You don’t always hear a lot about them, but in general, the market for hybrid recorders, whether DVR- or NVR-based, is strong. If you think about it, though, that’s not all that surprising, given that more and more companies, organizations and others are taking the plunge into the IP world.

“The hybrid market is very much alive today for two reasons: There is a huge amount of existing analog CCTV currently in the field, and research suggests that IP camera sales worldwide are just now passing analog camera sales in regards to total dollars spent,” says Greg Tomasko, applications engineer for Honeywell Security, Melville, N.Y.

Cost — which includes both up-front investment and total cost of ownership — is another factor that’s driving hybrid recorders as well.

“With the price gap between DVRs and hybrids diminishing, hybrid recorders are going to act as a natural bridge between analog and IP,” says Zin Thu, director of product management for Amityville, N.Y.-based Speco Technologies. “The highly configurable hybrids that can convert from an analog DVR to a full NVR are more likely to have a longer lifespan than a hybrid that has fixed analog and IP channels.”

However, the demand for hybrid recording solutions isn’t necessarily as high across all verticals, applications, etc.

“For new installations, it’s mostly all IP, so there’s less need for hybrids. At the same time, there’s a real need for customers with existing analog systems — and there are plenty of them out there — who want to migrate but can’t do it all at once,” says Dan Cremins, director of product management for Ottawa-based March Networks.

For installers and integrators, hybrid recorders — and hybrid systems as a whole — present a tremendous revenue opportunity, Tomasko says.

“It is clear that many video customers need a clear path to transition from analog to IP. Many others may want to take advantage of the declining costs of analog cameras while deploying higher-definition IP cameras in select locations. The hybrid option is one of the best ways to accomplish both of these needs,” he says.

Hybrid recorders are also a good way for installers, as well as end users, to transition from analog to IP.

“Analog installers are curious about IP but are afraid to take the leap into IP,” Thu says. “The NVRs today with plug-and-play features are easing analog installers slowly into IP and NVR installations. If an IP installation can be made as easy as analog, the installers are not required to have any prior networking knowledge and they are gaining the advantage of megapixel high-quality images. Hybrid DVRs are another way to transition installers from analog to IP without the added pressure of having to install a full IP system right off the bat.”


Practical Considerations

In determining whether a hybrid recorder is right for a situation or evaluating multiple options, there are a number of factors that go into making the best decision. Naturally, the first is what the end user is looking for with their system.

“Before you figure out the recorder, you have to figure out the cameras. Are they HD/megapixel or analog, and how many are there?” Cremins says.

Another consideration is the recorder’s ability to serve both current and potential future demands.

“Can I have a DVR today and convert to an NVR at any time? How quickly am I going to have an IP system? If the transition is going to happen quickly, you might want to go directly to an NVR and bypass a hybrid,” Thu says.

For existing systems, the placement and location of the current recorder may need to be re-thought, which could influence an end user’s choice of DVR or NVR.

“For an installer and integrator, selecting a hybrid NVR requires many considerations. For one, was the customer’s analog system installed with future technologies in mind? Does that existing system meet their current policies? Is the current DVR in a convenient or appropriate location?” he says. “If the answers to these questions are yes, then the installer could simply install a hybrid NVR in place of the DVR and move on. If the answers are no, then you have the option of replacing the DVR with a hybrid or deploy an encoder at the DVR location and add an NVR in a new, more appropriate location to achieve the same result.”

The ability of a hybrid to allow customers to replace existing analog cameras with IP cameras in the future is a very critical factor.

“Flexibility is important because if the recorder is fully populated with a mix of IP and analog cameras, you want to make sure the system owner can replace the analog cameras with IP as they migrate to an IP system,” says Jamie De Souza, product manager for Westford, Mass.-based Tyco Security Products, Westford, Mass. “Not all hybrids allow you the capability to discard an analog camera and replace it with an IP camera.”


Ease of Installation

So far, the discussion of important considerations for choosing hybrid recorders has centered around customers’ needs, as it should, but there’s also the installer or integrator’s needs to consider. So ease of installation has to factor in to the decision. Far from being selfish in demanding this, installers and integrators who look for devices that are easy to install are not only saving themselves headaches but are also saving their customers money in the process.

