Nine tips for selecting the best VMS for the job

Copenhagen, Denmark

When it comes to security projects, video management software only accounts for around 10% of the total costs. That said, the choice of VMS can have a big impact on what is spent on hardware (e.g., cameras, servers), other software (e.g., access control systems, third-party analytics) and recurring maintenance fees. 

With that in mind, below are nine factors suggested by Milestone Systems to help select the best VMS for the job.

1. Project size

The considerations when thinking about project size include for example, how many physical locations there are and how many security cameras will be required per site. For a single site or a multisite project with up to 100 cameras video surveillance as a service (VSaaS) could be a consideration. The benefits of VSaaS include lower up-front costs and less configuration work.

Once the 100-camera threshold is surpassed, then, according to Milestone Systems, VSaaS usually becomes infeasible due to the required bandwidth and storage cost, but a professional integrator will be able to offer advice on this.

A further consideration is whether to select a cloud-managed VMS over VSaaS. While both VSaaS and cloud-managed VMS involve cloud-based elements in video surveillance, VSaaS is often more of a comprehensive service offering — including hardware, software and cloud storage — whereas cloud-managed VMS is primarily software managed through the cloud but deployed on-premises or on edge devices. Like VSaaS though, depending on the size of your project, cloud-managed VMS can quickly become too expensive in terms of service costs.

For larger projects there are quite a few VMS providers that can support hundreds of cameras across multiple sites. However, into the realm of 1,000+ cameras viable options become much more limited. 

2. Network stability

Network instability can lead to dropped frames, latency or buffering, resulting in degraded video quality and missing events. So naturally, the stability (or instability) of the network has several important implications. The larger the project, the more it makes sense to look for features that will minimize network load and reduce network costs. 

A prerequisite for choosing VSaaS is a stable network, and this option is increasingly popular among retailers. For many organisations however, operating in the cloud is still a no-go if they’re in a high-risk, highly regulated sector such as law enforcement or critical infrastructure. 

For large projects with many devices per site, a “federated” system works well if the network is stable. Federated architecture is common within sectors like critical infrastructure where centrally monitoring and managing remote sites is the norm. For example, some utility sites are unmanned on a day-to-day basis, and so remote monitoring is crucial to alert a core team to, say, a leak in a water supply system.

In a case where there are multiple sites, but network connection is not reliable then a VMS that will connect your sites will be required, but it should still let them function independently whenever a connection is lost.

3. Video quality

There will be considerations for frame rate, resolution and whether video footage is to be constantly recorded or only recorded based on specific events. The more cameras in the system, the more hours per day they are recording for and the longer the storage retention time, the more efficient VMS and recording servers will be required. How many cameras each recording server can support has a lot to do with streaming quality, as well as whether analytics are required on the server.

  • The more cameras there are and the higher the video quality needs, the more the need for a VMS with efficient recording servers.
  • The higher the streaming quality needs, the more a VMS with adaptive streaming can reduce the load on the network.
  • For very high-resolution video streaming, a VMS that supports H.265 video compression will be required. But for most video quality demands, H.264 compression will suffice.
  • Regardless of video compression choice, a VMS that supports hardware acceleration can improve performance and lower power consumption.

4. Analytics

The choice of VMS is largely dictated by the size of the project, another significant factor is the type of analytics needed, for example a basic form of analytics is line crossing. 

  • For basic camera-side analytics the hardware requirements of VMS alternatives is less of a consideration.
  • Where cameras are already installed from different manufacturers, then the VMS needs to be device-agnostic.
  •  For more heavy-duty analytics, compare the storage, RAM and processor requirements specified by the VMS alternatives being considered.
  • If integration with third-party analytics is needed then the feasibility should be checked and whether there are could be any integration fees charged by the VMS provider.

5. “Ease” versus customisation

According to Milestone Systems, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to preferring ease over customisation, or vice versa. On the one hand, ease of use can speed up implementation, reduce training costs and decrease human error. On the other hand, anything complex — including software — that used every workday will eventually become easy to use. Moreover, while installation and initial training will require more resources, the benefit is more long-term flexibility.

When legacy hardware is to be used then the company suggests having a device-agnostic choice in the future, and if mix and match integrations are on option, then an open-platform VMS is recommended as the better strategy.

6. Technical support

A VMS is only part of a larger security setup. As such, most customers rely on their system integrators to handle support cases directly with the VMS provider. This makes sense considering that the integrator will have a holistic overview of whether the cause of a problem stems from the VMS, or whether it’s a network or hardware issue.

Reputable VMS providers will have a strong network of resellers/system integrators who are familiar with their products and services. They will also have a standard service level agreement (SLA) with these local partners. If getting support via the system integrator sounds like a good option, then Milestone stresses that users should beware that this needs to be included in the SLA with them. Buying the VMS does not automatically entitle the user to service from the organisation that they purchased the system from.

Also for projects in a high-risk sector where every second of downtime makes a big difference, a VMS provider that offers 24/7 direct technical support should be a key consideration.

7. Cyber security

One of the more fundamental cyber security features to look for in a VMS is central password management for video cameras. Many camera manufacturers ship devices with a default admin password that can be easily found in online documentation. Failure to update the security settings on even a single camera can potentially leave the entire system vulnerable. An ideal VMS will automatically set a new admin password on any connected devices. Security operators do not even have to know the password, meaning it’s not necessary to constantly change passwords whenever there’s a personnel change.

Additionally, choosing a VMS provider with a dedicated incident response team and a history of frequent patches and updates can help to reduce risk of cyber-attacks.

8. Pricing

When it comes to licensing models, VSaaS involves a recurring license fee whereas on-premises VMS providers often provide a perpetual license. This means that you own the software indefinitely, although there are some caveats. But a perpetual license won’t necessarily include access to software maintenance (i.e., updates and/or technical support).

If a significant amount of hardware is already in use, then an open-platform VMS will lower the costs of getting the project started. If the VMS does not charge extra for third-party integrations, this can help to lower recurring costs.

On the other hand, if there is little hardware at the outset and the organisation prefers ease over customisation, a closed VMS could be the best bet. It will be more expensive in the short term but potentially save on training costs in the long term.

9. Vendor reputation

According to Milestone Systems, most VMS projects are won by smaller vendors who operate in a limited geographic area. This is usually because, firstly, most security projects are on the smaller side, for example, less than 50 security cameras and, secondly, the projects are for customers who operate on a smaller scale and thus only need the basics of security monitoring.

The larger, higher-risk projects are often won by global VMS providers that have a decades-long track record of security solutions.

However, whether a project is small or large, public and/or privately run, gauging the reputation of a VMS provider is increasingly possible on both official and unofficial customer review sites.

Future proofing needs

Choosing a VMS for business or operations is not a decision to take lightly. Milestone Systems recommends considering the above factors to make sure of securing the best VMS possible for the project today and that will serve for many years to come. Finally, when evaluating VMS options, finding a solution that meets the needs of today while also being adaptable to changing requirements over time is also an essential point of focus.


Product Suppliers
Back to top