How to Choose the Best NVR Camera System for Your Business

August 05, 2021

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Key Takeaways

Network video recorder (NVR) camera systems can help you gain visibility into your site operations and improve safety, security, and efficiency. In this guide, learn what to look for in an NVR camera system—including cloud storage, high-quality IP cameras, remote access to footage, and advanced video management system (VMS) features.

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What is an NVR camera system?

A network video recorder (NVR) is a computer system that records video footage and stores it on a hard disk, a mass storage device, or cloud storage. NVRs are paired with digital internet protocol (IP) cameras to create a video surveillance system. 

An NVR camera system can be as small as one camera or span across thousands of cameras in multiple locations globally. Indoor and outdoor cameras can be positioned in various places around buildings and properties. They usually are operating 24/7 and can be customized to alert in response to certain activity during specific times of day.

How NVR camera systems work

NVR camera systems are made up of three parts: cameras, a network, and the NVR. Here’s how they work together:

  • Cameras: There are many different types of security cameras on the market—including analog cameras (generally considered outdated technology due to low resolution) and wire-free WiFi cameras (usually used for home security camera systems rather than business purposes). NVRs are generally used in combination with IP cameras. IP cameras that use an Ethernet connection are called Power over Ethernet (PoE) cameras. Ethernet cables do double-duty, powering the camera and transferring data to the NVR, which makes installation easier and more flexible. PoE IP cameras usually come in two styles: bullet cameras and dome cameras

  • NVRs: A key part of an NVR security camera system is the NVR itself, which is not a camera. Some NVRs are devices that contain hard drives; others are cloud-based, leveraging cloud storage and technology. However, all NVRs perform the same function: they receive video footage through a network data connection and store footage for review later. NVRs contain several Ethernet ports, so that you can hook up multiple cameras. For example, an 8-channel NVR can support eight cameras.

  • Network connection: IP security cameras connect to the NVR using wired or wireless connections. Typically, if it’s a wired connection, a camera connects to the NVR via an Ethernet cable. 

How do you view camera streams and see recorded footage?

Once the footage from IP cameras reaches the NVR, it can be stored or viewed remotely, online or offline. Software is usually packaged with NVR devices and typically includes camera system setup, onboarding, and viewing capabilities for playback. However, NVR software alone is fairly limited. For more advanced features such as real-time alerts and search tools, you need an advanced video management system (VMS). 

An advanced VMS or intelligent VMS (IVMS) is sometimes the software component of the NVR but can also be a standalone tool. Packed with more features, an advanced VMS can help you get the most out of your camera system (more on this below).

This guide will share the features to look for in an NVR camera system and the business benefits of implementing a cloud-based system. We’ll also discuss why third-party integration and scalability is one of the most important factors in selecting an NVR system provider.

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

Cloud-based NVR camera systems function like traditional NVRs and digital video recorders (DVRs) but hold one huge advantage: they can be securely accessed anywhere, 24/7. Viewing video streams, reviewing footage, sharing clips, and all video controls are handled in the cloud. 

Let’s look at how cloud-based NVRs (also called site-gateways) compare to traditional NVRs and DVRs:

Cloud-based NVR benefits

Having your NVR based in the cloud (rather than an on-premise DVR or NVR) offers a few distinct advantages:

  • Remote access: Access your camera streams and videos from anywhere, anytime, from any device.

  • Cost effective: With cloud-based services, there are fewer upfront and maintenance costs for IT.

  • Easy to scale: Cloud storage allows you to expand to more cameras or multiple sites quickly.

  • Secure, scalable storage: Once your data is in the cloud, it’s stored in an encrypted form. There’s no hard drive that can be damaged or stolen, and you control who has access. 

DVR security systems vs. cloud-based NVR

A digital video recorder (DVR) is a wired system that connects to analog cameras. It’s also known as CCTV or closed-circuit television. While less expensive than NVRs, DVRs are generally considered outdated technology, with many DVRs unable to support remote viewing options. DVR systems are at a disadvantage for a few reasons. Firstly, they’re less flexible to work with because CCTV cameras need to be plugged into an outlet, which limits placement. They’re also limited by storage space capacity; whatever hardware and capacity you chose when you bought your system is what you have to work with.

On-premise NVR vs. cloud NVR

Not all NVRs are cloud NVRs. One big advantage cloud-based NVR camera systems have is that the cloud offloads maintenance from IT. The provider manages all firmware upgrades, patches, and fixes. On-premise, PoE NVRs are still physical hardware and require hardware and software maintenance. And while you may be able to access footage remotely, you will likely have to log into your local network using a VPN. Also, all cameras go through a traditional NVR. It becomes a single point of failure if things go wrong. By contrast, the cloud offers multiple access points.