“At March Networks, we’re constantly coming up with ways to have the installer in the field for the least amount of time for both configuration and troubleshooting,” Cremins says. “We want them to be able to serve their customer efficiently without having to go on to our website or call our support team.”

According to Thu, most hybrid DVRs lack built-in PoE switches for IP cameras, so they require at least minimal working knowledge of IP camera installation and connection, whereas hybrid NVRs are more plug-and-play in that respect. Auto-discovery tools have made much of this manual configuration a thing of the past with NVRs.

“If an IP camera is on the local area network, hybrids or NVRs today usually support a feature where it can scan and find the IP cameras on the local area network. This helps simplify the manual process since the installer does not have to know the IP address of these cameras,” she says.


Beyond Transitioning

Other than transition situations, there are a number of other applications for which hybrid recorders are well-suited. For instance, a transition plan — or even a mere thought of fully transitioning to IP down the road — is definitely not required.

“Customers that have existing analog and want to start using IP are the perfect target for a hybrid solution. As long as they are planning to keep some of that analog deployment, they are a fit for a hybrid solution,” Tomasko says.

Another opportunity is with customers who want to install and maintain a foothold in both analog and IP at the same site.

“There’s a population of smaller system owners who don’t need the advantages of IP everywhere. A small C-store or retailer may have high-resolution video in the areas of their footprint that are most critical, mainly the cash-counting areas like the cashier and the office, and low-cost analog cameras with SIF resolution everywhere else,” Cremins says.

Whatever the application, Tomasko says the ability to accommodate both analog and IP cameras with a single device is often best for both the installer and the customer.

“Hybrid recorders today are the bridge between analog and IP presented in a single device. There is value in this singular offering. They are often the most efficient way to help a customer experience IP for the first time. However, this solution is only viable as long as analog video is still being used,” Tomasko says. “Choosing a hybrid recorder that can live on as a fully functional NVR is the best way to provide a confident solution to your customers.”


Hybrid DVR or Hybrid NVR


In the hybrid recorder world, there are two flavors: hybrid DVRs and hybrid NVRs. Both can accommodate both analog and IP cameras, and in some cases, the terms are used interchangeably. But what’s the right term? And is there even a right term?

“Mostly it’s a matter of opinion. There’s no body that sets standard nomenclature for recorders,” says Jamie De Souza of Tyco Security Products. “However, in my opinion, a hybrid DVR’s primary purpose is analog video recording and offering some kind of IP features and functionality. A hybrid NVR is a more robust, feature-rich, high-performance video recording platform with the added advantage of an input or the equivalent of an encoder built in.”

Many manufacturers make a distinction between the two in terms of current and future requirements, but that doesn’t necessarily signify the end of any confusion.

“Honeywell uses the term MAXPRO NVR Hybrid because without the hybrid component, it would still be an NVR. If I see the term hybrid DVR, I would take that to mean without the hybrid component, that system would be a traditional analog camera recorder, or DVR,” says Honeywell’s Greg Tomasko. “But because of the speed of products and marketing, the lines between the two names are blurred.”

This blurring of the lines is precisely what Tyco Security Products’ Shahar Ze’evi would like to do away with forever.

“In 2014, be careful when you’re talking about DVRs, NVRs or hybrid. Is a hybrid a DVR or an NVR? They have two different functions,” he says. “One is an old-fashioned DVR that has a network port but it’s not IT-friendly and it’s hogging the network. A hybrid NVR is a full-fledged NVR that is IT- and network-friendly and has an internal encoder.”


Advice for Installer and Integrators


Zen Thu, Speco Technologies: “Pick a hybrid DVR that is highly configurable. Do not get tied down with a fixed number of analog channels and IP channels. If each channel is configurable for either analog or IP in any order, this is an ideal hybrid DVR.”

Greg Tomasko, Honeywell: “Let your customer guide you through their needs and present the best solution, based on these needs. In the transition from analog to IP, sometimes a hybrid recorder is the perfect fit; and sometimes it’s not.” 

Dan Cremins, March Networks: “It starts with what the customer wants to look at, and you design the system from what they want to see, almost ignoring the cameras they have installed.”

 Jamie De Souza, Tyco Security Products: “There’s no difference with a hybrid over a traditional IP system. Understand current and future requirements, and pair them with the best solution for current and future needs.”