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Choosing OS

Creating a functional video surveillance system from scratch is no easy feat, which entails quite a few choices. In this article we’ll review the one that tends to come first – the choice of OS for the server. Let’s examine all the popular variants in detail.

Microsoft Windows

  1. Stability. While the overall dependability of Windows is not to be questioned, the notion of BSoD (Blue Screens of Death) is quite notorious and is inevitably brought up when it comes to discussing stability. System crashes and unscheduled server reboots are unfortunate, yet very real, possibilities. With Xeoma these worries are somewhat lessened by the fact that it can be installed to autostart with the server: if the server is rebooted (manually or otherwise), Xeoma is launched automatically, thus making the no-surveillance time minimal.
  2. Server load. There are 2 parts to consider:
    1. Server with GUI. Graphical user interface is necessary if the server itself is going to be used by an operator to monitor the connected cameras. This inevitably creates additional load, as the server has to constantly show the operator the processed image in addition to processing itself. The crux of this load falls upon the CPU, which can be partially alleviated by hardware acceleration (the graphics card). In addition to that, Xeoma is highly optimized to reduce the load wherever possible (dual-streaming is a viable option).
    2. Server without GUI. Such systems are less demanding when it comes to server resources, as no graphical imagery requires processing. Windows Servers can be used this way by deleting the GUI altogether – only CLI (Command-Line Interface) will be left.
  3. Pricing. Windows works under the paid licenses system with every new version being more expensive than the previous one. Thus, the cost of the server should include the license’s price as well. It is a one-time payment, however.
  4. Clarity. While Xeoma’s interface is highly intuitive, one also has to account for the OS’s interface and “ground rules”. Being the most popular OS around the world, Windows is familiar to everyone and simple enough to use. As a result, no special training is required to handle Xeoma’s server with Windows.
  5. Software Security. Popularity is a mixed blessing: being the apple of everyone’s eye, Windows attracts all kinds of attention, including that of individuals with malicious intent. As a result, malware and spyware for Windows are quite plentiful all over the globe posing considerable risks for electronic security systems. However, these types of software mostly spread over the Internet and a CCTV server doesn’t necessarily need a connection at all. Xeoma’s servers can work without any Internet connection whatsoever.

 
Linux

  1. Stability. Linux-based machines are generally not prone to crashes or freezes and, therefore, can work 24/7 for a long time (up-time goes as high as a year) – an important factor for electronic security systems. This makes Linux a suitable solution for “set it and forget it” systems that require human control only at the initial steps.
  2. Server load.
    1. Server with GUI. Linux provides a wide variety of distributions (distros), including those with very light-weight GUI aimed at minimizing the server load. However, it does cause additional load, and as long as the server itself is not going to be used as a monitoring station, you would do well to avoid using GUI. Using hardware acceleration is currently (as of version 17.5.5) not available for Linux, though it should be implemented in the near future.
    2. Server without GUI. This is Linux’s trump card – it allows to use a fully functional server with no GUI whatsoever, just the CLI. This is more than enough to set the basic framework of Xeoma and then set everything else up by remotely connecting to that server from any other device.
  3. Pricing. Being an Open Source platform, Linux provides most of the distros for free (some represent paid licenses, albeit significantly cheaper than the competitors mentioned in this article) and puts no strain on the budget.
  4. Clarity. Linux is quite notorious for having a considerable learning curve, which tends to complicate the process of setting everything up. A person unfamiliar with the OS’s intricacies won’t be able to create a functional surveillance server, unless a lot of time is spent on manuals and forums. As a result, a qualified specialist is needed to do all the fine-tuning, which, in turn, creates additional costs. Certain distros, however, have somewhat more user-friendly interface that should decrease the time required for setting up.
  5. Software Security. Linux-targeting malware and spyware are not particularly wide-spread and are relatively few in numbers making it a rare occasion for a Linux server to get breached. The system of user privileges serves to prevent any unwanted elements from altering the system in any way, unless specifically authorized by the administrator. The resulting security level is quite solid for Linux-based systems while requiring minimal efforts to uphold.

 
Mac OS

  1. Stability. Mac OS comes with Apple’s hardware designed specifically to bring out the best out of each other. As such, Mac systems boast impressive stability with system crashes being an incredibly rare occasion.
  2. Server load. The flip side of the stability based on the synergy between software and hardware is upgrading said hardware. If your electronic security systems grow, it stands to reason that ultimately the server won’t be able to handle the load requiring more powerful parts (e.g. CPU). Upgrading parts of a Mac machine is difficult, often impossible. This tends to force the user to purchase an entire new machine.
    1. Server with GUI. Mac’s interface is quite pleasant and powerful but, unfortunately, functionality and effectiveness do no go hand-in-hand. The smoother everything moves the more strain is applied to the server, which, in turn, can affect the quality of video surveillance. Servers with a considerable number of connected cameras are far more effective when left without GUI.
    2. Server without GUI. Mac OS basically represents an Apple interface on top of a Unix core, and Unix systems are all inherently capable of running without GUI. As such, Mac machines can be accessed with CLI only, bypassing the GUI altogether. The downside is that process requires some fiddling with user settings and authorization.
  3. Pricing. Both hardware and software are rather costly when it comes to Mac putting them at the top of most price-lists on the market. Software upgrades for the same hardware aren’t free as well. The resulting cost is significant enough to serve as a deterring factor for both large and small-scale security systems.
  4. Clarity. Mac OS boasts a well-designed interface created specifically to have all the usability a customer may need. Visually and functionally it is intuitive enough to give very little trouble even to a new user.
  5. Software Security. Being a Unix-based system, Mac OS is well protected when it comes to malware, utilizing the same system of user privileges: a virus without the administrator’s password is powerless to affect the system. Spyware aimed at Mac is also relatively rare.

 
With all that in mind, we can draw some conclusions.
Your priorities will determine the OS for the server:
If you favor usability and clarity above all – Windows is the right choice.
If security is your #1 concern – Mac OS will be the impregnable fortress you need.
If it is imperative for your system to be flexible and scalable – Linux will provide exactly what you require.

June, 6 2017

Read also:
Choose the hardware for your server
Hardware recommendation based on system scale
CCTV Security System Administration: How to Admin?