As the end of 2014 approaches, we find the video surveillance industry with a plethora of IP-camera manufacturers as well as an abundance of digital recording solutions. Many of these products claim they support hundreds or even thousands of cameras, made for such ease of use, and a lifetime of retention. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could find a video storage platform that really could easily connect with a handful of cameras and allow someone to quickly call up the camera video feed as well as the recorded video and do this all without a seasoned I.T. staff. Yes, it would and we have found such a solution in the Buffalo TeraStation 5000 series network attached storage (NAS) unit integrated with the Axis Camera Companion software.
Let’s get the ‘product positioning’ set right away. This integrated solution really is ideal for a doctor’s office, a dentist office, a sandwich shop, a coffee shop, a mechanic’s shop – you get the idea.
We couldn’t recommend this solution for a large hospital or an airport or a prison, but we don’t believe Buffalo nor Axis were suggesting such environments.
Therefore, for those that are looking for five or six (or even 15 or 16) IP-cameras to cover their home or small business environment, you need to take a look at the Buffalo/Axis combination.
This review will not cover the ability of users to take advantage of the Buffalo TeraStation being used as both a typical network data storage device AND the video surveillance recorder but it could be configured as such.
Being the video surveillance purist that we are, configuring the Buffalo TeraStation as a standalone video surveillance NVR/DVR unit is the best practice.
Also, this review is not an in-depth review of the Axis Camera Companion software itself nor of the Buffalo TeraStation NAS devices itself. What this review does cover is the integration of these two products and the overall viability of this combination as a reliable standalone NVR/DVR solution.
And this review will also respectfully disagree with the “One-Click Configuration” claims that are put forth from Buffalo and Axis on getting this solution up and running.
With that being said, the combination of the Buffalo TeraStation NAS storage device integrated with the Axis Camera Companion software function as if they were originally designed for each other.
We did reach out to Buffalo and inquire about this specific integration. Their representative stated:
“The 5200 series was in fact designed and brought to market based on the relationship created with Axis. Our engineering teams worked together and made sure the end users experience was ‘as advertised.’ The work done on the embedded API and OneClick functionality ensures an easy deployment without the need for network engineers. We also understand the traditional analog dealers needed a ‘plug and play’ solution. Our goal by providing this experience was to make the conversion from analog to digital as easy as possible.”
We understand the marketing desire to showcase an easy setup. However, our belief revolves around the usability and viability of the solution. This is where the Buffalo / Axis integration shines.
The elegance of this integration, in our opinion, is the simplicity.
It doesn’t claim to be everything to everyone and yet what it does do well —display video feeds, record video feeds, and playback video feeds— it does very well, it does it easily, and does it without issue.
We need to state here that we were very interested in this “One-Click Configuration” claim as we have yet to see such claims hold up in real-world configuration.
Our skepticism remains in tact. We stopped counting after four clicks and continued clicking-on.
I’m sure it’s not Buffalo or Axis’ fault. If you put these products in a pristine environment and all the stars and planets aligned right, I’m sure there could be a time when it would all fall into place with very little networking effort.
This is really a reflection on the networking world that we all live in and how we introduce new networking products into said network.
With so many variables and environments, hoping that such a configuration of a Buffalo TeraStation NAS (again: network attached storage) device connecting with Axis IP (as in TCP/IP network) cameras can pick up the nuances of anyone’s and everyone’s network setup and jump in and run is asking a lot.
With that said, it was not hard at all to get the Buffalo TeraStation NAS, along with the Buffalo gig network switch (provided for this review), and the three (3) Axis M1054 IP-cameras up, connected, and recording.
Taking all of this equipment out of the box, hooking everything up, installing software, setting network IP addresses (really, the only ‘hard’ part that took some time), setting up the network share, and then beginning to record video from the cameras was about 25 minutes. Real world.
You will need to setup a new “network share” storage area on the Buffalo TeraStation that you wish to have the video surveillance feeds recorded.
This is a straightforward task that you accomplished through the web-based Buffalo NAS-Navigator webpage.
You then need to download the latest version of the Axis Camera Companion software from the Axis website.
I’m sure Buffalo and Axis would like this to read that it was only a 5-minute setup but again, the realities of the IP video surveillance market is that eight out of ten times, you will need to find and assign network addresses to these network devices and get everything communicating properly.
The good news for this review is that this is expected (truthfully, we would have been amazed if we didn’t have to deal with any of this), and it is not complicated, and that once the IP addresses were properly set, the solution ran as smooth as silk.
The Axis Camera Companion software is not a feature packed video management system (VMS) as we indicated previously but what it does, it does with simply straightforward capabilities.
