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Integrated Systems

VMS versus CMS

Video Management Software (VMS) solutions are often considered to be high cost, in comparison to network recorders (NVRs). However, a VMS like Digifort, with a one-time-buy license structure; no annual maintenance fees; the option for a seven-year warranty on server hardware; the ability to transfer software to new servers after that; and the advanced functionality, system resilience, flexibility, scalability, and sheer capability offered, provides a better value option. Nick Bowden, Managing Director of Security Buying Group, supplying and supporting the Digifort VMS platform in the UK, explains the true economics of VMS solutions and their many advantages over NVRs.

An open platform VMS like Digifort works with over 10,000 individual camera models and 400 CCTV camera brands, all through SDK (software development kit) integration. SDK is the deepest and most capable type of integration, enabling control of important camera features, essential for mission critical projects. These can include PTZ lights, edge recording, edge analytics, telemetry, wash and wipe, auxiliaries and many more. Analogue cameras can also be incorporated into the VMS systems using ‘encoders’, again integrated by SDK, along with many brands of NVR, DVR, input-output units, media servers and video servers.

A manufacturer’s CMS software is often free, setting the expectation that a VMS should also be free. However, a CMS is designed to control its own hardware as a priority, which is often a small range of NVRs, DVRs, and cameras. In larger systems, where a range of camera brands is often required, these will usually be integrated using ONVIF. This is a generic standard enabling only limited functionality.

Re-using legacy equipment

Relying on ONVIF integration is too limiting a strategy for large CCTV deployments. The flexibility to reuse legacy equipment and add new brands and technologies in future is always important. Deploying a VMS like Digifort, with wide SDK integration, not only gives this flexibility – reusing existing site cameras to reduce camera obsolescence, but it also allows budgets to be spread over several years, as old equipment is phased out for new. Unlike a CMS, Digifort will not lock the end user into a single brand.

IT infrastructure

A VMS like Digifort has a distributed IT architecture. Servers are used for video processing, connected to cameras via a network. By comparison, a CMS usually controls multiple NVRs – not the cameras directly. It is worth noting that Digifort has the flexibility to control NVRs like a CMS but can also operate multiple brands to allow the coordination of a varied, NVR estate from multiple suppliers.

VMS servers offer RAID as standard, thus preventing data loss and providing data protection compliance. Further resilience comes in the form of server failover, mitigating server or network failure, essential for high security, mission-critical applications. VMS servers offer intrinsic safeguards too, such as alerts, warnings, and messages if faults are detected in any of the server, OS, or storage drives, predicting and often preventing failure. Also, server solutions use up less hardware, per camera, reducing power consumption, rack space and air conditioning requirements (in an IT room) and their replacement, maintenance and support costs are less because they are so reliable.


VMS systems offer incredible scalability – expanding camera channel numbers and increasing functionality. VMS systems do not need to expand in eight, 16 or 32 channel “blocks” like NVRs, so only the channels needed are paid for. When more processing power is required, servers are added without affecting live operation. More than 100 Full HD cameras can be processed per server, with a combined frame rate exceeding 2,500 FPS and bit rate exceeding 1Gbps. This is far beyond the capability of most NVRs.

Added value

Digifort has many software modules for adding additional functionality to the system, without redundancy, such as LPR, analytics and facial recognition. The intelligence this brings to the system adds incredible value. It gives a vital insight into human behaviour and risk, such as triggering alarms from people counting, footfall, loitering and dwell times; recognising objects like guns, PPE, and fire; and identifying unwanted visitors. Human tasks may be automated, such as opening gates and barriers with LPR. Motion, trip wires, loitering and wrong direction, plus much more, can help site management and security. Huge value and accuracy are added to the system – the options are endless.

VMS and NVR pricing comparison

Using an example of a 100 channel, 2MP camera system continuously recording at 13FPS (frames per second), expanding to 200 channels after three years. Digifort would be deployed on a single 2U server with 64TB. After three years, when the system grows to 200ch, the server warranty may be extended by a further four years and a second server of 100ch added. As each server reaches end of warranty, the Digifort software can be re-loaded onto the new servers, if required. Digifort has the option to use RAID 5, where the HDDs can be hot swapped if one fails, without losing data. The server OS can run on mirrored SSDs, for continuous operation, if one fails. Should additional resilience be required, a failover server can be added. Client viewing can be from an unlimited number of PCs, tablets and smartphones and the hierarchy of users can be infinite.

The NVR equivalent would require 6x 16ch NVRs and an 8ch NVR – at 1U or 2U each. Control would be via the CMS. The warranty is usually three years, sometimes five years, after which the system is replaced. When expanding to 200ch, a further six 16 channel NVRs and an eight channel NVR would be added and the cameras would probably have to be from the same manufacturer or else integrated by ONVIF. The CMS for the new NVRs may not be compatible with the old NVRs and RAID or failover options would be unusual. Viewing clients are limited and the hierarchy of users is often just five levels.

Hopefully, this article provides integrators and end-users with some insight into the greater value and flexibility offered by VMS solutions like Digifort.


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