The Water Valley ISD is a small, independent school district that is home to 350 students in grades K-12 in mid-west Texas. While crime and incidents are relatively few and far between, there are occasional occurrences of theft and trespassing and, like any school, Water Valley administration likes to keep an eye on things. 

Old Technology Limited Usefulness of Security Cameras

WaterValleyhas had video surveillance for a long time, but the legacy systems were consumer-grade surveillance cameras that began to show their age and did not offer the performance, reliability, durability or scalability of commercial-grade products. Not to mention that every brand of camera worked a little differently, so they became difficult to service as well.  “For years we had been operating off of a low-end, retail-purchased camera system attached to a VCR. Getting to the video was not an easy task and generally speaking, something had to be pretty significant to make it worth the time and trouble to go back through the videos,” recalls James Ditmore, Director of IT for Water Valley Independent School District.

But in an IP age, the uses for video are exploding.  No longer is video limited to post-incident investigation, but schools are increasingly using video to deter unwanted behavior, generate operational improvements, mitigate risk, and train students and staff. 

In 2007, Water Valley invested in an IP video surveillance system. Initially, the school wanted full video coverage of the gymnasium during sporting events and planned to provide a live feed to LCD monitors to allow parents working in the concession stand to see their kids playing. A small implementation allowed Water Valley to cost-effectively try equipment and experience benefits of network video, without undertaking a comprehensive replacement effort within a tight timeframe.

Benefits of IP Video – Long-term Growth, Versus Outdated Analog Factors

Ditmore attended the 2007 Texas Computer Education Association Conference to research his options. He was able to meet with several providers of surveillance solutions, including Wren. Ditmore recalls, “To my surprise, most of the vendors were still talking about analog video. But I knew that IP technology was much more flexible, easier to use, and more manageable than analog video. I wanted ‘future-proof’ technology that would be easy to manage and scale. I quickly realized that Wren was extremely knowledgeable, not only about IP video, but about how it could be used in schools like ours,” says Ditmore.

Extremely pleased with the functionality, performance and ease of use of the system, Water Valley decided to expand its video network in 2009 and 2010 and began replacing all analog cameras with IP cameras. In addition, Wren had launched its Encapsulon solution, which offered enterprise-grade management of video and other physical security solutions, making the transition to all IP cameras pay off even more.

IP Video: Immediate Performance and Long-term Scalability

With budget cuts a constant issue, Water Valley wanted a solution that would stand the test of time. This meant investing in a system that would offer dependable performance over the long-haul and also support the addition of cameras over time without requiring replacement of the entire infrastructure. The Encapsulon solution offered a simple, streamlined, scalable IP video surveillance solution. Complete with hardware, software and dedicated appliances, the solution ensured the addition of video would in no way disrupt the existing IT network. “After installing the cameras, we simply added the rack-mounted appliances to our IDF closet. All equipment – cameras, recording and hosting appliances – were staged at the factory to enable truly turnkey implementation. The software was preloaded and the cameras were preconfigured to our specifications,” says Ditmore.

The system offers Water Valley enterprise-wide management of video surveillance and easy scalability. Dedicated video recording appliances (VRAs) pre-installed with Encapsulon software can accommodate additional IP cameras as needed without disrupting the network.

“The system offered us immediate performance plus long-term scalability,” says Ditmore. “The appliances made upgrading our video surveillance system to IP an easy plug-and-play process and we can add cameras on demand, as budget funds become available. It’s a very practical solution that will accommodate our needs for the long-term, and even allow us to integrate IP access control with our video in the future, should we decide to do so.”

Now, a school administrator or authorized user can log in from anywhere to view live and recorded video. “The software interface is very intuitive and our principal and superintendent have found it easy to acclimate to the system. This increases use of the system and means that we are getting more out of video than ever before. I fully expect we will find new ways to leverage video,” says Ditmore.

Already, Water Valley has seen great results.  Shortly after cameras were installed, there was a rash of break-ins in local area schools. Water Valley Elementary, the only school with cameras, was spared from the thefts.