Where Video Management Software Fails: Going Beyond the VMS

When Video Evidence Goes Missing

There’s no denying it. No matter the industry, any business occupying any market will rely on or has relied on video evidence at some point in time. Retail store managers arrive to open one day, and realize that inventory has gone missing before from certain storage areas, or a customer slips and falls on the premises during store hours and store personnel need to figure out what the cause was.

Patient supervisors at a hospital may be approached with multiple reports of workplace violence against hospital employees and patients alike, and now have to focus on substantiating the claims. In light of recent school shootings, administrative staff may want to verify that teachers, students and faculty are following certain security protocols and active shooter drill procedures. Or, when a lineman arrives for his shift at a chemical plant or factory, he notices evidence of a break-in. Fearing that hazardous materials have been stolen or tampered with, he needs access to video evidence that he can hand over to authorities in the hopes of making an arrest and recovering any potentially dangerous materials taken from the compound.

In all of these instances, and countless others, the subject of video evidence is at the forefront. The presence of video offers evidentiary support in establishing improved security plans and policies, or apprehending suspects in the case of unauthorized entry. It’s often at the basis of defense in employee legal matters. It helps to determine the legitimacy of any lawsuits that may arise against the business. It helps in identifying more precise inventory counts in the event of a burglary attempt. When acutely analyzed, it can also assist in streamlining practices to lead to more efficient business operations. At its core, video often serves as a crucial, primary lifeline in an organization’s overall physical security plan.

So, what were to happen if that video disappeared? What if when security officers, managers, owners or law enforcement gathered to access the VMS software portal to display video during a significant disaster or event, they found nothing but a blank screen? Faced with the loss of substantial video evidence, it would become increasingly difficult for appointed personnel to properly continue any investigation currently underway. In an instant, the investment made in the company’s video management software loses virtually all of its value.

Instead, now an entirely new investigation must be launched to answer the question, “What went wrong?” What initially caused the downtime in the video management system and when? Has the system been malfunctioning not just for hours, but days or weeks, even? Are any other components of the VMS software and surrounding hardware affected? How easily can the issue be repaired? And finally, what needs to be done in the future to ensure that your organization doesn’t lose such valuable video intelligence again?

Frustratingly, your team is now forced into a reactive service mode. Manpower has to shift away from examining the original event, intrusion or serious security matter – and therefore away from the whole reason your team was looking to access video on the VMS system in the first place. Instead, they have to refocus their efforts on inspecting, diagnosing and logging the issue of the missing video – well before a repair option for any effected hardware or software can be determined.

Later, it may be discovered that a camera went offline to set off a chain reaction that resulted in the missing video. Or, a network port disconnected. The CPU overheated. A switch stopped responding. The disk failed. The host registered as unreachable. A logical volume source needs to be repaired. All of these errors rank as fairly common reasons why a video management system and its surrounding hardware components might experience downtime. Oftentimes, these issues can easily be repaired once the root cause is established.

Still, it can feel like you and your team have been forced into a corner. Because, in most of these circumstances, there will have been no pop-up reports. There will have been no prior warnings of an issue before the screen comes up blank and you’re faced with the missing video. There will have been no way to alert your security officers or managers that potentially vital video evidence is being lost every second since one component or process in the video path malfunctioned. This affords you no opportunity to be proactive. You’re unable to leverage your technology and business resources effectively to identify and repair the problem at its onset. Instead of being able to get ahead in resolving the issue before a disastrous event occurs, you’re left only with the discovery of missing video evidence that you can’t get back after the fact.

Worse yet, this reactive approach to any instance of video management system downtime means that the cost associated with attempts to find a resolution is much greater. When you’re forced to service the system reactively, 80% of your time and labor required in finding a resolution is spent on detecting and diagnosing the problem. Only 20% of the total resolution time and labor cost required is typically dedicated to actually repairing the issue.

These are the times when the possibility of missing video becomes a critical liability to your business. It’s not only detrimental to your overall bottom line, as you scramble to hastily seek out repairs to different system components; it diminishes trust in your video management system each time crucial video evidence is lost.

Where Video Management Software Fails

Now, take a moment to consider the complexity of your own video management system. Whether your organization has a single camera on a single recorder – or well over a hundred cameras and recorders – take stock of all of the components that make up the solution. How many different segments of hardware, software and storage elements come into play? How many different operating systems? How many servers and networking switches? How many different manufacturers’ products and systems are you dealing with along the full length of the video path? Essentially, what is required to make sure that any recorded video travels from your camera devices to being properly saved onto your disk hardware for total recall at a later date?

Simply put, no matter how large or small in scale your video management system is, that system’s success is directly dependent on a variety of devices and processes working together perfectly. End-to-end, each need to be fully operational and communicative in order to be certain that video evidence doesn’t suddenly go missing or isn’t saved as it moves along the video path. From single location, mom-and-pop retailers with only a few cameras, to sprawling hospital compounds and school campuses with vast coverage, you’re likely dealing with a multifaceted video path.

