to logically access information and progress incidents without requiring training. Support for a six monitor video wall ensures operators can navigate the system with ease.

VideoXpert is a Windows-based system and is available as either a software-only product or as a server/recorder combination. The software-only product requires licenses for each block of cameras. It is available in three different versions.

Professional supports a single operator and a maximum of 256 video inputs. Enterprise supports unlimited video inputs and unlimited operators, and also gives the benefit of failover clustering.

Ultimate delivers the benefits of the Enterprise version, but with the addition of a unified database to allow the aggregation of numerous systems into a single control interface.

Recommended for: Pelco has focused heavily on the user interface of VideoXpert, and by using tabbed screens which become active when selected, it is also bandwidth friendly. As such, it is ideal for applications where security operators manage the system on a day-to-day basis.

Hanwha Techwin: Wave

Features: Scheduled to be launched just after the Buyers’ Guide was published, Wave from Hanwha Techwin is billed as delivering open platform video management aimed at mainstream surveillance-based security solutions.

The company has highlighted Wave’s ease of operation and configuration, using drag-and-drop layouts, virtual PTZ, motion detection and video analytics support plus a wide range of smart, keyword, calendar and time-slice search options.

Obviously, Hanwha Techwin remains primarily a hardware manufacturer, and so Wave offers deep integration with the company’s NVRs and cameras, including specific support for H.265 streaming,the Wisestream dynamic encoding function, IVA and sound classification, simple focus setting, hallway views and camera profile and image configuration management.

Wave enables use with the leading operating systems and can be deployed using desktop PCs, mobile devices, servers, low-powered embedded devices and a cloud-based service.

Other features include support for H.265, H.264 and M-JPEG streams, status monitoring and triggering from I/O devices and server health monitoring.

Bosch Security: Bosch VMS

Features: The Bosch Video Management System (VMS) has been designed to manage a wide range of new and legacy technologies, ranging from the analogue Allegiant matrix systems through to the latest UHD and intelligent video analysis technologies. The main focus is the management of Bosch devices. It does support other devices via ONVIF compatibility, but that can be limited.

The VMS is scalable: additional channels, workstations and system functionality can be implemented through licensing.

Alarms and events can be configured based upon device activations such as IVA, system and hardware events or can be scheduled.

The Bosch VMS is supplied as a single installer. Licensing does require use of an on-line authentication tool, but this works well and is trouble-free.

For many installers and integrators, one of the main benefits of any VMS is the ability to support best-of-breed devices; this is often done using ONVIF profiles. However, Bosch has somewhat marginalised it in the VMS. The real value of Bosch VMS comes from working with Bosch products.

Event and alarm handling makes use of ‘cause and effect’ programming. Events can be created by a number of resources including edge devices, NVRs and servers, system events, user actions, authentication issues, inputs and outputs, schedules, etc..

There are some interesting options, such as creating an event if images are too noisy.

The configuration menus make use of an expanding ‘tree’ type layout, and as such are simple to use.

Recommended for: Bosch VMS is open platform to a degree, but not as open as others. It is very much (and unashamedly) a Bosch tool. If you have a Bosch system, then this adds a good level of management for those who want to expand functionality beyond NVRs.

Avigilon: ACC

Features: ACC (Avigilon Control Center) is an open platform VMS which supports ONVIF compliant devices. However, increasingly ACC also allows installers and integrators to leverage some of the company’s proprietary features such as self-learning analytics, HDSM and Appearance Search, dependent upon licensing.

ACC is available in three versions. Core is a single server option supporting up to 24 cameras and 2 clients, and Standard is also a single server package supporting up to 48 devices and 5 clients.

Enterprise supports up to 100 servers with up to 300 cameras per server and unlimited client connections. It also supports HD Pro cameras and Appearance Search.

Standard and Enterprise versions of ACC support rules-based event management (21 rules and unlimited rules respectively).

Recommended for: Avigilon offers a high level of analytics and smart searching solutions and some of these proprietary technologies can only be accessed via ACC. This makes the VMS an essential system component for anyone who invests in these technologies.

Tyco: exacqVision

Features: exacqVision is an open platform VMS which delivers third-party compatibility for more than 3,300 devices. The VMS is available in four variants: Start, Professional, Enterprise and Edge. Start supports 16 devices and 1 client connection per server, Professional and Enterprise can manage 128 devices and 16 web client or 512 thin client connections per server. The Edge version runs the VMS on a camera and archiving is to an SD card.

Designed to be easy to install and configure, the VMS makes use of automatic detection and connection to cameras. The EasyConnect function automatically finds, assigns and addresses supported IP cameras.

The VMS allows integration with video analytics and business intelligence systems, as well as retail-based POS systems.

