Microsoft

Review: NCH Software Eyeline Video Surveillance

If you are looking for a useful tool to facilitate the creation of a quick and dirty security camera system for your office, Eyeline might be the ticket.

Most of us have personal offices that we would like to keep tabs on while we are away. You could use a simple video capture app running in the background using a single webcam that can be placed thereabouts, but to ensure quality security and peace of mind, it might be best to consider a more robust solution that can go above and beyond a small hack job. When it comes to protecting your office equipment from theft, you really want the best product to satisfy the task.

Eyeline

NCH Software has their premier video surveillance software package called Eyeline. With one program, you can control and manage up to 100 individual camera feeds coming from both network and local (USB and Firewire) resources (enterprise edition only) as well as providing additional extras such as motion-activated recording, scheduling, and network access. This product does tout a rather impressive feature-set, but does it actually do a good job?

The main interface for Eyeline is quite intuitive and informative.

For my tests, I used my Windows 7 Professional machine along with my built in webcam and a secondary USB camera. As long as the cameras were properly installed and detected on Windows, Eyeline was able to scoop them up into the feed viewer just fine. In fact, when I went to select my cameras, I was able to configure input resolution and bitrate so that I could choose to either retain higher-quality capture files or save disk space.

Getting into the more detailed aspects of how recordings are handled, Eyeline isn't exactly using a cut-and-dry approach here. With the ability to record video based on detected motion, some new and interesting possibilities open up beyond potential disk space savings. Eyeline can send emails to an address you choose, effectively warning you of any suspicious activity as it happens. Of course, you can adjust the tolerances in Eyeline so that super short and abrupt motions don't cause the software to raise the alarm, saving actual recording for persistent, ongoing activity.

Saved recordings can be stored locally as WMV format files, with the additional option of sending recordings off to a network share or a remote FTP server for additional security, should the files be discovered on the host PC and be deliberately wiped clean away. If you are using FTP, just be sure you aren't using any fancy SFTP connection as only a basic password authentication scheme is supported at this time.

Online access

Now probably what has to be the coolest feature for Eyeline is the ability to access live feeds remotely via your web browser. This can be accomplished through the provided local IP address for internal use only, or optionally an external IP can be assigned so that you can view your cameras outside a corporate intranet. Just be warned that you will likely need to configure your router to set proper port forwarding in order to access your security system from the outside in.

Although the software is quite feature rich and offers great potential as a sizable asset to office security, I did have some concerns as well. If you aren't careful and save videos to a FAT32 formatted volume, Eyeline doesn't have a feature to automatically break video files into 2GB maximum chunks (should they ever reach that size in the first place). Therefore, recording could abruptly end, due to file system storage limitations. Just be sure your recording disks are formatted as NTFS or exFAT so that you don't run into this problem.

Product Information

  • Title: Eyeline Video Survelliance
  • Author: NCH Software
  • Supported operating systems: Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8
  • Price: Between $49.99 and $295.99, depending on how many active cameras are desired

One other issue I noticed was that, at least with Windows 8, Eyeline would crash within a few seconds of starting a new security recording session, thus I was forced to force quit the app to close out entirely. It is possible that not all webcam, operating system, and other system hardware combinations can cause issues for some, which is why I ended up using my other Windows 7 machine. It is also reported online that Firewire cameras can be decidedly hit or miss, with some not detecting at all. Your best bet in this instance is to simply stick with USB connected webcams and you should have no problems.

Bottom line

Aside from these issues, NCH Software's security offering is definitely worth giving a try at least. As with their other products, they offer a free no-risk trial download so that you can give Eyeline a try and ensure that your hardware / software combination is fully supported. Because if it is, Eyeline has excellent features which can rival big name commercial video surveillance hardware kits which can cost much more.

When it comes down to what edition of the software you want to pick up, it ultimately depends on how many active cameras you want at once. I mentioned earlier that you can record up to 100 feeds at once, however, that capability is reserved for the most expensive enterprise edition. Thankfully, most small offices don't need an obscene amount of coverage and can make do with the lower priced versions that are available as well. All other features aside from active camera count are the exact same with each version of the product, so you don't have to worry about having to sacrifice further functionality.

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About

An avid technology writer and an IT guru, Matthew is here to help bring the best in software, hardware and the web to the collective consciousness of TechRepublic's readership. In addition to writing for TechRepublic, Matthew currently works as a Cus...

7 comments
naturedr
naturedr

I wouldn't touch any NCH software again even if it was the only option available.  Their support is bar none, absolutely ridiculously horrendous!  I lost hours upon hours of work when one of their programs updated and could not read the original files (created by the NCH software, in its own format).  It took 3 days to get an email response from their tech support giving bogus "do this do that' instruction which of course did not work, and then I was told if I needed more support I had to pay them $69 for their platinum support-   for their bad code writing!   STAY FAR AWAY FROM THIS SHAM OF A SOFTWARE COMPANY that spits out one product that will eventually be pure useless garbage when they lose interest in supporting it.

racefanrob
racefanrob

Real security is only as good, and dependable, as the entire package. Including the location. I owned a closed circuit television company for many years, built my own DVR's and managed the CCTV division for a large security dealer for many years as well. I agree that the "off the shelf" dvr packages are better than a usb webcam. However, they are a far cry from a professionally designed and installed system that includes consideration lighting, lenses, housing, heat, back-up, system protection etc. Having designed, sold and serviced 1000's of systems for many commercial applications,I have replaced many, many of these "off the shelf" systems as they fall short of needs and expectations. The worst is that these short comings are not anticipated and therefore the business does not realize the pitfalls of their system until a problem occurs. We have all heard the term "False sense of security". I suggest that if you truly have something to protect, put your trust in a professional and don't "cheap out" you likely will live to regret it.

bellocaro
bellocaro

It is bad company. The software cannot be updated or ere installed in case you have problems with crash . they want you to pay full price all the time and it is lots of money. You will have useless software as they reset your activation code even if you saved the software you downloaded. Don't ever buy anything from them.

robo_dev
robo_dev

Having worked with video surveillance for many years, the key learning is that most people have unrealistic expectations about what camera systems can do, what it takes to meet the actual requirements, and the pain and anguish when things are not done well. The Eyeline product looks neat. Having worked with professional-grade analog security cameras, digital (HD-SDI) cameras, and IP-based HD cameras, I wince when I see a solution using a USB-attached webcam. USB cameras have their place, but typically that would be on your PC to video chat with somebody else. Yes they have there place, but surveillance is not one of them for a whole boatload of reasons. If you need a cheap system, a standalone analog DVR costs around $500 with cameras for four channels. This would be much easier to setup, more reliable, and shoot much better video than a PC-based-webcam system. Plus you can lock the DVR in a closet somewhere so the thief does not walk away with the PC with the evidence on it. When you start looking at IP-based LAN-attached cameras, that's a whole different ballgame.....in this case you're typically running power over Ethernet and sending video to a NVR. A NVR has more in common with a highly-available web server than your average TiVo. These tend to be rack-mounted dual power supply servers running Linux as the core OS with RAID arrays, rack mounted UPS, surge suppressors for the data lines, etc, etc. Some of the more advanced HD cameras shoot 1080p at 30 FPS, have a built in DVR, web server, and even send email alerts..all for $200. 3 mega pixels, power-over-Ethernet, IP-66 weather rated for outdoor use. Hikvision DS-2CD2132-I

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin moderator

Are security cameras part of your security plan? What service and tools do you use?

Matt Nawrocki
Matt Nawrocki

I appreciate you going out of your way to mention alternatives and the prices associated with them. I actually didn't think hardware surveillance systems could be that reasonably priced to be honest.

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