Which NVR is right for you?

 In Video Surveillance

First off, what even is an NVR? An NVR is a network video recorder. With the rise of network cameras, the requirement for video recording changed. Instead of directly attaching the camera to the recording device, network cameras are now capable of transmitting their information through the local network. With that, the NVR was born. With NVR’s there are a large variety of devices out there that all offer different features and it can be quite complicated to decide on the right device for the application. Here we outline the various NVR options and our recommendations for their usage cases.


For NVR’s there are a few different options, such as plug-and-play NVR’s that directly attach to the camera. Other options include server based NVR software and embedded NVR servers. These devices have their niche which we aim to explain here. If you are looking at taking your analog surveillance system to the next level by converting to IP, or want to implement a new solution, we always recommend getting in touch with us to get the best possible advice on a case by case scenario.

Plug-and-play NVR’s

Plug and play NVR’s are the most common NVR’s for smaller installations that are decided mostly by budget. These NVR’s offer a network interface in the back of the unit that the cameras can be directly attached to. The cameras are then powered and recorded by the same box, making the installation very easy and the list of required equipment very short with only an NVR and the cameras. There are however a few important things to note about these NVR’s.

Plug and play NVR’s, as the name suggest need a place to plug the camera into the box. The units come in configurations of 4-, 8-, 16- and sometimes 32-channels. If an installation has an 8-channel NVR, the maximum number of cameras is eight cameras. If later an upgrade is required, another NVR needs to be purchased, whether that is another 8-channel connected via software, or a 16 channel to accommodate the additional cameras. Another important factor is that the plug and play NVR’s are usually manufactured by the camera manufacturer as an after-thought. As such the software is not very feature-rich and bare bones, ultimately effective the user experience. If advanced features are required, this is not the NVR solution for you.

Server based VMS (Video Management Software)

Server based Video Management Software is possibly Milestone Systems - Video Management Software Manufacturer Logothe most flexible solution for a surveillance installation. This solution is usually used for large surveillance installations, or in environments where servers are preferred over third-party devices. Software, such as Milestone’s XProtect, is installed on one or multiple servers. The only real limitation to the capability of the software is the hardware. The processor and RAM on the server will govern the number of cameras that can be recorded simultaneously, while the hard drive space will govern the maximum allowed retention.

The beauty of these installations is that the software can be installed on multiple servers, allowing for redundancy, while also offering load balancing between these servers. In this case, a server can rely on another in the event of a failure, or in the case of adding cameras or storage, additional recording servers can be added to the system, streamlining the process for upgrades and making updates very cost-effective and easy. Server based VMS is also by far the most feature rich solution. With add-ons, available for purchase and advanced features built right into the software, nothing is left to be desired.

Embedded NVR’s, such as Milestone’s Husky

Possibly our favorite solution for smaller installs is the Embedded NVR lineup. Milestone’s Husky lineup, for example, offers a few different pre-configured server models. These units are built to support up to a certain number of cameras. They come pre-installed with a camera license pack and can be upgraded to support more cameras down the road. Multiple NVR’s can be connected to offer real load-balancing and future-proof upgrading.

The best part of these NVR’s is the software they are loaded with. Instead of a piece of software that was created as an after-thought, these units come with full-fledged video management software systems. The Husky lineup is pre-loaded with Milestone’s feature rich and easy to use XProtect Professional or Corporate software. The Husky M20 server allows for easy control of up to 24 cameras and it also offers the option for a built-in switch for linear configuration of the cameras. The additional features that these NVR’s offer are enterprise level features that can streamline business and maximize the ease of use of the system. Instead of wasting time trying to find a video snippet, an area can be highlighted and the server scrolls to the last time the pixels changed in this field. These NVR’s pay for themselves with time-savings and effectiveness of the surveillance system.

VMS and NVR Hybrids

The reason we like the Husky lineup so much is because of the multi-location flexibility, as opposed to standalone NVR’s. Most businesses with multiple locations are left with solutions that do not offer any remote viewing abilities or a few different camera systems that they have to switch apps for, to individually view a location. With Milestone’s solutions, these problems are eliminated. Every location can be matched with the perfect Husky server, while the head office will be outfitted with a server running the XProtect Corporate VMS. The Husky’s can then be connected via Milestone’s Interconnect feature. This feature allows for the Husky’s to be integrated right into XProtect, offering a centralized management console for all video across the world.

That’s right; there are virtually no limits to the size of the installation or the number of cameras viewed at any time. The internet connection must be built to support the additional streaming, but that is all that is required. Viewing is then made possible via the Milestone Mobile app, offering the most features for a mobile app in the industry, or via any internet connected computer with your credentials. The combination of NVR’s and the main VMS is an extremely robust and secure solution for multi-location setups that are looking for additional features, redundancy, better control and ease of use.

Camera Selection

Obviously, the question of what cameras the NVR or software support is imperative. In the case of video surveillance, the video camera is the essential part, having the wrong NVR for the camera can be a problem. The only real problem arises with plug and play systems as they are built by the camera manufacturer and mostly only support their camera models. Even within their camera lineup, there may be restrictions, such as a maximum number of megapixels supported. With the other software or NVR solutions, the only requirement is a camera license for each camera. Most of these NVRs have hundreds of manufacturers that can be selected from, to be able to integrate the perfect camera for the job.

Camera compatibility is also an important factor to consider for future upgrades. If in the future, difference cameras are required for any reason, some NVR’s may not allow for the integration of these cameras. At which point either a whole system overhaul is needed, or essential parts of the system must be replaced, e.g. the NVR.

Storage Upgrades

Saving the recorded video for a particular time is a requirement for certain industries, while it is nice to have for others. Regardless of the business, the more cameras, the more storage is required. When laws change or future upgrades are needed, additional storage may be necessary. It is important to note that plug and play NVR’s usually only offer 2-4 hard drive slots, which if filled up are the maximum storage capacity the system provides. For some NVR’s there is also a feature allowing for external storage devices to be attached, which however can be very insecure in the case of external hard drives. With server-based software, the storage upgrading is that much easier. Another recording server can be added, or storage expansion units, such as the Lenovo Storage Area Networks that can be directly attached to a server for support of up to a Petabyte (1000 Terabytes) of data per server.


Regardless of the size of your video surveillance environment, we don’t want you to jump to any conclusions on the NVR or VMS. The software ultimately is the solution that either makes or breaks the entire video surveillance solution. An easy to use, feature-rich software can make all the difference in the world, over a piece of software that is a low-cost solution. As we outline in our demo post, we always recommend that you allow for us to demo the system to you, before you decide on a system. With a full demo and some hands-on experience, the decision is just that much easier. We have NVR’s available from Honeywell, Axis, Hikvision and of course Milestone. With a few demo cameras, the web interface and the apps, we can give you a full demo of the system in no time.

Call us today at 1-844-230-2730 or email us at [email protected] to set up a demo or find out more about what NVR solution may for best for your application. We are ready to help you at any time and would be happy to assist you in designing your video surveillance environment.

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