Go Beyond Basic NVR Software with Samsara

August 05, 2021

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Key Takeaways

Network video recorders or NVRs are digital systems used for storing and viewing video footage. NVR software itself—while more advanced than what digital video recorders (DVRs) offer—is still limited in its features and capabilities. To further interact with your camera system, you’ll need an advanced video management system (VMS).

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What is NVR software?

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 the cloud. NVRs are usually paired with internet protocol (IP) cameras to create a video surveillance system. 

NVRs are not cameras themselves; instead, they receive video footage through a network data connection. IP cameras capture and process video and audio data themselves and then send it to the NVR through an Ethernet cable or wirelessly through a WiFi network. Once the footage reaches the NVR, it can be stored or viewed remotely, online or offline.

NVR software is usually packaged with NVR devices so users can complete basic interactions with their surveillance system. The software typically includes camera system setup, onboarding, and basic video playback. 

NVR software vs. video management system (VMS)

At a basic level, NVR software is all you need to record and review video footage. However, that’s about the extent of what you can do. If you want to do more with your camera system, you’ll need an advanced video management system (VMS). 

A VMS can be the software component of your NVR, or it can stand alone and run on a server. It enables better camera integration, more storage settings, and more advanced features. VMS software is also easier to use than basic NVR software. It offers more flexibility and scalability to manage large video surveillance systems.

VMS software is the most powerful way to build a security system due to its features. For example, here are a few things you can do with an advanced VMS:

  • Search through footage easily and save clips faster with features such as motion detection

  • Control video bandwidth

  • Set alarms and alarm detection 

  • Configure real-time alerts based on motion, people, or inactivity

What features should you look for in NVR software?

There are all kinds of NVRs with various video management software features available—but some are better suited for commercial operations than others. Here are a few features to consider:

Cloud-based

Cloud-based NVRs are one of the most flexible, simple options for deployment. Videos are stored in a cloud-based drive instead of hard disk storage, and there is an on-premise bridge or gateway device that cameras are plugged into. There’s virtually no maintenance involved—the solution provider sends automatic technology updates through the internet to the gateways. Your system always gets the latest updates and innovations without any extra costs. 

Ability to export and share clips

One of the main reasons many organizations have a surveillance system is to monitor the security and safety of their worksites. If an incident happens, you’ll want to be able to export and share clips of captured footage with the right stakeholders or external authorities. For example, if an employee is operating equipment unsafely, you can share the clip with a safety manager to correct the issue, preventing an accident.

Ability to save footage to a cloud library

Network cameras generate lots of data. Over time, an NVR device’s storage will fill up. Depending on the software or settings, your NVR may delete older footage to make space for new video data. If there is certain, important footage you want to save indefinitely, look for a provider that lets you save footage to a cloud library. This allows you to save footage or clips indefinitely without worrying about important videos getting deleted.

High-quality cameras, as well as the ability to integrate with your existing cameras

If you're getting started with video monitoring, you’ll want to find a vendor that offers best-in-class PoE/IP cameras to connect to your NVR. A power-over-Ethernet (PoE) camera receives power and network access through a single Ethernet cable, making installation easier and more flexible. Look for cameras that have features such as:

  • Super HD resolution for clear video recordings to help recognize people, clothing, and see license plates.

  • Wide dynamic range (WDR), which optimizes videos for bright and dark conditions.

  • Night vision capabilities for capturing footage after hours.

  • A frame rate of 30 frames per second (FPS) for crisp, smooth video even with moving objects.

  • A Weather Rating of IP67 (dust tight with immersion up to 1 meter) and Vandal Resistant Rating of IK10 (protected against 20 joules of impact) to withstand tough conditions.

Aside from high-quality security cameras, the vendor should also integrate with most third-party cameras. You shouldn’t have to compromise by ripping and replacing the camera infrastructure you’ve already invested in. Instead, look for a provider that has compatibility with your existing cameras. Then, you can benefit from your new NVR surveillance software without another big upfront investment.

Advanced video management system (VMS) features

If you want to do more with your camera system, you’ll need an advanced or intelligent video management system (IVMS). Not every NVR system comes with an IVMS, so ask your vendor about these features when you're evaluating solutions:

  • Customizable real-time alerts: The ability to configure real-time alerts based on motion, people, or inactivity makes it possible to identify and respond faster to safety, security, or efficiency issues—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. Intelligent search tools help save time and find what you’re looking for faster. Can you search by date, time, people detected, and more?

