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CCTV Software for schools

Phil

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Schools often come to us and ask us to recommend CCTV software.

Cost is frequently a driver. Many schools had their original system built using corporate CCTV / VMS software, which typically incurs an annual ongoing support cost. Unfortunately, many schools and their IT departments are simply unaware of this until they come to develop their system e.g. add a few more cameras. Then, they find that their support has lapsed - they need to pay to catch-up, and to bring everything up-to-date is surprisingly expensive.

If you find yourselves / your school faced with this option, and are perhaps struggling to get or justify the funds, let me just present a few options for discussion:

Vivotek VAST software
It's not an obvious choice, but one of our school customers took the time and trouble to test many CCTV software solutions, and ultimately went with VAST (it was the original VAST at the time of testing and selection, but VAST2 is now available).
He found VAST to be THE most intuitive in use, and also the simplest to extract video evidence from.
Vivotek allow you to add their own branded cameras to their software free of charge.
To add cameras from other manufacturers you will need to pay a per camera licence fee of around £40 +VAT.
This particular school typically selects Hikvision cameras and accepts the £40 per camera on-cost to add those to his CCTV software.
This particular fairly large school is now running VAST on three separate servers, and was recently singing the praises of the ease of adding licences to a pool and then selecting which server to add the licence and camera to.
Importantly, there are no future ongoing/support costs with Vivotek's VAST/2 surveillance software.
Often we find that the cost for starting afresh with this software is lower than renewing support for your existing corporate CCTV software solution.

Vivotek VAST Software in our webshop.
Vivotek's IP camera range in our webshop.
At Vivotek's website for further information and a free trial download:
VAST
VAST2

NVRs
Without a doubt, using an NVR from a Chinese manufacturer such as Hikvision is going to give you the lowest total cost of ownership.
Their NVRs are in fact very capable.
I would recommend that you don't go above 64 cameras per NVR, and if budgets permit then perhaps the 96xx models, as these provide greater bandwidth, RAID, and dual LAN options.
If budgets won't stretch to a 96XX model, then definitely an -I series model NVR, which can be either a 76XX or 77XX flavour.
An ANPR solution is built-in FOC for capturing and managing number plates if you require it - something which is quite expensive to do with software on a server.
You can add and manage cameras from most other manufacturers free of charge.
Free phone/tablet Apps are available.
You can overview one or multiple NVRs using Hikvision's free iVMS-4200 software.
You can also simply use a browser to view live / playback from your NVR.
Most NVRs will also provide power to your cameras via POE (not always to the full count of cameras).
For further information and a deeper understanding, please see our posts on:
Which is the best Hikvision NVR for 8 cameras?
Choosing a Hikvision NVR for 16 cameras?
The best Hikvision NVR for 32 cameras?

Our shop category for Hikvision NVRs
Our forum for help with Hikvision

Synology
Synology's Surveillance Station CCTV solution is actually very good.
It's effectively an App that is available on every Synology NAS box.
Every box ships with two camera licences available free of charge.
More can be purchased as required.
Synology do a great job of keeping their solution evergreen. Every year they refresh their operating system and update Surveillance Station. They continually add to the range of compatible cameras and other devices.
They provide an App.
You can access from Mac or PC, via a browser, or from a standalone viewer software solution.
The Synology box will manage your hard drives / storage space well.
They are a smart company, and do a good job of keeping up with the available technology solutions, and of course with security too.
All Synology boxes, of all sizes, offer you this same solution.
Synology then offer a Central Management Solution (CMS) - great for distributed systems. So, maybe it suits your site layout to have a big box in the main school, a small box in a separate gym building, another in the science block, another in the canteen, etc. - you get the picture.
As with the VAST software solution - additional camera licences will cost about £40 per camera channel.
Licences are available for 1 camera, 4 cameras, or 8 cameras.
You can move licences between Synology boxes.
Synology NAS boxes do not provide POE power.
It is unlikely that you will be able to get an ANPR solution for Synology.
DO NOT lose your codes - you will need to pay again.

Click here for our Synology Forum - with some technical issues and items we have highlighted.
Click here for the Synology category in our webshop - we come at their NAS boxes from a CCTV point of view, so we highlight those credentials.


There are of course many more solutions available.
There are probably 20 or more CCTV software providers.
It is incredibly hard to assess and compare these complex Video Management Systems (VMS) - there are just so many features.
Almost all will offer a free trial download of their software - typically limited by how many cameras you can connect for your testing, or how long you can keep recordings whilst testing.
I would strongly urge you to try before you buy - to make sure that you are happy with the functionality and the user interface.

Please feel free to respond with your choices and findings below.