It supports bookmarking and flexible search functions, and video can be exported in either open formats or tamper-protected files with an integral viewer.

Recommended for: The exacqVision VMS offers a flexible and scalable system, and the Edge version allows the creation of truly distributed solutions where small or standalone sites need to be linked to a central control room for investigations or the collection of evidential data.

Axxonsoft: Axxon Next

Features: Axxon Next uses an open platform approach, with direct integrations for over 3,000 devices. Other third-party devices are supported via ONVIF. Video formats include H.265, H.264, M-JPEG, MPEG-4, MxPEG and Wavelets.

The VMS includes integral audio and video analytics; it also supports edge-based analytics. Alarms are managed by response-driven events and actions.

Features include edge storage management, 3D mapping, alarm search and bookmarking. Dependent upon licensing, the VMS also supports TimeCompressor and MomentQuest. TimeCompressor presents all moving objects within a defined time window in a single short synopsis video clip. MomentQuest is a search tool which can identify people or vehicles based upon facial recognition or ANPR data.

There are three versions: Start, Professional and Universe. Start is limited to a maximum of 64 devices. Both Professional and Universe include TimeCompressor, but only Universe includes MomentQuest.

Recommended for: Axxon Next includes features that many VMS packages offer as options, but it can lack some of the fine tuning they offer. As such, it is best suited to mainstream applications.

Macroscop: Macroscop

Features: Macroscop is a VMS created by the Russian company of the same name. Dependent upon the licence used, the software can support unlimited servers, and each server can manage up to 80 cameras. An unlimited number of workstations are also supported. Third-party compatibility is available for approximately 2,500 cameras; ONVIF Profile S devices can also be used.

Video formats include H.264, MPEG-4 and M-JPEG. Streams can be split into two versions: high-resolution for archiving and lower resolution for display.

The VMS includes integral motion detection and an ‘alert monitor’ to highlight incidents.

Macroscop is available with three licence variants: a single server application with up to 20 cameras and 2 workstations; up to 5 servers and a maximum of 400 cameras plus 10 workstations; unlimited cameras, servers and workstations. The latter also includes motion detection, face detection, left object, tracking, audio detection, suspect search, auto zoom and tamper detection modules as standard.

Recommended for: For the installer or integrator who is new to VMS, Macroscop represents a flexible and efficient product that is simple to install and configure. The software installation is fully automated and works well. The functionality on offer from Macroscop is surveillance-focused and is ideal for mainstream applications.

Aimetis: Symphony 7

Features: Symphony 7 is the latest incarnation of the Aimetis VMS. The software uses an open platform approach and includes three basic video analytics rules as standard: motion detection, tamper detection and signal loss.

Further analytics (ANPR, vehicle and people tracking, object left/removed, item detection, crowd detection and face recognition) can be added as integrations.

Symphony is available in three variants: Standard, Professional and Enterprise. The Standard package supports unlimited cameras, edge recording support, automated alarm responses, site maps, multiple streaming and use of mobile connectivity apps.

The Professional edition adds multi-server support, Microsoft Active Directory compatibility and integrations with third party systems, and the Enterprise edition further includes server and storage failover, video walls, mapping and network load balancing.

Worth noting: VMS packages can be sold anywhere as files can be sent via digital platforms. Aimetis doesn’t prioritise the UK and for some that will be an issue, given the number of VMS providers with UK teams. Aimetis is a part of Senstar, and is due to be merged into the parent company which does have a UK base. Benchmark contacted Senstar to clarify whether this will see a change of focus for the VMS but did not receive a response.

Wavestore: VMS 7

Features: Wavestore VMS 7 is an open platform software package which supports third party devices that are compliant with the ONVIF Profile S specification. The VMS is only compatible with Linux and this might limit some applications if the user is intent on using Windows servers as the platform.

There are arguments for Linux being more secure than Windows and in the past this was true in some applications. However, with developing threats attacking all platforms, cyber security still needs to be taken seriously. To this end, Wavestore includes a security firewall and integral hardening package with all versions of the VMS.

The VMS is available in three versions: Base, Premium and Enterprise. These support 24 devices and 1 client per server, 128 cameras and 5 clients per server and 255 cameras and unlimited clients per server, respectively.

The VMS has some nice video management touches such as fast retrieval of footage and three-click video export. It also supports third party integrations to deliver video into other systems. It can also support lip sync video which is important in some applications.

Recommended for: VMS 7 is constantly being evolved, and has increased functionality compared with previous versions. In some areas such as event management, it doesn’t quite match up to some of the other options.

VMS 7 is best considered where the main focus is on video management and awareness rather than event management and control.

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