Is a proprietary system a good idea?

 In Access Control, Video Surveillance

When it comes to access control and video surveillance, especially, there are a few manufacturers that have made their systems a proprietary system. Proprietary, in this case, means that the products are only compatible with other products manufactured by the same manufacturer. So, in the case of video surveillance, the cameras, and the recording solution will both have to come from the same manufacturer. In theory, it is an excellent idea. One manufacturer that controls both hardware and software should make for a more reliable system as they can test their equipment and fulfill any special requirements their products may have. But is it such a good idea?

Proprietary Systems

There are quite a few systems on the market that are proprietary to a particular manufacturer. The systems range from the surveillance pack bought at Costco, to professionally installed systems. For access control systems, the hardware may only support one particular software or vice versa. These systems are designed to ensure customer loyalty to a specific platform while, looking attractive for setup, for both the installed and the end-user. Having the same manufacturer build the software and the hardware, theoretically, allows for a great match. Both pieces from the same source ensure compatibility with all listed products, at all times, while also paving the road for an easy RMA process should something break. We at Authorized Security, however, believe that a proprietary platform does not bring any benefits to the table if anything there are more drawbacks than positives to a proprietary setup, which we will explore below.

Service and Cost

Price is always a deciding factor for any configuration. When working with a proprietary system, the product selection is significantly limited, unlike with an open platform. Should the exclusive manufacturer decide to raise their pricing, the end-user is now stuck with said pricing, and there is very limited room to escape that trap. Additionally, going with a proprietary solution often means going with a certified installed for said system. This now also limits the options for companies that will help maintain and upgrade the solution.

While the limitation of the integrator may not seem like a major issue; We have had clients in the past that had to replace their entire system because of a lack of service from the select few companies that happened to be authorized by a surveillance camera manufacturer. Being caught in a situation, where all providers are lacking concerning support and helping maintain the system, does not allow the end-user to enjoy the system, or even use the system effectively in some cases.

Functionality

Video surveillance and access control software is ever evolving. New features are continually being added, allowing for an entirely new way to use the system at times. With proprietary manufacturers, the workload is almost double to keep up with the ever-changing needs of the systems and the end-users. Camera software and the VMS software has to be rewritten and adjusted to allow for the new features to be included in their platform. With an open platform, the changes may still take a while to roll out, but the manufacturer of that platform does not have to program both platforms at the same time. Additionally, and open platform will allow you to accommodate the product that has these new features.

In the case of Milestone Systems, for example. If a new video surveillance camera is released that will allow for improved security of an area or has a new feature set, the camera can easily be connected to the network and Milestone’s XProtect Software will be able to communicate with it. If a locked down platform was in place, the only options are to wait for the manufacturer to release a similar product, which may happen after some time, or never in some cases. The other choice is to upgrade to an open platform system, which means another investment into software and possibly hardware as some proprietary hardware is not supported by open platforms, due to restrictions set forth by the manufacturers.

Connected Platforms

Connecting multiple security platforms and combining them in one easy to use software interface is possibly one of the best things that have happened to the security industry. Viewing an access control event, including the card holders information, a video of them walking through the door and a timestamp of when it happened from, within the same interface is extremely easy and efficient to use. Many proprietary systems do not allow for these types of integrations. In some cases, the integration is only possible with their hardware. The major issue arises from a pre-existing system that is in place or certain functionality that is being requested.

When an access control system, for example, is already in place and an upgrade to a proprietary video surveillance solution is suggested, the access platform may never integrate with it. If an access system is to integrate with the proprietary software, then either an upgrade of the access system is required, or there may not even be a compatible system. The proprietary access system that would need to be in place may then in turn also lack certain functionality. In some cases, elevator control is not possible, and sometimes the setup is limited to a certain amount of doors. Proceeding with a locked down proprietary platform can be very costly over time, especially if the system is supposed to stand the test of time.

Conclusion

Proprietary platforms may look attractive from a distance, but drilling down closer some flaws will surface. Having a limited base of service companies for your systems and a platform that may never accommodate a newly discovered need within your business can be a problem. We have helped multiple customers escape from the proprietary trap. In some cases, we can force the hardware to be compatible with an open source platform, which will make the transition easier and less costly. Additionally, we can source special pricing from some of our manufacturers for upgrades of certain other manufacturers products, which will make for a cost-effective migration.

Migrating to an open-source system, or installing an open source system in the first place will open the doors to any possibilities and later upgrades. With proprietary solutions, the options are very limited, and the options for companies providing service on the equipment, unfortunately, are limited as well. We can help your business escape the proprietary trap with a broad range of open source solutions that will fulfill all requirements that you may have for your security solutions. Call us at 1 (844) 230-2730 or email us at [email protected]

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