I joined current company in 2007. I was lucky that company was in hibernation state, meaning that I could easily got to know it easily. One thing that I was really impressed by were NVR’s that were from 1-4 years old and were running Windows 95 and Windows 98. Despite reliability issues of Windows 95 and Windows 98, those NVR’s didn’t have any issues.
Come year 2009 and our company decided to expand, we opened more that 30 sites. For NVR’s we selected Avermedia Industrial PC EH5116 PRO NVD. Specifications covered our requirements and on top it was running embedded Linux which seemed fine. For what is worth, it was running great until warranty expired. Then slowly, one by one they started to fail. Since the problem was most likely caused by bad batch of electronic components we contacted our supplier and you can guess what was their answer, devices are out of warranty.
Avermedia, now renamed to Aver was out of the question. We started to look for similar devices. But then I remembered that we have Synology devices that have NVR capability built in. I tested Surveillance station and once confirmed that it meets our requirements I contacted Synology reseller for a test device. They were thrilled to hear we were considering Snynolgy for NVR’s. We have tested Synology extensively and confirmed it works without problems.
Cameras that we use were not on Synology supported list (Avermedia SF1301) at the time of testing but were working without any problems once we manually entered camera settings which you can obtain from camera’s web interface.
We switched all of our sites to Synology DS, combination of DS1513+, DS 1813+ and RS2414+.
Synology Surveillance Station
Synology Surveillance station can be installed on Synology NAS via much improved “Synology app store” within DSM. Once installed, you click on it and you are ready to add cameras. Once you add cameras you can add a floor plan, then you place cameras on Floor plan and rotate them so that end users know where it’s pointing at. Then create a view for your users and assign permissions.
It couldn’t be more simple.
You can use right side bar for quick navigation through events.
Visual station is s a small device you can use to connect Surveillance station with a monitor, mouse and keyboard, usually placed in the server room or operator room, replacing computer for cameras operation.
Synology Surveillance station vs Aver CM3000
The beauty of Surveillance station is that it’s browser based, that means that you don’t have to install special software on client computers and then configure it. Ok, not entirely true, you do have to install Surveillance station plugin which enables browser to see the movie. But you can deploy it via GP or any other type of Computer management programs. The second major advantage is that you can assign permission centrally for Active directory users. Depending on your company size and technicians available Synology advantage varies. For small companies without IT person, users install CM3000 manually. They configure each CM3000 instance individually. Or they call vendor to do that for them. That costs time and money.
Medium sized companies with couple of technicians, install the program individually, but then they copy config file to the workstation. Very important step as you don’t have to configure each deployment individually. But still it takes a lot of resources.
Big companies can capture installation and make it suitable for deployment including config file. While much easier, they have to invest a lot of time for testing installation, upgrades…
To make comparison even worse, CM3000 has 2 bugs which I believe Aver programmers call a feature.
First problem is that resolutions are hard coded to the CM3000, if your user requires custom resolution, or has a monitor with resolution not on supported list CM3000 won’t work. Once you will set “standard” resolution, it will work, now imagine user who has to change resolution every time they would like to watch recording. In my experiences, some stopped to bother and just kept living with resolution that is not optimised for their monitor.
Second problem is that CM3000 requires VRAM, VRAM is special memory dedicated for Graphics. Computers that were purchased in 2009/2010, barely had required VRAM memory to meet the requirements. Some laptops from the same year, had less memory and thus were unable to run the program. Our technicians also had a lot of problems when troubleshooting CM3000. The main problem was that when they connected to workstation remotely via VNC or IntelliAdmin Remote control. CM3000 reported problem with memory and wouldn’t open. So how do you troubleshoot a program that won’t work when you connect remotely?
Avermedia/Aver NVR’s have a webserver and you can look at the cameras, but interface is buggy and is not usable for serious use. In addition, it requires Java which is insecure and is constantly exploited. On the other hand, Synology has web interface only and have moved away from Java.
Surveillance station is very easy to configure. Once you add cameras the only remaining config left to do is to upload floor plan where you place your cameras. Floor plan can then be included on the camera view, so that users don’t have to spend to much time to identify the camera. We have trailed usability of end user experience for both type of users: new users who have never used CM3000 and existing users who have used CM3000 extensively. Users without CM3000 exposure only needed 20 min to learn how to operate Surveillance station, no training from our side. On the other hand they required 2x 30 min training sessions for CM3000. Even after the training they called in asking for the most basic questions. Users who used CM3000 before needed no additional training. They felt at home. What’s interesting that both, experienced users and CM3000 users preferred using Surveillance station. They liked application and they loved idea that they can access it via browsers from various computers. From past experience with CM3000, users usually forgot how to navigate the interface after some time. By the time another incident occurred they called in, every time they had to download an video for police, asking how to do certain actions.
When we had problems with Avermedia, support was handled from our supplier as a proxy between Avermedia and us. We have exchanged a lot of emails, in the end Avermedia resolved most of the issues, but it took them a while. On the other hand, supplier for Synology directed us directly to Synology, where support engineer responded within a day, and handled our case like a true professional.
How we saved big with Synology Surveillance Station NVR
Nature of our business requires that we keep recordings for a long time, problem with Avermedia is that it only supports 4 drives, 3TB maximum in size. Only one bay is swappable. If you need to replace internal drive, you require technician on site, costing money. NAS devices that we bouht support from 5 to 12 drives, maximum supported HDD size is 5TB. The beauty of Synology NAS devices is that they can be easily extended via expansion unit. In case you have a problem with disk space, connect expansion unit and voila you extended capicty. If HDD fails, you swap it with another, any user can do that. And you can do that while NAS is working. With Aver, only one disk is swappable. If internal disk fails, you have to send technician on site, or call the service. You have to turn off device for a while, meaning that you will loose some recording. We needed less recorders and we also got better prices for our “project”. Not only did we saved money with hardware, we have recorded huge savings in time with deployment and users training. In addition, we can use Synology NAS for our users workstation backup.
More information about Synology Devices on their website