It’s an ongoing and inevitable conundrum for security systems managers: not all end users are experts. When attempting to design surveillance systems, experimenting for novice-friendly systems can be expensive, either in propriety software, system downtime or help-desk calls.

In small and midsized businesses, the main end user could very well be the business owner, who is justifiably more focused on the continued success of his or her business than on learning a complicated surveillance and recording system.

“I’m not any type of a technology person,” says Harry Kampersal, owner of Holliston Sewer Service in Massachusetts. “But I needed security around the building to protect our assets – the building itself, our pump trucks, garages, office…. If something were to happen, I need to know what and when.”

Kampersal made an investment of several thousand dollars on three AXIS Communications cameras, which run on a free video management platform – AXIS Camera Companion.

“We installed it ourselves, and it gives me so many more options – I can access video in 20 seconds, and I can view the video on my smartphone, which gives me the peace of mind to actually go on vacation,” adds Kampersal.

“I check it every morning, and the cameras are motion-activated so I can see if or when police drove through on a patrol or if other people used our dumpster without permission. I can see who left the door open on the garage, and correcting those employees’ mistakes helps to ensure they won’t happen again. If there’s an incident of graffiti, I can find the perpetrator on video, deliver the SIM card to police, find the perpetrator and get some return on my investment,” he says.

The Town of Addison, Texas, is also seeing a return on its surveillance investment through easier-to-manage VMS. After a routine camera filter-and-replace, the Town’s IT department replaced cameras at three locations throughout the community: a 150,000 square-foot Athletic Club (33 HD 1MP cameras), a 44,000 square-foot Conference and Theatre Centre (26 HD 1MP cameras), and the 20-acre Addison Circle Park (33 HD 3MP cameras and 18 portable HD 1MP cameras). While the $210,000 investment might sound like a difficult figure to quantify with ROI, the IT department is finding that the added usability with the Avigilon cameras and video management system is saving time at the help-desk and keeping video running smoothly.

Each location has at least one dedicated NVR, leaving onsite staff to work with the video systems when needed. However, employees at the Athletic Club, Conference and Theatre Centre and Addison Circle Park are not necessarily security experts.

“With our previous program, two to three times per month, an employee at each location would call us with a request for help pulling up video for an investigation,” says Chad Hancock, IT Network Specialist for the Town of Addison, Texas. “Each call would take at least one hour, and we had to shut down the surveillance system to access the video…. We have a very small IT department with many moving parts and lots of projects to work on. The less help-desk time we have to spend, for whatever reason, the more time we can devote to other network improvements and projects.”

Under the new program, the Athletic Center and the Conference and Theatre Centre both record for up to 14 days, monitoring for thefts, liability issues (i.e. slip and fall incidents) and vandalism. The park cameras record 24/7 on motion for up to 90 days, except during major events, when constant video is bookmarked for a full year. The park cameras are mainly deployed for crowd control during events and for investigations. Watermarks on surveillance footage and the ability to export video in its original format helps to assure courts that video has not been altered, leading to stronger court cases. Support and maintenance costs are also lowered through free product release updates.

Under the new system, users at the different locations can access video on their own, or with a short five to 10 minute walkthrough from one of the Town’s IT staff. Pulling footage no longer requires system downtime, leading to stronger round-the-clock surveillance at each location.

“If you think that an investment in surveillance isn’t worth the money, all it takes is one slip and fall lawsuit to be proven wrong,” says Kampersal. “A few thousand dollars to protect a million-dollar investment? I feel it’s well worth it.”