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NVR Versus VMS: How To Make The Right Choice

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When it comes of safeguarding valuable video data, both Network Video Recorder (NVR) and software-based Video Management System (VMS) can do an excellent job.
However, every specific arrangement will perform better with one option over the other.

If you’re wondering how to make the right choice, take your time to consider the following 5 variables together with the pro and cons each solution comes with. 


Since there’s no software to install except for maybe a light client on a PC (and sometimes not even that), setting up an NVR system is easier than installing a VMS system on off-the-shelf servers and other hardware. For smaller systems, this reason alone is often why customers choose NVRs over VMS software. However, the user has no choice but to buy the complete NVR solution.

Software solutions, on the other hand, benefit from being able to leverage existing hardware. This is especially true as system sizes scale. Managing a 2,560-camera system with a VMS would certainly be cheaper than to buy 20 128-channel NVRs. 

The tradeoff is that setup can take longer on software then on a typical NVR system. However, a lot of work has been done in the CCTV industry over the last few years to change this gap significantly.



When a customer buys an NVR, he knows he’s buying everything from one manufacturer and he expects the manufacturer to support him along the customer journey from installation assistance to troubleshooting problems. 

The trade off here, is that, because of the “portability” of the NVR, the risk of having to send the entire unit back in case of problems is still existing.  This risk almost never occurs on a software deployment.


When it comes of Scalability the VMS is the winning solution.

Let’s say that an NVR supports up to 128 channels and you need 130: you will need an additional unit for 2 channels but maybe you won’t feel like investing that money for very little additional return.

Besides, with an NVR, you scale everything as a complete system. Maybe you don’t need more channels, but more storage. Maybe you just need more transcoding. In all of these cases, NVRs “force” you to add more of everything, even when you may only want to add “something”.


Usability is an “extensive” topic. including intuitiveness, scalability, applications and so much more.
Any user should keep in mind that NVRs have a usability mostly designed for smaller installations while VMS are generally designed for larger systems, multiple users and compatibility with third-party systems: if you’re looking for something like access control integration into your system a VMS will probably be the right solution for you.

Monitor environment is also a significant factor in usability comparisons: very few NVR systems support multiple-monitor environment, whereas most VMS systems support high monitor counts.


The long-term “future-proof” nature of software makes them more “adaptable” than embedded NVR. In an NVR system, if you ever want to upgrade to newer hardware, you may be starting all over and may not have the possibility to connect your old storage to the new one.

This forces many users to install a new NVR system, and keep their old system long enough to manage the required retention policies.

A software-based VMS system, on the other hand, has a lot more “migration” portability as components can usually be upgraded and changed as needed.

Still unable to make your choice?

We’re here to help you!

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