  • Remote access: Eliminate the need to be physically present to investigate issues. Check your site from home, on the go, or in the middle of the night.

  • Mobile apps: Apps make it even easier to stay connected using mobile devices to view cameras remotely. Look for applications available for both Mac iOS and Android. 

What are the benefits of cloud-based NVR software?

Cloud NVRs function like traditional NVRs and digital video recorders (DVRs) but hold one huge advantage: their footage can be securely accessed anywhere, 24/7. Viewing video streams, reviewing footage, sharing clips, and managing video controls is all handled in the cloud. And because cloud-based NVRs don’t require any software installation on computers, you can access them on whichever operating system you use through any web browser.

Let’s look at how cloud-based NVRs compare to traditional NVRs and DVRs.

Cloud-based NVR software benefits

Having your NVR based in the cloud rather than on-premise DVR/NVR offers a few distinct advantages:

  • Remote access: Because you’re connected via the internet, you can access your camera streams from anywhere, anytime, from any device. You can view streams through a web browser on your desktop or via mobile app.

  • Cost-effective: With cloud-based services, you don’t have to invest in a server upfront or pay for maintaining on-premise infrastructure. It’s all taken care of by your cloud provider. Providers like Samsara offer straightforward licenses on a “per device, per year” basis which includes firmware upgrades, ongoing software feature releases, and bug fixes.

  • Easy to scale: Cloud storage is flexible, allowing you to expand to more cameras or multiple sites quickly.

  • Secure storage: A cloud-based NVR protects you from losing your data. On-premise NVR storage can get corrupted, damaged, or even stolen. Having your data in the cloud means your data is more accessible based on the agreement you have with your provider.

Traditional DVR vs. cloud NVR

Digital video recorders (DVRs) are wired systems that connect to analog cameras by coaxial cables. DVRs convert analog footage to digital format, and videos are stored on-site. DVR surveillance systems tend to be less flexible than NVR systems because cameras need two cables to work: one for power and one for data. That means camera placement is limited to where there are power sources.

Because DVR systems store recorded videos on-site, they’re limited by storage space capacity. Whatever hardware and capacity you chose when you bought your system is what you have to work with. Another factor to consider is that DVRs only work with analog cameras. These cameras are generally considered outdated technology, providing lower resolution footage than IP cameras. (Think of the grainy CCTV footage you’ve seen on the news.)

Traditional NVR vs. cloud NVR

Not all NVRs are cloud NVRs. There are several key differences between both types of recorders.

Because they only work with digital footage on PoE/IP cameras or wireless webcam-style cameras, traditional NVRs are more flexible than DVRs. However, they’re still a physical hardware system that requires infrastructure maintenance. If you manage multiple sites, each one will need its own NVR. And while you may be able to access footage remotely, you will likely have to log into your local network using a VPN. 

Cloud NVR providers like Samsara make it possible to gain remote access to camera streams and past coverage from any device without needing a VPN; you can simply log into a cloud-based dashboard. Plus you can have a single site gateway across multiple sites as long as they’re in the same network.

How Delta Constructors gets remote visibility across all their sites

Delta Constructors—a full-service oil and gas provider—needed a flexible, IT-friendly platform to monitor safety, security, and efficiency across their 12+ locations. Their legacy camera system was inflexible and tough to manage, and they could only access footage from a single monitor on-site. Delta’s Director of IT, Aaron Schilling, often spent hours sifting through footage and could not share his findings with stakeholders unless they were physically present. Eager to gain more control and visibility over their operations, they turned to Samsara’s cloud-based Site Visibility solution.

Now, using Samsara’s cloud NVR and advanced VMS, Schilling can remotely monitor camera connectivity and on-site video streams. Using Samsara’s online dashboard and mobile app, he can access live views and historical camera streams from locations hundreds of miles away—with a few simple clicks. They can remotely check assets from their truckyards across their sites and have added a layer of security if something is misplaced or stolen. Because this visibility eliminates the need to travel to distant locations, it saves their team three hours per week. “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.”

Try Samsara’s cloud NVR and advanced VMS 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.

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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