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Maintaining Sanity While Shopping for DVRs

March 1, 2007

4 Min Read
Maintaining Sanity While Shopping for DVRs

"If we couldn't laugh, we would all go insane."
~Jimmy Buffet

In the world of digital video recording of surveillance cameras, Jimmy Buffets lyrics couldnt ring truer. Gone are yesteryears multiplexers, VCRs and composite monitors. Today, we are more concerned with resolution, frame rates, compression algorithms, bandwidth requirements and more. While the options are perplexing, the selection of digital video recorders (DVRs) is limited to embedded or PC-based DVRs.

Both types use CCTV cameras to record to a hard drive instead of tape, similar to traditional VHS systems. Both are available in different camera input arrays (typically four, eight, nine or 16) and offer new advanced features. Several differences between the systems should be analyzed in the decision-making process. A brief lesson on embedded and PC-based DVRs, and the differences between the two, will help you maintain your sanity during the shopping process.

Embedded DVRs

Previously known as stripped down, embedded DVR operating systems are inlayed on a chipset, which is an integral part of the internal circuit board. In other words, you cant access it directly to make programming changes. Embedded DVRs previously offered only basic functions, making them cost-sensitive solutions for digital recording needs.

Originally, embedded models were similar to VCRs and multiplexerswith front-panel, push-button controls and drill-down menus for setting recording parameters. Now systems have many of the same functions as PC-based system including motion recording, selectable frame rates, USB connections and CD-ROM drives for offloading video, as well as Ethernet connections for remote connectivity.

PC-Based DVRs

Most PC-based DVRs use Windows XP operating systems. Video-capture boards, essential for recording, are placed within the machine. PC-based systems usually have bigger and faster processors then embedded ones, offering more features as well as intuitive programming.

Although PC-based DVRs resemble desktop workstations, theyre dedicated recording devices. If you exit the DVR program to run Windows, you cant record. Few manufacturers offer virus protection on DVRs, so make sure you are armed with anti-virus software, especially because virus damage is rarely covered under warranty.

Decisions, Decisions

As technology has improved, the differences between embedded and PC-based DVRs have narrowed. Like PC-based systems, embedded models now have motion search, file book-marking, remote access, advanced compression algorithms, as well as resolution settings. Its no longer a matter of features but which type of DVR will be most effective for your applications.

The first consideration is facility size and plans for future expansion. If you wont be adding more cameras to your site, an embedded or a PC-based system will be fine. If you plan to expand, go with a PC-based system; youll appreciate the options for increasing video inputs and storage capacity.

Also determine how long youll be working with the DVR. If you plan on analyzing recordings daily, you might want a PC-based unit because theyre usually more user-friendly. If you think youll only view recordings when there is an incident, an embedded DVR might be the best choice.

Most DVRs can store recordings for 30 days but may compromise resolution and frame settings to do so. Because of design limitations, embedded models tend to have less storage capacity. You should compare models side by side, evaluating their frame rates, recording modes and resolution pertaining to storage capacity. Only this way can you achieve a true comparison.

Whos in Control?

A DVR is only as good as the person running it. At the very least, you need to know how to retrieve video. If youre uncomfortable with computers but can handle VCRs and DVD players, give serious consideration to an embedded DVR. On the other hand, if youre proficient with computers, you might prefer a PC-based unit.

Lastly, to ease through the decision-making process, turn to a security professional for help. Most states require licensed professionals to install video security and other low-voltage equipment. To attain a license, these professionals usually have passed background checks and rigorous exams assuring they are knowledgeable and skilled.

Making an educated decision about DVRs will give you peace of mind, knowing you are ultimately improving video security to protect your facility and clients. 

Jon Mitchell is marketing manager for Crest Electronics Inc. Established in 1974, Crest offers a complete line of CCTV equipment including the latest in embedded and PC-based DVRs. For more information, call 888-50-CREST; e-mail [email protected]

For more information about self-storage security, check out "Security: Choosing Tools, Protecting Your Investment," a 32-page e-book available through the Self-Storage Training Insititute. Click here for more info!


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