What is Cloud NVR? The Benefits of a Cloud-Based Security Camera System

August 05, 2021

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Key Takeaways

Cloud network video recorders (NVR) combine the best qualities of cloud computing with traditional NVRs to create a flexible, highly scalable video surveillance system. In this guide, learn how cloud NVR systems work and why you don’t need to replace your existing camera infrastructure to use one.

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Video security and monitoring is currently experiencing a global boom. Did you know that there will be 85 million security cameras in the U.S. by 2021, an increase of 15 million in just two years? 

As organizations seek to tighten security and increase visibility across operations, demand for camera security systems has prompted technological advancements. Aside from higher-quality cameras, another area that’s evolved is network video recorders (NVRs). In particular, cloud NVR has been welcomed as an alternative to traditional recording and storage systems due to the cloud’s flexibility, remote access functionality, and minimal network maintenance. 

This guide will explain what a cloud NVR system is, its benefits, and the features you should look for in a provider. Read on to learn more.

What is cloud NVR? How does it work?

Before we talk about cloud NVRs, it’s best to start with the basics of what an NVR is and what it does. An NVR is a computer system that records and stores video footage on a hard disk, a mass storage device, or cloud storage. NVRs connect with digital cameras, also called internet protocol (IP) cameras, to create a surveillance system. 

NVRs have no camera capabilities themselves and don’t process video. They receive a camera’s footage through a network data connection, typically via an Ethernet cable. With Power over Ethernet (PoE) cameras, the Ethernet cable does double-duty by providing power to the camera and transferring data to the NVR. A number of cameras—anywhere from one to as many as 25, typically—can connect to a single NVR unit, creating a security camera system.

What makes cloud NVRs different?

Not all NVRs are cloud NVRs. Traditional NVRs usually store their data on a hard drive. Cloud NVRs store their data remotely in cloud storage through an internet connection. Instead of a physical NVR device, cameras plug into an edge gateway device, reducing bandwidth needs. Cloud NVRs offer all the traditional benefits of cloud services, including managed infrastructure maintenance for IT teams, customizable applications, regular updates with the most up-to-date technology, and remote access from anywhere 24/7.

From DVR to traditional NVR, and now cloud NVR

Video surveillance has come a long way since the days of grainy CCTV footage, where you could barely make out what was happening. Before cloud NVRs, there were digital video recorders (DVRs).

DVRs—the same technology used for recording and playing back TV shows—are wired systems that connect to analog cameras. While still used today for some security systems, they’re considered outdated technology because many DVRs use coaxial cables and don’t support remote viewing. DVR systems are also less flexible because analog cameras need two connections—one for power and one for data—which limits camera placement. (That’s why PoE/IP cameras are handy; they only require one cable.)

Then came traditional NVR systems, which were a step up from DVRs. The cameras were better, and the connection was better. However, there are still some problems with traditional NVR systems. For one, traditional NVRs store footage on hard disks instead of cloud storage. If you manage multiple sites, each one will need its own NVR. And while some traditional (or “on-premise”) NVRs  allow you to access footage remotely, it may require logging into your network via a virtual private network (VPN) to view streams. 

By contrast, cloud NVRs make it possible to gain remote access to footage without a VPN. Simply log into a cloud-based dashboard, and your camera streams are available for monitoring.

What are the benefits of a cloud-based security camera system?

Cloud-based NVRs have several distinct advantages over DVRs and traditional NVRs. Benefits include:

Low maintenance

With DVRs and traditional NVRs, you need to maintain hard drives, servers, cables, and more. IT teams also need to maintain software upgrades. Cloud NVRs eliminate the need to maintain and update software; IT only needs to manage cameras. 

Remote access 

Built on legacy technology, DVRs do not allow remote access to footage. Traditional NVRs may offer remote access capabilities, but often only through a VPN. With a cloud NVR, you can access your camera streams and videos anywhere, anytime, from any device.

Cost-effective 

Both traditional NVRs and DVRs require a high upfront cost for installation, setup, and storage capacity—and then there are ongoing maintenance costs. There are lower implementation costs and very little maintenance for IT with cloud-based services, making it cost-efficient in the long run.

Scalability

Both DVRs and traditional NVR security solutions are difficult to scale. They require a complex infrastructure to maintain and run the risk of failure if a hard drive crashes. Additionally, you can’t upgrade to higher-quality IP cameras with a DVR system because it will only work with analog cameras. Cloud NVRs allow you to expand to more cameras or multiple sites quickly due to a flexible cloud architecture. 

DVR

Traditional NVR

Cloud NVR

Camera type

Analog cameras

IP/PoE cameras

IP/PoE cameras

Resolution

Limited resolution (720 x 480 pixels max)

Resolutions range from 1.3 to 5 megapixels

Resolutions range from 1.3 to 5 megapixels

Cable

2 cables for analog cameras (1 power cord, 1 coaxial cable)

1 Ethernet cable for PoE cameras

1 Ethernet cable for PoE cameras

Remote access to footage

No

Yes (possibly through VPN)

Yes (no VPN needed). Access camera streams remotely from any device.

Storage

Fixed capacity. Hard drive, mass storage.

