Skip to main content

Recorder 101 – Choosing the right solution

7 minutes read

Recorders are an integral part of any surveillance system. If you’re purchasing cameras, you probably need a recorder. But choosing the right one can be tricky. From Power over Ethernet (PoE) switches and power outputs to expandable storage, the breadth of options is mind-bending. In this article we’ll help guide your decision to choosing the right solution for you.

To streamline things, at Axis we’ve grouped our products into three different families of recorders. Each family shares common features and functions, and then simply scale up in terms of volume of cameras and devices supported by each. 

But what is a recorder, and why do you need one?

In a nutshell, your recorder will act as your camera (and other connected device’s) server. It’s what all your local, and potentially even remote, devices will connect to. It runs the Video Management Systems (VMS) software, and also acts as your initial storage and processing location for all the connected devices. It then in turn will connect to your workstation, the main User Interface (UI) and where you manage the system.

What this all implies is that your recorder needs to suit your wider system make-up. And this is where we need to start asking some questions.

Helpful questions:

  1. Firstly, and most importantly, is how many devices are you connecting to your recorder? This will then dictate your absolute minimum number of channels required.
  2. Second, and tied to the previous question is, will you need to connect more devices over the years as you scale? If yes, bear in mind that you’ll want to purchase a recorder with a bit of channel head room to allow for further connections.
  3. Next up comes storage. Will you be leaving your footage on the recorder for a while? Or even recording in 4K? Then you’ll want something with a good amount of storage, and potentially extra empty bays for you to expand your storage as needed.
    1. As a side note, the ability to record in 4K is a recorder function unto itself that you’ll need to bear in mind.
  4. What VMS software capabilities you’ll need are also worth bearing in mind. Or to phrase it differently, how proactively do you need to manage and drive your devices? 
    1. Depending on the recorder you purchase it’ll most likely come with a number of licenses for our AXIS Camera Station VMS. This is our main, full suite VMS (and access management system) that allows you to actively manage devices. 
    2. Alternatively, if you purchase - and we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves here - one of our S30 series, it also works with our AXIS Companion software. This is for the more reactive and simple user. Someone who will occasionally want to watch back footage, and may not even need a dedicated workstation, rather using a computer, tablet or even phone to manage devices. 
  5. Do you want to use your recorder to power your devices using PoE? If so, you’ll need a recorder that has these as standard (and the right amount)!
  6. More devices also means higher power draw requirements. If you’re hoping to use your recorder as your PoE base check that its power output meets your device requirements. If you’re using more advanced devices, for example, ones with additional functionalities like infrared, radar, wide angle, or 4K recording, you’ll need a higher power output to match.
  7. And lastly, are you looking to manage single or multiple sites with your recorder? Are you looking to open and connect more sites in future? If the latter, it’s worth considering simpler local set ups, each connecting to your central, more advanced server. This is not only more cost-effective, it can make expanding far more straightforward. More on this later.

OK, we’ve got the key questions in mind. As we’ve said, Axis has 3 families of recorder types. These are recording servers, appliances, and recorders (only). Each has their own set of strengths, so let’s see what the differences are.

Recording servers: AXIS S12 Recorder Series

Description: These are our out-of-the-box recording servers and are the “typical” recorder you’d think of. The AXIS S12 is the future-proofed next generation of recorders. With powerful components and up to 150 channels available, these high-performance devices offer support for powerful applications and features. They come preloaded with AXIS Camera Station and come in either a rack or tower format. The latter also includes the client (your workstation) software so you can simply plug in a monitor, mouse and go. 

Who they’re for: Those who want a high end device network and actively drive and manage their devices. They offer great scalability meaning you won’t need to buy new hardware as your network grows.

Other considerations: These recorders don’t provide PoE ports so you’ll need to have your PoE sockets sorted separately, for example with the AXIS T85 Series.

Appliances: AXIS S2108 and AXIS S22 Series

Description: Appliances are our all-in-one recorder stations. Each functions as the recording server, provides PoE ports, and also runs the client workstation. Not only is this a more compact form factor than purchasing the equivalent 3 separate units, it also works out more cost effective. 

  • The AXIS S22 Series is our standard family of all-in-one recording solutions with integrated PoE switch designed to deliver reliable high-definition surveillance. All hardware components, including the PoE switch and storage units, are validated to meet the demands for reliable high-definition surveillance up to 4K Ultra HD.
  • The AXIS S2108 is our affordable appliance for customers who don’t want all the extras. All hardware components, including the PoE switch and hard drive, are validated to meet the demands for reliable, basic surveillance up to 1080p.

Who they’re for: Installations who are building networks from scratch, who are looking for cost effective purchases, and in need of compact all-in-one solutions to save space and/or want a centralized solution.

Other considerations: These only go up to 24 channels.

Recorders: AXIS S30 Series

Description: The AXIS S30 series are recorders that primarily function as storage and a PoE switch. They allow you to connect 8 or 16 cameras and support the Axis product portfolio. Our AXIS Companion VMS app connects to the recorder, providing easy to use, reactive management software tools, accessed via a desktop, tablet, or mobile device. The products are also compatible with AXIS Camera Station when expanding an existing system or for distributed storage systems, typically found in multi-site deployments.

Who it’s for:

  • There are two main scenarios for purchasing an AXIS S30 series recorder. Firstly, are small site deployments who only need simple, reactive (i.e. look at footage when you need to, make sure your cameras are running properly, no analytics) management of their devices. You might also have ambitions to scale your operation to another site (or more) in the long term. You won’t have to replace anything if you do! 
  • Multi-site operations, such as coffeehouse chains or gas stations, also benefit from these solutions as they function as a cost-effective bridge to an offsite, central server. Rather than deploying more expensive and powerful servers on each site, customers can offload processing and recording to the AXIS S30 and connect it to their central recorder that is running ACS. This means customers can keep their existing infrastructure and reduce Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). 

Other key considerations:

Worried about cybersecurity? All of our devices have a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0 or equivalent which ensures all recorded video is stored encrypted on the hard drives.

Still unsure? Don’t worry. Our Axis partners are well equipped to help guide you to the right decision. 

More in-depth information and complete specifications for all our recorder products can be found on the Axis website.

Learn how you can build your own end-to-end Axis solution for surveillance
To top