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Translating Tech-Speak: A Beginner’s Glossary

Confused by what your IT department is telling you? These definitions should help.

Every industry has its own jargon and the IT and video surveillance industries are no different. But cracking the code to that secret language isn’t all that difficult. The following glossary explains many commonly used technical terms. Once you understand these words, you’ll be well on your way to becoming fluent in tech-speak. For easy reference, the terms are listed in alphabetic order.

The cloud provides a way to share processing resources and data to computers and other devices via the Internet. It enables authorized users on-demand access to a shared pool of configurable resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications and services) that are not on campus.

Cloud computing is the delivery mechanism for software-asa- service (see SaaS below) leveraging applications that are centrally stored at an offsite location and shared across multiple customers. In the case of video-surveillance-as-a-service (see VSaaS below), the recording platform would be shared across multiple customers with their data being securely stored off premises.

Compression technologies reduce and remove redundant video data to make the digital file smaller so it can be effectively sent over a network and stored on computer disks. Efficient compression does this with little or no adverse effect on visual quality.

The most common compression technique used in the video surveillance industry is H.264 with MJPEG holding second place. The vast majority of video management systems’ (see VMS below) manufacturers support both. There are still some proprietary video compression techniques used in DVRs, but most have moved to open standards. On the immediate horizon is H.265, which will replace H.264 within the next two to three years as the dominant compression standard.

DBMS (Database Management System) is a computer software application that interacts with the user, other applications and the database itself to capture and analyze data. A general- purpose DBMS is designed to allow the definition, creation, querying, update and administration of databases. When using a VMS to search for and retrieve recordings, you are using a DBMS.

DVR (Digital Video Recorder) is a video recording device that is connected to a network but receives uncompressed, analog video from the camera via legacy coaxial cabling. A video capture card embedded in the DVR encodes and processes the transmitted video, which is then stored on the disk drive. This differs from a Network Video Recorder (see NVR below) where video is encoded and processed in the camera, then streamed to the NVR for storage or remote viewing. In most cases, DVRs are used with analog cameras and are being phased out as these cameras are replaced by IP-addressable network cameras.

An Edge Device provides an entry point into the enterprise’s or service provider’s core networks. Examples include routers, routing switches, integrated access devices (IADs), multiplexers, and a variety of metropolitan area network (MAN) and wide area network (WAN) access devices. Edge devices also provide connections into carrier and service provider networks.

In the physical security world, edge devices are standalone units that serve a specific purpose and deliver functionality that is used by the security practitioner. For example, cameras reside on the edge of the network and provide video for viewing and remote verification.

Hardware is the collection of physical components or objects that constitutes a computer system such as the monitor, keyboard, computer data storage, hard disk drive (HDD), graphic cards, sound cards, memory (RAM), motherboard, etc. Some common products that are considered hardware would be DVRs, servers (see below) and client-side computers. The term “hardware” can also refer to edge-based physical devices such as cameras.

Hosting is a more commonly used term for software-as-a-service or cloud computing and is primarily used to describe companies that provide video-surveillance-as-a-service. They are “hosting” the application that customers use to record their video instead of the customer taking on the responsibility for maintaining the system in-house. The latter is referred to as on-premises hosting, sometimes abbreviated as “on-prem.” It’s installed and runs on computers on the premises (in the building or on the campus) of the person or organization using the software, rather than at a remote facility such as a server farm or in the cloud. On-premises software is sometimes referred to as “shrink-wrap” software.

SaaS and on-premises are opposite sides of the coin. In SaaS, the host provider maintains system health, troubleshooting, debugging, updating, etc. remotely through a secure Internet connection. In an on-premises operation, the customer purchases the hardware and the software required to run the system and maintains the system themselves. If you own your own VMS and servers, you are operating an on-premises solution.

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