Fixed capacity. Hard drive, mass storage, hybrid cloud.

Flexible capacity. Cloud storage.

Scalability

Limited. Can’t upgrade to IP cameras. Requires complex infrastructure. More hardware and components mean more points of failure. Fewer integration opportunities.

While infrastructure is not as complex as DVR systems, it can be difficult to scale. Limited number of deployed cameras. More hardware and components mean more points of failure.

Flexible. Cloud architecture allows for seamless integration. Cloud storage can be expanded.

Pricing

The least expensive system due to it being considered a legacy option.

Most expensive system. Requires higher upfront costs like DVRs. Additional maintenance costs.

Affordable and cost-efficient solution. Low upfront costs. Low maintenance for IT means lower cost over time and greater ROI.

How Delta Constructors gained greater visibility and increased efficiency

Delta Constructors, a full-service oil and gas provider, was looking to monitor safety, security, and efficiency across their operations. However, they needed a flexible, reliable platform to do this, and their legacy surveillance solution wasn’t delivering. It was difficult to use, inflexible, and costly to manage. Plus, teams could only access footage from a single monitor on-site, limiting accessibility. Delta’s Director of IT, Aaron Schilling, often spent hours sifting through footage and could not share his findings with leadership unless they were physically present. 

A flexible, end-to-end, IT-friendly system was essential for managing Delta’s complex operations. Having already used Samsara’s fleet products, Schilling turned to Samsara’s cloud-based Site Visibility technology to replace their legacy security camera system.

With Samsara’s easy-to-deploy solution, Delta integrated the Site Gateway—a cloud NVR—into their existing camera deployment in minutes and added a few more of Samsara’s IP Site Cameras with ease. Schilling now has connectivity across multiple worksites and can view streams remotely. Samsara’s online dashboard and mobile app give him access to live streams and historical footage from miles away. They can use cameras to check asset inventory across sites, improving efficiency while increasing security and safety. “With Site Visibility, I can be everywhere at one time, especially when working remotely,” said Schilling. “We can manage our equipment, fleet, and sites all from a single pane of glass. One application can view the whole company across three regions.”

What features should you look for in a cloud NVR solution?

Today’s cloud NVRs offer many features designed to reduce the time spent monitoring, searching through, and sharing video recordings. Look for these features when evaluating cloud surveillance solutions.

Ability to export and share video clips

Say you detect an unauthorized person on your site. You’ll want to notify your security team quickly, as well as potentially executives and external authorities. Look for the ability to export and share clips from your surveillance cameras. 

Cloud library

Video surveillance systems generate lots of data. To make room for new footage, your system may automatically delete old data (for example, after 30 days). To keep the footage you need, look for a solution that lets you save selected or important clips to a cloud library indefinitely.

High-quality cameras

Without high-quality cameras that capture clear footage, your system is hamstrung. Look for a provider that offers high-quality PoE/IP cameras. Cameras features should include:

  • Super HD resolution for crisp video quality.

  • Wide dynamic range (WDR) to optimize video quality in high-contrast lighting conditions. 

  • Night vision capabilities for capturing footage when very little light is present.

  • Weatherproof (rated IP67) and vandal-proof (rated IK10) for durability.

Third-party integration

What if you already have a camera system? Not to worry; a big benefit of cloud infrastructure is its flexibility. Look for a partner like Samsara that integrates with most third-party cameras. You shouldn't have to rip and replace the camera infrastructure you’ve already invested in. Instead, those cameras can benefit from a cloud NVR without another big upfront investment.

Advanced video management system (VMS) features

An advanced video management system (VMS) offers features that help you gain actionable insights and get the most of your security camera system. Not every traditional NVR or cloud NVR solution offers advanced VMS features, so make sure to look for:

  • Customizable real-time alerts: Set up alerts based on motion, people, inactivity, or clothing.

  • Artificial intelligence (AI): AI makes it possible to automatically identify relevant activities in a camera stream through motion detection, people detection, clothing detection, and more.

  • Intelligent search tools: No more searching through endless playback. Find what you need faster by searching by date, time, people detected, and more.

  • Remote access: There’s no need to be on-site to view footage and investigate issues. Check video streams from home, on the go, or from a different state or region.

  • iOS and Android apps: Mobile apps help you stay connected. Find out if your provider has apps for iOS and Android mobile devices. 

Try Samsara’s cloud NVR solution for free

Samsara’s Site Visibility solution is a reliable, flexible security camera system that captures high-quality footage. Our cloud NVR allows customers remote access to footage anytime, from anywhere. Our intelligent VMS offering brings powerful AI to any third-party IP security camera for enhanced worksite visibility. Search for specific incidents faster and spend less time monitoring footage using intelligent detections and alerting. With Samsara’s Site Visibility solution, you can:

  • Monitor all locations remotely with cloud-based technology.

  • Gain actionable insights with AI-enhanced camera streams. 

  • Use intelligent search tools to spend less time investigating incidents.

  • Integrate existing, third-party camera infrastructure.

  • Track your fleet, equipment, sites, and more via a single dashboard via Samsara’s Connected Operations Platform.

Learn more about how Samsara can help you enhance business security and reduce operational inefficiencies. Reach out for a free trial today.

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