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How to migrate to Milestone XProtect plus products

Essential, Express and Professional to Essential+, Express+ and Professional+Milestone has for several years offered two different VMS systems under the XProtect product banner. These are termed the Business-Ready or Professional range (Essential, Express and Professional) and the Advanced range (Expert and Corporate).

Because these different variants look and are administered differently, as well as having different capabilities, this has always caused some confusion. Additionally, it has meant Milestone has two pieces of software to develop and support and not one.

Recently, however, Milestone has released ‘+’ variants: Essential+, Express+ and Professional+ to resolve this issue and to homogenise their offering, meaning that support becomes easier and the platform as a whole is unified, easier to develop and most importantly, can be clearer to the end user.

Note that one element of the XProtect system that has not changed is the Smart Client. The Smart Client remains a consistent and user-friendly means to operate the VMS system.

Because the codebase, the way the software is written, is different between the two ranges, there is no straightforward upgrade procedure when migrating from the older Business-Ready products to the newer + products. However, there are a few options to choose from when you are ready to migrate. And migrate you should, as the + products are superior in every way and will make the management of your system simpler and more flexible, offer new opportunities for improving your system and gain return on your investment.

Migration options

As there is no simple upgrade path you must first choose the method of migration you would prefer. The method may be determined by the availability of machines in your organisation.

1. New software in place of old

If you have no need to keep the existing recorded footage, you can go for a migration on the same machine your old version is installed on. However, and as I mentioned, there is no upgrade path for the software, so you would first need to completely uninstall the old software from the machine and delete the footage associated with it. Note that you should also first stop the old recording server to avoid file corruption issues.

So, here you are keeping the old machine, removing the old software, deleting all recordings and only then installing the new version.

2. New software on new machine, old recordings slaved to new system

Here you would install the new software on an entirely new PC, server or virtual machine. Because Milestone has foreseen migration issues it has allowed the new + variants to accept the old systems as slaves, meaning that you can keep the old recordings available to the new system for as long as it takes for the old system’s retention period to lapse. Note that you *may* need to contact us to request a ‘partial license’ in order to allow the old system to continue operating for the retention period.

Note that XProtect Express+ supports only 1 slaved server, but XProtect Professional+ supports multiple slaves.

3. You run two separate systems temporarily

If you have a machine available to accept the new version and you can run the new system in parallel with the old one. So, you would simply install the new version and add cameras and settings as normal, leaving the old system in place and continuing to operate, viewing the footage from this system separately. You might wish to prevent the old system from recording footage and allow for the retention period to lapse so that you soon have only a single system to operate and manage and you can re-use the old server or PC for something else.

Our recommended method

We recommend option 3 if you want to make the process as simple as possible, but option 2 – slaving the old system – is a good one. We would recommend against option 1 as we have seen some issues where the old system uninstall has not completely removed all components of the system, causing problems during the installation of the new software.

Of course, not every business will have a spare PC or server lying around or have the facility to spin up a new virtual machine at will, so in that case option 1 is your only option.

The migration itself – actual steps in the process

It is important that you prepare for the migration as thoroughly as you can. The kinds of things you want to think about or to fully document are:

1. Events details

Does your old system have any events set up? i.e. are there any actions performed in the system via hardware contacts/outputs, inputs, software buttons or other integrations? If so, you need to document how these work as the setup of these events in the new system is quite different and not a direct implementation. Remember too, that the old config cannot be imported.

2. Device recording parameters

You will have set up the old system to record cameras at particular frame rates, quality settings and resolutions. You can document this to set the same parameters in the new system. You can also perform a config backup, which we will discuss in a little while.

3. Users and user rights

If you have many users, you will want to document these for ease of setup later. Again, the config backup can help here.

4. Notification settings

You may have the old system set up to send you notification on events. If so, note down the SMTP details, email address and types of notifications.

In the new + variants the rule system makes setting up a whole host of notifications possible.

5. Time profiles

The new system has more flexible time profile capability, so note down your existing timings for implementation later.

6. Camera details

Last, but ultimately most important, is that you may need to document all your camera details including model, IP address, username and password. If you don’t already have this information thoroughly documented, take the opportunity to do that now.

Necessary migration steps

  1. Export (backup) your old configuration, known as config backup.
    This will export an xml file which you can read later to understand how the system was configured. You cannot import these settings into the new system. The XML file may seem unintelligible to begin with, but it is logically laid out and should be straightforward to read, especially if you have a file reader such as Notepad++ which can highlight the logical elements and allow you to expand and collapse each element to make reading it easier.
  2. Get new SLC .lic file from your Milestone portal. If you have CarePlus on your existing license just contact us for a trade-in. The cost will be minimal, if there is any cost at all. If you do not have CarePlus or your CarePlus has expired you will need to purchase the new + variant.
  3. Prepare your PC or server for the installation. Make sure you have all the latest Windows service packs and updates installed and install the prerequisites available on the Milestone website.
  4. Install and configure the software

Once you have the new software installed you will see that the management application in the new system is radically different from the old administrator app. The initial learning curve is steep but stay with it – the management client and config is logically laid out and easier to use. You can do things more quickly and efficiently with it, especially if you have a system with more than, say, 20 cameras.

We can provide you with the help you need to get started and can even set the whole thing up for you should you need that. Our expert tech team are experienced in both versions and we offer a service to help you.

Recording and archival is different, why?

Importantly, the way milestone records and archives is slightly different between the old and + versions and you need to think carefully about how you set up recordings. In the old version you may have used ‘dynamic recording’ to allow the load to be spread between recording locations, or disk sets. This is no longer available, so you need to map your recording locations carefully to balance the load. Of course, if you are not running a large system this may not be an issue and you can simply record to a single location.

Recording is broken down into two parts – live recordings (video streams recorded as they come in) and archival (video data moved to a separate storage location for long term retention). If you have only a single storage location for live and archive, you do NOT need to set up archival and will need only the recording storage location. This is important, since archival to the same location adds unwanted overhead to the internal disk operations and can lead to lost frames in your recordings.

The migration from the Business-Ready range to the + variants may seem, on the face of it, complicated, but it’s quite simple. If you need our help just ask – we accept that Milestone XProtect can be a bit difficult, so as a Platinum Milestone partner, we are here to help. Ultimately, a migration to + is in your best interest both from a financial (ROI) and operations (efficiency gains) point of view. The + variants usually have more features available and some restrictions removed compared to the old versions.

One final thing to note – moving between + versions is now just a license file change – not a software change, so if you’ve reached the limit of the + version you have installed and need the next version up, you just grab a new XProtect license from us and import that. The new features then become immediately available to you.

Published on September 26th, 2018 by Kevin Bowyer

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