A User's Guide to Digital Video Surveillance

All DVRs are Not Alike


DVR's are not all alike. In fact, many are as dislike as automobiles. In the world of DVR's you can find the equivalent of a $10,000 Kia and a $100,000 Mercedes Benz plus everything in between. Both may be capable of getting you from point “A” to point “B” but that's where the similarities often end.

Using the vehicle analogy, if you buy a light weight truck it may be a fine vehicle for hauling small loads. But, if you load it up with 10,000 pounds of cargo and drive up and down hills all day you shouldn't expect a very long useful life out of the transmission or engine. It's not that it's a poor product, rather that's not what it was designed to do. Not unlike exotic and sophisticated foreign cars, many DVR's can be just as complex and temperamental.

Every ounce of computing power is critical. Digital video recording is a process intensive, multi-tasking application which can tax even the most robust systems. Along with processing power, a good DVR depends on equally robust related parts and assemblies. The famous saying in information technology is “you are only as fast and efficient as your slowest and weakest component.” If your system is not beefed up from end-to-end, from hardware to software, it will be underpowered, will under perform and it's going to break. Even worse, it simply will not deliver any reasonable quality or cause instability from the outset and probably never meet gaming requirements. I would not want to be the one that approved the purchase of a system that was just installed to only find out gaming has rejected it.

Unfortunately, there's no official consumer's guide to DVR's. It's difficult at best for most buyers to evaluate products on a fair comparison, or to even know; what are reasonable expectations.

Hobby and consumer class products often parade as commercial and business grade. Don't be fooled. You can buy a blender for your home for $25.00 but it is not the same as the $500.00 model at your local bar which may be responsible for making hundreds of perfect daiquiris and Margaritas every night, day-after-day.

Remember, surveillance you are either monitoring or recording 24/7 so that $25 blender equivalent won't do the job for very long, if at all. Components become even more of an issue as you get into the large casino systems. Caveat emptor – let the buyer beware – all DVR's are not alike.

For buyers who do not have a lot of experience with DVR's, separating the quality from junk can be a daunting task. Often salesmen and brochures will conveniently fail to mention the things that their system won’t do. Often the buyer doesn't realize it until:

  • The quality of the recorded video is poor under normal operating conditions.
  • There is no ability to playback video in slow motion without distortion and choppiness.
  • When you move the PTZ, the recorded video is blurry or blocky.
  • You never looked at the video remotely over the network before you bought it and now you realize the remote video quality is sub-par at best.

  • The recording and display speeds are not as promised.
  • The number of days of storage is far less than specified.
  • When you blow-up the video to full screen, the image is fuzzy.
  • When you playback recorded video and freeze frames you see double.
  • The DVR overheats itself as well as the room.
  • The noise created by the system is deafening.
  • The DVR’s are unstable and continue to reboot or shut down unexpectedly.
  • You just decided to expand and purchased additional systems from the same company and they don't work with the old ones because the software or hardware is not compatible since they have no longer use the same supplier or technology platform.
  • You can't practically control the DVR remotely from a workstation, as the way you thought it would operate.

  • There is no way to burn disks of multiple cameras from different DVR’s on a single disk.
  • There is no way to synchronize playback video from multiple DVR’s on a workstation.
  • The networked video at the workstation is not real-time because its bandwidth intensive.
  • Certain functions only work under limited or ideal conditions and render other features inoperable.
  • There is no one – (at least locally) - to support the product that is technical
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