How Delta Constructors increased control and visibility over their operations

Full-service oil and gas provider Delta Constructors needed a flexible, reliable platform to monitor safety, security, and efficiency across their operations. They found it difficult to use their former system and could only access footage from a single on-site monitor. Aaron Schilling, Delta’s Director of IT, often spent hours searching through footage and could not share his findings with leadership unless they were physically present. Wanting more control and visibility over their operations, they selected Samsara’s cloud-based Site Visibility solution to upgrade their existing camera system.

Now, with a cloud-based NVR camera system, Schilling has connectivity across multiple sites and can view streams remotely. Using Samsara’s online dashboard and mobile app, he can access live views and historical camera streams from miles away—all with just one or two clicks. Delta’s teams can also use Samsara’s cloud dashboard to remotely check asset inventory across sites, adding a layer of security in the event something is misplaced or stolen. “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 an NVR camera system?

Here are a few features to look for when selecting an NVR camera system:

Cloud-based (rather than on-premise) NVR 

You may have a worksite that is expansive or a remote site that you want real-time visibility into. If you want the convenience of viewing video on the go, look for a cloud NVR rather than an on-premise NVR. With cloud-hosted footage, managers can access all cameras and footage 24/7, from anywhere. Also, an NVR built on cloud technology gives users all the usual cloud benefits—including a managed infrastructure (which lessens the maintenance burden for IT teams), flexibility with customizable applications, and automatic firmware and software updates that provide users the latest technology.

Ability to export and share clips

Surveillance camera systems allow you to monitor the security and safety of your worksite. If something happens, you’ll want the ability to export and share clips of captured footage to the right stakeholders or external authorities. For example, if you detect an unauthorized person on your site, you can export the footage and notify your security team.

Ability to save footage to a cloud library

Security cameras generate lots of data. Depending on the NVR security system, it may delete older footage to make space for new data. To avoid having your footage erased, look for access to a cloud library, where you can save footage or clips indefinitely.

High-quality cameras

To capture clear high definition or HD video, you’ll want to partner with a provider that offers high-quality PoE/IP cameras. Look for cameras that have features such as:

  • 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.

  • IP67 weatherproof rating and IK10 vandal-resistant ratings for durability.

Advanced VMS features

When choosing your NVR camera system, check if the vendor offers an advanced or intelligent video management system (IVMS). An IVMS maximizes your camera system’s ROI by providing advanced features. Not every NVR camera system offers these features. Make sure to look for:

  • Customizable real-time alerts: The ability to configure real-time alerts based on device connectivity, motion, people, or inactivity makes it possible to identify and respond to safety, security, and IT issues faster—even from a remote location. 

  • Artificial intelligence (AI) search tools: AI makes it possible to automatically identify relevant activities in a camera stream through motion detection, people detection, clothing detection, and more. Stop sifting and find what you’re looking for faster with the ability to search through footage by parameters such as date, time, and motion detection.

  • Remote access: Eliminate the need to be on-site to view footage and investigate issues. Check camera streams from home, on the go, or in a different region.

  • Mobile apps: Stay connected by using mobile apps to view camera streams remotely. Ask providers if they have apps for both iOS and Android devices. 

Why is it important to choose an NVR camera system that scales with your business?

Implementing a security camera system is no small undertaking. That’s why it’s so important to choose an NVR camera system designed to integrate with third-party cameras. For example, Samsara’s cloud NVR solution can bring streams from your existing cameras into your Samsara cloud dashboard. There’s no need to rip and replace your existing infrastructure. Instead, your existing cameras can benefit from Samsara’s advanced AI features without another big upfront investment.

Integration was a huge benefit for Keith Henderson, Director of IT at transportation provider Leonard’s Express. “We already had two camera vendors we were using,” said Henderson. “But, when I heard how quickly we could get up and running, we decided to move forward with a free trial. In just 15 minutes, the Site Gateway was set up and pulling in our existing camera streams—it was really a showstopper.”

You’ll also want a provider with a full-stack hardware and software solution so that they can support your business as it grows, regardless of if you're upgrading an existing location or outfitting a new location. Samsara offers a cloud NVR, advanced VMS, and high resolution 5 megapixel IP cameras—so you can scale the solution with your business.

Try Samsara’s cloud NVR camera system for free

Samsara’s Site Visibility solution is a reliable, flexible cloud NVR 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.

Want to learn more about how Samsara can benefit your on-site operations? Get in touch with our team today to learn more or get a free trial.

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