Your VMS Solution Needs These 5 Features

There’s no shortage of VMS solutions on the market that manage video feeds, recording, and storage. Here’s how to determine which one is right for your campus.

Your VMS Solution Needs These 5 Features

Image courtesy Salient Systems

Choosing the right video management software and systems (VMS) can be a daunting decision, as there’s a sea of VMS providers on the market, each promising the moon and the stars when it comes to having the right platform to meet your needs.

Where the rubber hits the road for most campuses isn’t necessarily the bleeding edge of new AI-capable video analytic applications, advanced cloud functionality, or the ability for the VMS to control multiple subsystems for that PSIM-like environment at the hands of the security officer at the front desk.

While these attributes are certainly potential table stakes in the future, only the most progressive of schools, institutions of higher education, and healthcare facilities are actively looking for these types of functionalities.

What most need are flexible and scalable platforms that provide existing pathways to artificial intelligence (AI), cloud, and comprehensive situational awareness, using an open architecture approach. This allows campuses to add integrations that can have the most impact on their security and business operations and evolve at the right pace and budget.

So how do you differentiate between the real players and those who just talk a good game? Let’s look at the top five things to demand from your VMS provider in 2022.

1. An Open Platform

Probably the top thing a campus needs to determine is if a potential VMS provider has an open platform — one that is not proprietary in nature. When deciding between the vast array of providers out there, one of the key things to look for is an open architecture platform that allows integration with different cameras that may already exist on-site, while also being able to integrate new cameras onto the platform.

Essentially, you’re not locked into one type of camera, analytics package, or access control system. With an open VMS platform, an integrator can build a “best of breed” solution that addresses your campus’ key requirements and needs.

The reality is, today, more and more video systems are being asked or required to do more than just store the video and spread that out to the different users. If you want to trigger events and do intelligent, action-based management of what’s happening within you system, an open platform is really the best way to go.

Another key factor that is often overlooked with an open platform is price. For example, if there are two or three different contenders for a facial recognition analytic, there is an opportunity for your integrator to drive that price down as opposed to a closed platform where there’s only one facial recognition solution available on that proprietary platform.

2. VMS Scalability Helps Futureproof

Having a platform that allows your organization to quickly and easily scale its business and operations — whether that is increasing the number of cameras, sites, or both — is another key consideration. As the organization grows, it is important to have an easy path to migrate a system or expand a system without having to rip and replace the platform in its entirety.

Looking closer at scalability within a VMS platform, it is important to think beyond just supporting more cameras and more storage, to the overall impact from a configuration and maintenance perspective.

Let’s say your campus adds a new facility that has a bunch of existing cameras that need to integrate into your VMS platform. Your integrator is going to save time and money with an open platform that works well with other systems, both securely and easily. Look for a partner that can provide an overall system in terms of both hardware and software, as well as one that can be deployed on third-party hardware.

3. Remote Management Capabilities

Looking at how much COVID has changed the way organizations do business today, remote management becomes as important a factor as any when it comes to deciding on the right VMS platform. Remote management capabilities become even more crucial when a campus is managing multiple sites that may grow in number over time.

For example, an end user who has a preference for deploying a VMS platform within their existing infrastructure, which may be maintained by IT, typically wants to create a fully virtualized environment that they can visualize and interact with from anywhere. So, it is not only laying that platform onto third-party hardware, but also deploying that in virtualized environments as well.

What’s beneficial from a product standpoint is the ability to remotely access, monitor, and maintain the VMS platform. While there are several different ways to accomplish this, the cloud is one option that supports remote access, remote monitoring, and maintenance configuration.

Cloud-based services, including remote management, monitoring and maintenance of systems, also enable an integrator to add more cameras,  add more camera licenses, do basic configuring and monitoring of cameras, as well as manage overall health of those systems remotely.

While that still may require a campus to call for an in-person visit from its integrator,  a technician can save a lot of time assessing the problem, knowing what is needed for the job and resolving the issue in the shortest time possible. And if you look at that across larger enterprise organizations, being able to remotely monitor many locations across one platform saves a campus from having to call an integrator for multiple site visits.

The cloud also helps to remotely monitor and push out software and other cybersecurity updates, resolve issues in real-time, and provide alerts and notifications to the proper departments or individuals in a timely manner.

4. Ability to Leverage Data

As your organization starts thinking about doing more with the video data you have, the right VMS platform can provide meaningful operational and business insights. For example, once the metadata has been extracted and processed, it is vitally important to have a system that allows you to sort, search, visualize, and leverage that data.

Video data is underutilized, untapped Big Data, and the VMS is a data platform that can allow a campus to generate unique security and business insights. When choosing a VMS, look for an open platform that has a variety of interfaces for pulling in data.

For example, you want to choose a platform that can bring in events from not only cameras, but other third-party systems, and then use that to drive actions within the VMS, such as provide notifications. This also moves beyond security to enhancing event management — driving those actionable events for operational efficiencies, better business outcomes, etc.

From a storage, processing, and access perspective, look for a platform that gives your organization control over the data and transparency. You can store your video data in someone’s cloud, but if you don’t have your hands on it, if you don’t really own it, that can cause a lot of governance and compliance issues.

And that can also make it impossible, or very challenging to actually process that data to get deep insights. So, clearly understand the process for getting access to that data, as well as where that processing would take place and how it would play out.

5. Customer Support

Last, but not least, one factor that is often overlooked is the type of customer support and training a VMS partner can provide. An end user needs to count on their VMS provider when there’s an issue to resolve during the installation or deployment of a system. Having support to help identify deeper issues and be responsive in resolving those matters in a timely fashion is vitally important.

Looking beyond product support and training, a VMS provider should be able to provide a product lifecycle guide, and support or guidance for older products as new ones are introduced. The right VMS provider can be a valued partner in helping campuses and their integrators complete upgrades from one version to the next, a commonly cited pain point. And that involves having a regular cadence at which updates are going out, which is key.

For some organizations, getting notified about an important or necessary upcoming update allows them to know in advance what the upgrade involves and then plan accordingly, especially if they have to go through a certification process, get approvals, etc. This is a critical aspect of VMS platform management that can take up a lot of valuable time if they are not partnered with the right VMS provider.

Chris Garner is Senior Product Manager at Salient Systems. This article originally appeared in CS sister publication, Security Sales & Integration and had been edited.

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