Don’t Throw Out the DVR With the Bathwater

While everyone was happy to get away from feeding tapes to VCRs, the digital replacement is not without an appetite of its own. I speak, of course, of the need to replace hard drives from time to time.

In the past week, I have been with several clients who have spoken of replacing their DVRs with newer models. If their needs have changed or they are unhappy with the performance (image quality, frame rate, retention time) of their older units than this makes perfect sense. However, if the argument is that “My old DVR is great but it’s unreliable,” then we need to drill a little deeper before bringing in the forklift to swap out boxes.

Drilling deeper in one case led to the complaint that the hard drives and fans were failing. Keep in mind, I told the client, that these mechanical items in their DVRs are the new consumables. Hard drives typically start to fail in three years, while fans can last forever or fail anytime depending on the quality of the fan. If you are otherwise comfortable with the DVR why not proactively replace the hard drives and fans before they go? It’s less costly if you do it as part of a maintenance plan; you can cycle the DVRs through when there’s no critical footage to be lost and you won’t have the downtime usually incurred by emergency repairs.

A word about hard drive replacements: Enterprise. That’s right, the name of this blog and a famous starship. There are two types of hard drives; consumer models and enterprise rated. Consumer-level drives are also fine in commercial desktops, or anywhere that they will only be written to and red from intermittently. In applications where the hard drives are in constant use such as DVRs and servers, an enterprise-rated drive will last at least twice as long and will not cost twice as much. There aren’t as many to choose from and capacities tend to be smaller, but they are worth the extra investment. A consumer drive will work just as well, so feel free to run to Best Buy and pick one up for an emergency replacement. Just be sure and swap it out at the earliest possible occasion.

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About the Author


Bob Grossman has held positions in all areas of the security industry — giving him plenty of opportunity to learn from his mistakes! Bob has authored articles for SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION and other publications and has spoken at numerous industry events both internationally and in the United States. Currently the founder and president of R. Grossman and Associates, a consulting firm, he divides his time between project-based work for large integrated systems and product consulting for a variety of cutting-edge manufacturers. For more information, visit

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