A User's Guide to Digital Video Surveillance

Common DVR Myths


Many people have the misconception that a PC-Based DVR is merely a PC with video capture (encoder) cards, display (decoder) cards and some off-the-shelf software. This explains the presence of hundreds of DVR and security companies that have literally sprung up overnight.

While these companies may hold themselves out to be “manufacturers” and security specialists - beware - few can deliver what they promise. In later chapters, we will discuss some of the “sleight of hands” to throw the unknowing off the track- in the quest of anything to make a sale.

At a recent security industry trade show we attended there were hundreds of exhibitor booths with DVR's on display. In fact, it was difficult to find a booth without one. Many possessed attractive literature and some phenomenal marketing claims. However, many were unable to provide a live demonstration of their equipment and just limited it to a “canned” and “controlled” demonstration. Others, when trying to show the features listed in their sales brochures upon specific request, experienced problems.

A true DVR, meant for security, is a sophisticated system composed of specialized hardware, software and sub-assemblies with built-in checks and balances. It all must work in unison to create a robust and reliable solution.  There is no margin for error. Down-time costs money.

Building a DVR surveillance system requires a dedicated team of software and hardware engineers, programmers and system designers, plus support personnel. They take years to develop and go through extensive testing.

So when a salesman tells you how their company manufactures the product and is doing all these wonderful things and it’s a 2 or 3 person organization, well let’s just say it sounds a little hard to digest.

The fact is the majority of even the household names in the security business are ill equipped to manage the task. The obvious question is what seems to be the problem?

The obstacle for security companies is the mere fact that digital surveillance is an “IT” business. Information Technology is a world away from the culture that has been developed by these security companies, over decades. It is no longer analog cameras plugged into a VCR; rather, it’s IP, networking, fiber infrastructure, data management, encryption, security, firewalls, routers, bandwidth issues, etc.

It’s a completely different business and architecture that not in any way resembles the legacy analog technology. It requires different personnel, different skill sets, different cultures, etc. It’s the Flintstones© trying to operate in the Jetsons© age.

This may account for why 90% of the product peddled by the major security companies is nothing but private label solutions, to some extent, using third party technology. This explains the myriad of installation debacles prevalent over the last few years. When a problem arises, the reliance to resolve issues goes back to the true suppliers, which in many cases are half a world away in a foreign language.

This conundrum holds true on both sides of the fence. The surveillance buyer is ill equipped to understand the nuances and what expectations they should have. They are relying on the manufacturers to provide them with the appropriate information. Unfortunately, if the information is incorrect, how are you supposed to know?

Even professionals are confused as to what is and is not possible; what is and is not acceptable; what is coming down the road; and what technologies accomplish the goals required.

The amusing thing is sales people, installers and others from the old school are used to half day courses on learning a security product and often figure… ok, I will take a half day course in networking and PC’s and learn this stuff. It is much to their chagrin when they find out people attend school for years, just to learn the basics of IT.


When people approach us and ask can you teach me the basics in a morning session, my response is usually no problem and in the afternoon we can follow that up with a half day session on performing brain surgery.

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