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Beyond the datasheet: Does your CCTV system need an NVR?

October 19th, 2017 by Bethanne Pugh

Recording and Storage options for your CCTV system

When it comes to the storage of your video surveillance footage, a common assumption is that to do this job successfully, a network video recorder (NVR) is required.

Back in the early days of IP, NVR’s provided a familiar and straightforward storage solution for users moving away from their analogue DVR’s towards a digital CCTV system. Although it is still clear that NVR’s have a place in the market, constant developments in IP technology have resulted in alternative options to help meet a wider range of requirements and applications.

With this in mind, we decided to take a look at some of the options available when choosing a suitable recording and storage solution for your CCTV system.

Edge storage – quick and easy

Now supported by most IP cameras, edge storage is an affordable solution which allows video data to be stored directly on-board an SD card mounted inside your IP camera – removing the need for a server or NVR. Ideal for home-users or scenarios where incidents are typically discovered more quickly than in commercial environments – edge storage provides a quick and temporary method to store important video footage. Plus, with storage capacity increasing all the time and cards featuring up to 1TB storage slowly being introduced to the market – limited space could no longer be as much of a hindrance to SD card recording as it has been in the past.

We feel that whilst providing a cost-effective and simple solution, edge storage can also be a risky choice if used as the primary way of recording – with complete loss of data if your camera is ever stolen or destroyed. You also need to ensure that your card can stand up to the rigorous levels of rewriting that comes with being used in a security application. Designed specifically for surveillance purposes, Axis’ range of MicroSD cards are ones that are up to the job. However, with edge storage now a popular choice for small scale systems and redundancy for larger installations – we see the potential for a wider range of high-performance surveillance cards becoming available in the future.

Network Video Recorder – a straightforward, all-in-one solution

Even though sometimes seen as a ‘hangover’ from the analogue CCTV days, network video recorders can be a suitable choice – offering good levels of storage and basic, built-in video management (VMS) software. Various manufacturers have also introduced some handy features to help provide a more flexible, user-friendly solution. Additions such as integrated PoE switches can help to make setup and configuration a much easier task, whilst built-in HDMI outputs support the connection of a local monitor for a simple workstation set up – without the need of a PC.

Providing a basic ‘all-in-one’ recording and storage solution, NVR’s are undoubtedly an attractive choice for many small to medium-sized systems. However, with a historically high fault rate when compared to alternative solutions, limitations in terms of scalability and elementary software – you may run into more issues than your bargained for when integrating an NVR into a large or expanding system.

Windows-based video management software – our ‘go-to’ option

For a robust and flexible solution, we would always strongly recommend deploying a dedicated machine running Windows-based recording software. High-performance video management software (VMS) such as Milestone XProtect and Axis Camera Station are leaps-and-bounds ahead of NVR-based software – offering a comprehensive feature-set that is fully configurable to your specific requirements. In addition, many VMS products support the use of Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices for archiving footage. With this method you also have access to a range of additional features including intelligent video analytics, remote viewing clients and the ability to integrate other networked devices into your system – all of which help to contribute towards versatile and reliable CCTV surveillance.

This combination of professional software and large-volume storage, although potentially a costly choice, offers a scalable solution with the highest level of functionality – something that you just can’t get from edge storage or an NVR. In addition, support services such as Milestone Care Plus make it easier to protect your system and keep it updated with the latest software versions – providing peace-of-mind and protecting your investment.

Kevin Bowyer – Technical Director at NW Systems Group

Kevin Bowyer

NVRs remain a simple and effective option for small numbers of cameras offering a simple user experience and all the basics in a neat package. For extra functionality and flexibility and for larger systems, software-based video management systems are the way to go.


If you require any further assistance, feel free to contact us – our dedicated sales team are happy to assist you in selecting the most suitable choice for your individual application.

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