There are three (3) modes of operation for the Axis Camera Companion: View, playback (Axis calls this ‘investigation’ mode), and settings.
They all do what you think they would do and are easy to move between.
Similarly to many video surveillance recorded video players, this one has a timeline that a user can click into a specific time or ‘slide’ the timeline to get the desired timeframe to play.
The live view mode allows you to view up to 16 cameras in one viewing matrix.
This grid also comes in a 2×2 and 3×3 option to display four and nine cameras respectively.
You can also click left and right arrows on the bottom of the interface to move between the camera feeds.
If you want to save and export a series of video(s), select the camera and click on the floppy disk icon on the lower right of the interface and two yellow arrows will appear.
Move these arrows to cover the amount of time you want to export to disk. It will save the video as individual files.
This process will also include the Axis File Player so you can play the video on any Windows PC. There is a Viewer For Axis Camera Companion App on the Apple AppStore.
These files are in Axis’ own .asf file format that requires the AxisFile Player application to view the video. We would rather these files be in an open standards format such as H.264 or MJPEG and we did not notice such a save option for this.
We are told that the thought process on the more proprietary file format is to ensure chain-of-custody of the exported video.
Some of the pluses for the Axis Camera Companion software include:
• It’s Free!
• Very easy to use, short learning curve
• No requirement for a PC to run 24/7
It probably doesn’t need to be stated, but the Axis Camera Companion only works with Axis cameras.
These recording capabilities are geared perfectly for the Buffalo TeraStation NAS device that turns the whole solution into a typical NVR.
With the various TeraStation NAS offerings from Buffalo, there is a video storage capacity (retention capability) that can fit any small business.
SecurityHive reviewed the Buffalo TeraStation 5200 NAS that we deftly turned into an NVR for our video surveillance purposes.
As stated previously, we had the entire solution up and running within 25 minutes. This review was setup as a standalone solution that included the Buffalo TeraStation 5200 NVR, the 5-port gig Buffalo Business Switch, three Axis M1054 network IP-cameras, and a MS Windows based laptop. Other than the companion PC (or Mac or a laptop in our case) and potentially a network router that would also act as a DHCP server, all of these components made an ideal stand alone video surveillance solution.
We were delighted with the build quality (fit & finish) of the components of the Buffalo TeraStation NAS/NVR and the switch as well as the operation of the Buffalo NasNavigator software along with the Axis Camera Companion software. It plain “felt” solid.
The TeraStation 5200 review unit reviewed came with 1-terabyte of available video storage and ships in 2-, 4-, 6-, or 8-terabyte models.
The Buffalo TeraStation 5000 series ranges from the 5200 unit (reviewed) up to the TeraStation 5800 with capacity up to 32-terabytes. The TeraStation product family also includes the TeraStation 7000 series.
The match of Buffalo and Axis is also highlighted with the fact that both companies are truly global players.
Just as Buffalo has localized the TeraStations for a number of foreign languages, the Axis Camera Companion software supports US English, UK English, Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, Czech, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish.
The various TeraStation product offerings allow for any size company (or even homeowners) to configure the right video storage needs and to increase capacity in the future.
In a real world setup, a small restaurant (for example) could get six or seven (or 15 or 16) IP-cameras, such as the Axis M1054, and a video recording storage unit, such as the TeraStation 5200 with 2-terabytes of capacity.
Use the Axis Camera Companion to setup up the cameras and a recording schedule and start capturing video feeds.
If you are looking for an expandable, solid, video surveillance NVR you need to take a look at the Buffalo TeraStation offering. A simple straightforward solution that flat out works.
The Buffalo / Axis combination for a simple, easy-to-use, standalone NVR video storage platform is an affordable, solid, reliable solution backed by two industry leading manufacturers. Axis is the leader in network IP-cameras and Buffalo is the leader NAS storage.
On the consside of the ledger, our position is too much emphasis is placed on the “one-click configuration” marketing claim.
Although we did not have an extended review time, one technical issue that must be given to any digital NVR device is the hard-drive write endurance.
Remembering that this is a continual, 24x7x365 drive write operation, the quality of hard-drives used in the NVR is critical. This will inevitability be a topic of concern for any NVR.
On the pros side of the ledger, the ease-of-use, straight forward recording configuration, ability to live-view each camera as well as display the cameras in a video matrix all lead to an affordable reliable standalone NVR solution that must be given serious consideration when considering a video storage need.
Reviewed Product Models
Buffalo TeraStation 5200 Model #TS5200D0202S
Buffalo Gig Business Switch 5-port switch with 4 ports of PoE Model #BSL-POE-G2105U
Axis M1054 Network IP-Camera