The video path for every organization and business is unique. From camera to disk, IP video has to travel through a series of devices, systems and software solutions before the video can be successfully stored. Along the video stream, video data will encounter the camera device and software responsible for recorded capture, as well as various networking POE switches, server Network Interface Cards (NICs), VMS software, logical volume storage, operating system software, CPU servers and hardware, storage cards, storage controller software and, eventually, individual disk RAID hardware for file backups. In order to document a cohesive, complete video stream, each of these segments must be fully functioning and communicating with one another. If any one piece of the stream fails or goes offline, there’s no guarantee that the intended video will be available for recall on the redundant disk hardware.

It’s here that VMS software providers and IT monitors will claim to have automatic checks in place to keep this from happening, or alert users in a timely manner when it does. But there’s a glaring issue with this claim. Both VMS software and IT monitors measure the functionality and “uptime” of video content only in segments. Through the lens of these systems, each device along the path is treated as being completely independent from the others. However, in reality, it’s the devices’ successful integration that’s necessary to ensure the integrity of the video stream, which ultimately ends in recorded video. If you’re solely relying on the unit checks provided by your video management software into individual system components, you’re not seeing the whole picture. Therefore, you can’t guarantee the health of the entire video stream.

IT monitors only conduct self-checks from the camera device, through the networking POE switches to the server NIC memory, and lose track of the stream after that. Similarly, video management software only measures uptime – or presence of video content – from the server NIC, through the VMS solution to the video’s appearance in logical volume storage. While both technologies serve to manage content and play back video when all components are functioning properly, their self-check processes prove to be incomplete. Your VMS software, while necessary to your physical security system, is not capable on its own of keeping track of the health of the many variables that comprise the end-to-end video stream, and could therefore lead to missing video.

This is largely due to the fact that these solutions don’t consider the full scope of infrastructure at play. They don’t survey the context of integration in detecting system failures. Essentially, these technologies are unable to verify that the complete video stream is stable, and can only confirm that individual devices along the path are in working order on their own. Without being able to prove the total health of the end-to-end video stream, you can’t truly guarantee that video isn’t being lost. Therefore, you likewise can’t prove the investment made in your VMS software and video surveillance system.

The Benefits of Intelligent Service Assurance

But what if you could verify that your VMS software, associated hardware, servers and operating systems were all functioning properly at all times, and that their integration remained stable and intact? What if you could continuously detect and diagnose issues across the video path, and be immediately alerted if one or more segments encountered fatal errors that could result in potential loss of data? What if you didn’t have to hire extra personnel or monitors, and were able to eliminate the possibility for human error so often associated with manual system checks? What if missing video was no longer the norm?

It’s finally possible. And that’s thanks to intelligent service assurance provided by STANLEY Security’s IntelAssure, powered by Viakoo.

STANLEY IntelAssure is the first and only service-assurance solution for physical security systems available on the market today that utilizes automation to continuously detect and diagnose problems and recommend solutions. The solution is entirely stream-centric in its appraisal of your video surveillance system, and can easily be added to your security system and recording servers. It’s been proven to integrate with most brand name VMS software solutions, and with its crucial auto-discovery capability, requires no data entry or programming in order to activate. In short, it seamlessly fits in with your security and VMS software capabilities, and is easy to install.

STANLEY IntelAssure analyzes the entire system infrastructure. When installed on a security system server, the solution automatically detects and tracks critical IP infrastructure to create a digital twin model of all your system components and examines how they interact with one another. Through patented system analytics and machine learning techniques, it is then able to determine what is normal activity when the system is fully functioning. This environment is constantly being updated, and each component and process contained within the video stream is continuously polled for irregularities and errors.

If and when a failure or vulnerability is identified, users will instantly receive a detailed alert that offers not only specific information on the root cause of the issue, but also provides instructions for a solution. This means no more scrambling or grasping at straws trying to pinpoint which component caused your video stream to fail and left you with missing video. With STANLEY IntelAssure, you’ll know in near real-time when a problem’s been detected, the probable diagnosis and the likely solution – before any video can be lost.

Additionally, STANLEY IntelAssure can also track and report on system performance over time. It constantly analyzes changes to the environment, its devices, processes, data flow and more. This way, the solution can aptly flex and shift to fit the framework of your system as it grows or undergoes hardware and firmware updates – a feature that is fundamental to increasing uptime across the full video stream, and extending the ROI for your overall IP video surveillance system.

Discovering missing video when it’s needed the most is far more than a mere inconvenience. It can prove to be all-out damaging and detrimental to any business or organization, stopping investigations dead in their tracks before start. STANLEY IntelAssure aims to change that. With STANLEY IntelAssure, you can protect the significant investment you’ve made in securing your environment. STANLEY IntelAssure approaches your IP video surveillance system and coverage as comprehensively as you do. It evaluates the bigger picture, so you don’t miss a single one.