Video Management Systems – What to look for?

IP based video surveillance systems have thousands of cameras that communicate over the IP network. This, along with demands for 24/7 operation, real-time viewing and global access, make it critical to have a powerful and effective video management system (VMS) to aid in viewing, recording and managing the large number of cameras. This article highlights the key features to look out for when purchasing a VMS.

Ease of Use

If the video management software requires experienced security professionals to be formally trained on using it, then it is not easy to use. Easy to use software enables users to quickly learn the interface as they explore it, and ease of operation is vital for them to use the solution efficiently in daily tasks and to maintain their ability to respond fast.


The best IP video management systems are independent of hardware and give users the freedom of choice to select the hardware best fit for their application. Often vendors offer a broad line of their own security products (cameras, recorders and VMS): offering a complete video surveillance solution. This, however, may have the disadvantage of getting customers stuck with a particular vendor solution. In general, the ability to mix and match to get the best components for different application needs enables users to achieve optimal performance.

Modular Solution

The business environment today is changing very fast and hence, flexibility is more essential than ever before. Expansions, relocations, mergers, new regulations or advances in technology; all force change on a security solution. A solution that has the flexibility to adapt to the changing needs can save users money and increase the return on investment (ROI) in the long-term.


Today, there are various architectures for VMSes – centralized vs. distributed, browser-based vs. PC/appliance-based. In addition, a vendor may provide a VMS solution in different variants, targeting consumers, SOHO/SME users, and Enterprise users. Choosing the right architecture and the right flavour is a function of the feature-set the user is looking for from the VMS, and the number of users. There are advantages and disadvantages with each option, and the end-user will finally need to decide on what cannot be compromised and on trade-offs.


Some of the basic video management features provided by any video management software include recording of video and audio, camera administration and management, recording scheduling, search options and playback, simultaneous viewing of video streams from multiple cameras, user access control and activity (audit) logging etc. In addition to the above, users can look at the features listed below, to give them an additional monitoring edge, based on their applications.

Video Motion Detection

If the video management system features motion detection, camera images can not only be continuously recorded, but recording can also be activated and alerts or alarm can be raised when there is motion in the picture. It is also possible to combine both variants. Programmable motion detection supports server-based motion detection that reacts to changes in pixels, colour or brightness as well as in-camera motion detection.

Multi-monitor Operation

Attention should be given to client optimization for multi-monitor operation when choosing a video management software platform. Ideally the system has the potential to operate three or four monitors at one workstation. Some solutions support multi-screen graphics cards and clients are launched automatically and by batch files in full-screen mode as well as without window frames. A site plan function is also extremely advisable, as it helps association of cameras to their locations; aiding in prompt action in case of emergency.

Remote locations and mobile devices

Implementation of low bandwidth optimization features such as image-size reduction and adjustable frame rates; is another feature to look for in VMS. This helps to send video streams on low-bandwidth network to remote locations and to mobile devices.

ONVIF and PSIA support

The adoption of ONVIF and PSIA IP camera standards reduce the complexity and cost of IP surveillance installations. With the availability of ONVIF and PSIA standards, the basic levels of integration required between hardware and software to implement IP video is easier. Hardware manufacturers, software providers and installers are all moving in this direction and it makes sense to look for a VMS solution that provides this support.

Integration of third-party vendor systems

The ability to integrate other third-party software is another feature to look for in a high-performance video management software platform. They allow integration of external analytics tools like vehicle number plate recognition, people counting as well as image analysis modules such as object detection. These added video analysis features allow less time to be used up monitoring multiple video feeds within surveillance systems, and enable quicker response times.


Selection of the correct video management software platform is not easy and is dependent upon many factors. The most important criteria for reaching a decision include flexibility through open system architecture, and a modular structure to ensure system expandability and adaptability to new conditions.