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What is a Video Server and how is it Beneficial?

What is a Video Server? In what installation environment would a Video Server be appropriate? What are the benefits of Video Servers? These are just some of the questions customers have asked me regarding Video Servers. This article is going to discuss these questions to give everyone a better understanding of these products. So let's start with the first and foremost question...

What is a Video Server?
A Video Server is a device that converts an analog CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) signal into a digital signal and allows the video to be viewed on computers and recorded to digital equipment. The coax cable from an analog CCTV camera would plug directly into the Video Server which would then convert the analog video signal from the CCTV camera into a digital signal that can be transmitted over Ethernet to PC's or NVR's (Network Video Recorder).

Video Servers usually provide one to four ports allowing you to control one camera per port. Video servers also have a built-in web server which allows for easy configuration. Other common features found include motion detection, alarm notification and sequential snapshots. This is useful when the Video Server will be running in an environment without an attached PC to the network.

Most Video Servers also provide a BNC out connection which allows you not only to send the converted digital signal to a PC or NVR but also allows you to keep the original analog signal and send it to a DVR, TV or VCR to be viewed and recorded to tape or other formats. Audio is also available in some models which can be attached to the built-in microphone of the camera or an external microphone.

When would using a Video Server be appropriate?
Let's say you already have an existing CCTV surveillance solution installed at your home or business. You already have all the power and coaxial cabling installed running to each camera and everything is working great. You would like to convert the video to a digital format that will allow you to record to a PC and view it live over the Internet. This is where a Video Server would come in handy. At the location where all your coaxial cabling from your CCTV cameras merge, you can install a video server between each camera and DVR, TV or VCR. You would then run a RJ45 Ethernet cable from the Video Server to your local network. The Video Server will then convert the camera's analog video signal into a digital signal allowing you to view and record to a local PC or over the Internet to a remote location.

Many customers have found Video Servers to be useful in covert surveillance. Most IP Network Cameras are still bulky in size. Some people would like to have the digital signal of an IP Network Camera but still have a bullet camera that can be easily hidden in any location, not visible by the average person. Video Servers will allow you to convert the analog video feed of a miniature CCTV camera which can then be accessed on a local PC or remotely over the Internet.

What are the overall benefits of a Video Server?
One of the biggest benefits, as discussed previously, is the ability to add a Video Server into pre-existing surveillance installation and still get the best of both worlds. Yes you can have your cake and eat it too. You can record both a digital and analog signal from your camera. This also allows for easy installation and less worry about running power and Ethernet cables.

Video Servers also provide the benefits of alarm notification. The average Video Server has an I/O block built-in that can be connected to external alarms, access control panels, doors and lights that can be configured with the built-in alarm notification or motion detection to allow the Video Server to send an alarm via Email or FTP to any security personnel.

Video can also be viewed on phones that are 3G compatible. This allows you to monitor your home or business on the go with your cell phone.

Video Analytics and Intelligent Video Surveillance (IVS) are also being integrated into Video Servers. This allows your video server to have a higher level of motion detection, and motion tracking. Object recognition is also available which allows the Video Server to decipher if objects have been added or removed from the field of view.

In conclusion
Video Servers can be beneficial to any installation and provide the same functionality of an IP Network Camera. They give you the ability to convert a pre-existing CCTV surveillance application at a fraction of the cost when compared to the cost of replacing each CCTV camera with an IP Network Camera and running new power and Ethernet cable to each new camera. With the built-in web server, you have the ability to run event notifications and alarms without the need of a PC and can have snapshots sent directly to you via Email or FTP server. Some newer Video Servers also have the ability to view live video on a 3G compatible phone.

As the IP Network Video market grows, so will the need for Video Servers as many security installations will need to upgrade the existing surveillance system. It is wise to assume that Video Servers will continue to expand both in functionality and availability.

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