By Pedro Pereira, Business Solutions Magazine
A VAR branches into video surveillance after a request from a large client.
It pays to listen to the customer, and if Shawn Santerre needed any evidence of this, he got it with a four-year video surveillance deployment for a California school district. Santerre, VP of sales for VAR XIT Solutions, worked closely with the district from conception to conclusion — first, extensively researching a technology that was new to XIT and ultimately winning the bid to deploy video management software and hundreds of Sony cameras.
“The customer told us what they wanted to do, so we got involved,” Santerre says. The Bakersfield City School District wanted to replace an old analog surveillance system with a centrally managed IP-based solution. The timing was perfect because XIT wanted to get into IP video surveillance. “We started going through the paces. IP surveillance was a new market for XIT, and I didn’t know a whole lot about it,” Santerre recalls. But rather than let that deter him, Santerre saw the Bakersfield project as an opportunity. XIT moved slowly, however, methodically researching available options, which hardware vendors served the market, and what software systems would be easiest to work with. XIT staff received training on several vendors’ technology to learn the products.
The process took 18 months, with XIT meeting with different vendors and comparing notes with the district’s internal IT department, which would be responsible for managing the system postinstallation. The district accepted XIT’s proposal to deploy OnSSI’s Ocularis CS video management software paired with Sony IPELA surveillance cameras.
“We liked the OnSSI product because we know that it is not proprietary to one camera manufacturer. As things changed, we didn’t want to be locked into a proprietary system,” Santerre says, adding that scalability was another factor. Sony cameras were selected on the strength of the brand’s reputation and ease of maintenance.
A mix of cameras was installed, including high-definition IPELA models, infrared-equipped cameras for nighttime use, and vandal-resistant, mini dome cameras. The surveillance system was deployed to keep students safe and to improve overall security. The district says the system already has reduced vandalism-related maintenance costs.
The Move Toward IP Surveillance
XIT is a full-service VAR employing 15 people and focusing on government and education. The company has stayed attentive to technology developments and branched out when it made sense, Santerre says. Such was the case with the Bakersfield surveillance project, which covers 41 sites with close to 30,000 students spread across elementary, middle, and junior high schools.
XIT had been doing IT maintenance and supplying the district with servers, desktops, and peripherals for six years, so it was natural for the district to turn to the VAR for surveillance. Still, says Santerre, XIT had to compete with other solutions providers because schools by law have to bid out major capital expenditures.
The project took place in phases, with each phase going out to bid. XIT won the bid to deploy the management software and to install cameras at the first five sites. “Each school went to bid for cameras,” Santerre says. So despite the VAR’s relationship with the district, “at the end of the day, we still have to have the best pricing available to the customer.” That wasn’t the case for some sites, when lower bids won the business.
After four years, the VAR learned a lot about the technology, which already has proven valuable for other video surveillance projects. “This was our first enterprise install, and we’ve had some other smaller projects since then,” he says. “It’s always good to continue looking at new technology. Listen to the customer, and when they say they want to do something new technology-wise, take a look at providing that technology. It could be a new business that becomes the next thing. I believe IP surveillance is the next thing for us.”