For systems integrators, choosing the right partner for their video management software and systems (VMS) can be a daunting decision, as there’s a sea of VMS providers on the market, each promising the moon and the stars when it comes to having the right platform to meet every end user’s security needs.
Where the rubber hits the road for most integrators isn’t necessarily the bleeding edge of new AI-capable video analytic applications, advanced Cloud functionality or the ability for the VMS to control multiple subsystems for that PSIM-like environment at the hands of the security officer at the front desk.
While these attributes are certainly potential table stakes in the future, integrators can attest that today only the most progressive of buyers are actively looking for these types of functionalities.
What integrators need to offer are flexible and scalable platforms that provide existing pathways to AI, Cloud and comprehensive situational awareness, using an open architecture approach. This allows end users to add integrations that can have the most impact on their security and business operations and enables integrators to help their customers evolve at the client’s chosen pace and budget.
So how do you differentiate between the real players and those who just talk a good game? Let’s look at the top five things to demand from your VMS provider in 2022.
1. An Open Platform
Probably the top thing an integrator needs to determine is if a potential VMS provider has an open platform — one that is not proprietary in nature. When deciding between the vast array of providers out there, one of the key things to look for is an open architecture platform that allows integration with different cameras that may already exist on-site, while also being able to integrate new cameras onto the platform.
Essentially, you’re not locked into one type of camera, analytics package or access control system. With an open VMS platform, an integrator can build a “best of breed” solution for an end user that addresses their key requirements and needs.
The reality is, today, more and more video systems are being asked or required to do more than just store the video and spread that out to the different users. If an end user wants to trigger events and do intelligent, action-based management of what’s happening within their system, an open platform is really the best way to go.
Another key factor that is often overlooked with an open platform is it allows you to be more price competitive when adding systems or additional features to the VMS platform. For example, if there are two or three different contenders for a facial recognition analytic, there is an opportunity to drive that price down as opposed to a closed platform where there’s only one facial recognition solution available on that proprietary platform.
2. Scalability Helps Futureproof
Having a platform that allows an end user to quickly and easily scale their business and operations, whether that is increasing the number of cameras, sites, or both, is another key consideration for integrators. As their customer grows, it is important to have an easy path to migrate a system or expand a system without having to rip and replace the platform in its entirety.
When you’re looking at large-scale deployments, having the ability to scale and offer best-of-breed solutions is going to be a differentiator, and something that helps an integrator with that “stickiness factor.” Having a platform that allows for that kind of interoperability — to be able to change out components without having to replace the system — is something that would be valuable for an integrator when selecting a VMS.
Looking closer at scalability within a VMS platform, it is important to think beyond just supporting more cameras and more storage, to the overall impact from a configuration and maintenance perspective. So, for example, Salient’s CompleteView VMS is integrated with thousands of cameras, access control and analytics solutions, so an integrator can easily expand as that customer’s deployment grows.
Let’s say a customer adds a new facility that has a bunch of existing cameras that need to integrate into their VMS platform. An integrator is going to save time and money with an open platform that works well with other systems, both securely and easily. Look for a partner that can provide an overall system in terms of both hardware and software, as well as one that can be deployed on third-party hardware.
3. Remote Management Capabilities
Looking at how much COVID has changed the way companies do business today, remote management becomes as important a factor as any when it comes to deciding on the right VMS platform. Remote management capabilities become even more crucial when an integrator and end user are managing multiple sites that may grow in number over time.
For example, a customer who has a preference for deploying a VMS platform within their existing infrastructure, which may be maintained by IT, typically wants to create a fully virtualized environment that they can visualize and interact with from anywhere. So, it is not only laying that platform onto third-party hardware, but also deploying that in customer-provided virtualized environments as well.
What’s beneficial from a product standpoint for an integrator is the ability to remotely access, monitor and maintain the VMS platform. While there are several different ways to accomplish this, the Cloud is one option that supports remote access, remote monitoring and maintenance configuration — things that are really beneficial for an integrator.
Cloud-based services, including remote management, monitoring and maintenance of systems, also provide some additional RMR, or subscription-based revenue for an integrator. In addition, if an integrator needs to add more cameras, a technician can, potentially, add more camera licenses, do basic configuring and monitoring of cameras, as well as overall health management of those systems remotely.
While that still may require someone to roll a truck, a technician can save a lot of time assessing the problem knowing what is needed for the job and resolving the issue in the shortest time possible. And if you look at that across larger enterprise organizations, being able to remotely monitor many locations across one platform saves you from having to roll a truck to multiple sites, for example.
Cloud also helps to remotely monitor and push out software and other cybersecurity updates, resolve issues in real-time, and provide alerts and notifications to the proper departments or individuals in a timely manner.
4. Ability to Leverage Data
As a customer starts thinking about doing more with the video data that they have, the right VMS platform can help an integrator to provide meaningful operational and business insights. For example, once the metadata has been extracted and processed, it is vitally important to have a system that allows you to sort, search, visualize and leverage that data.
For integrators, video data is just underutilized, untapped Big Data, and the VMS is a data platform that can allow them, and more importantly, their customers, to generate unique security and business insights. When choosing a VMS, integrators need to look for an open platform that has a variety of interfaces for pulling in data.
For example, you want to choose a platform that can bring in events from not only cameras, but other third-party systems, and then use that to drive actions within the VMS, such as provide notifications. This also moves beyond security to enhancing event management — driving those actionable events within the customer’s deployment for operational efficiencies, better business outcomes, etc.
From a storage, processing and access perspective, an integrator should look for a platform that gives them control over the data and transparency. You can store your video data in someone’s Cloud, but if you don’t have your hands on it, if you don’t really own it, that can cause a lot of governance and compliance issues.
And that can also make it impossible, or very challenging to actually process that data to get deep insights. So, clearly understand the process for getting access to that data, as well as where that processing would take place and how it would play out.
5. Customer Support Essential
Last, but not least, one factor that is often overlooked by an integrator is the type of customer support and training a VMS partner can provide. An integrator and an end user need to count on their VMS provider when there’s an issue to resolve during the installation or deployment of a system. Having support to help identify deeper level issues and be responsive in resolving those matters in a timely fashion is vitally important.
Looking beyond product support and training, a VMS provider should be able to provide a product lifecycle guide, and support or guidance for older products as new ones are introduced. The right VMS provider can be a valued partner in helping integrators complete upgrades from one version to the next, a commonly cited pain point. And that involves having a regular cadence at which updates are going out, which is key.
For some customers, getting notified about an important, or necessary upcoming update allows them to know in advance what the upgrade involves and then plan accordingly, especially if they have to go through a certification process, get approvals, etc. This is a critical aspect of VMS platform management that can take up a lot of an integrator’s valuable time if they are not partnered with the right VMS provider.
Chris Garner is Senior Product Manager at Salient Systems.