Boring Toolbox Speeds System Healthcheck and Generates Compliance Reports

Last year Jacob Onstad took a business trip to Nemours Children’s Hospital in Florida, in his role as a Field Services Engineer for Milestone Systems.

Jacob performed a massive System Health Check for Nemours to ensure optimal performance. He knew that a Milestone Gold Technology Partner called the Boring Lab had created a dedicated solution to vastly simplify the tedious parts of administration and maintenance for XProtect installations – amusingly named the Boring Toolbox. Jacob used it for his work at Nemours.

“The awesome thing about the Boring Toolbox – the way that it really helped for this large installation – is it has a dashboard where you can very quickly look at problem areas on the system: which recording servers are running out of storage, which cameras are using the most storage, and similar usage or warnings. You can quickly create camera groups that help you do fast bulk configuration and reporting. It cut the time required in half!”  Jacob says.

“When we’re doing System Health Checks for customers, the first step is information gathering, about the whole system, the architecture, the storage, the cameras – everything. After that we go through and run compliance and load testing on all the servers and the storage. We’re looking for errors, inconsistencies, variations from best practices – anything that stands out,” says Jacob.

At Nemours, technology plays a huge part in their health system services. Nemours is a multi-site organization, also in Delaware, using Milestone’s XProtect Corporate video management software (VMS) to monitor many aspects of their operations in non-traditional ways. This includes integrations that help the hospital improve facility efficiency, lower operational costs, and deliver a safe, pleasant and healthful patient experience.

Now working with more than 1,800 network cameras, Nemours Children’s Hospital uses video for monitoring people and assets, security and situational awareness throughout their facilities. Over the last eight years the hospital and its systems have nearly tripled in size!

Global Dashboard for Multiple Sites Saves Time

The Boring Toolbox newest Version 4 added multi-site management, which manages all the C-code versions of XProtect management servers, regardless of how they’re connected to one another. They could be federated, they could be interconnected, they could just be separate sites by the same customer, or it can be an integrator managing multiple sites for different customers.

The Boring Toolbox then takes all that data, like the live data on the system health, and turns it into a global dashboard, which can see all the sites on one ‘pane of glass’.

No Data Scientist Needed

Ronen Isaac, CEO at Boring Lab explains: “Each site will be color-coded based on the site health. If it’s green, everything is good. If it’s red, we have either a recording server down or some cameras down. And if it’s gray, it means that it’s either a disconnected site altogether, or potentially just initializing and gathering the data. From that dashboard, we also provide a global camera status report with a lot of other information: IP address, camera name, camera brand, camera model, which management server, recording server, everything in a nice filterable Excel spreadsheet – perfect for maintenance or reporting to customers.”

Since the Boring Toolbox is integrated so deeply with Milestone, the solution supports most camera brands and models that Milestone software does. Milestone’s Device Packs are released bi-monthly with new models – to date more than 8,500.

“So we’re pulling a lot of that data from Milestone. We also have a component of the toolbox that interacts directly with some top camera manufacturers’ hardware directly: Axis, Hanwha, Bosch, Sony, Arecont. The Boring Toolbox interacts with those specific device APIs, but at least in this release, most of the data is mined from different parts of Milestone and presented to the system admin in an easy-to-consume format…no data scientist needed,” says Ronen.

Understanding System Integrator Needs from Experience

Ronen started out as a Milestone systems integrator, for more than ten years. He recalls: “As our clients grew in size and complexity, we found that managing them was very challenging, and we were spending many, many hours doing mundane, boring tasks.

“The Boring Toolbox started when I had to create custom device groups for a specific recording server at a large customer, and it took me roughly 17 hours. I thought ‘There’s got to be a better way.’ So I called up Dani Elias because he is a dot net guru. I told him ‘You need to help me build this thing for our internal teams.’ We started with Boring Toolbox Version 1 and auto device groups, which is exactly what took me 17 hours and now takes only a second!”

From there they spun out the company Boring Lab, created the Boring Toolbox into a marketable product, and the rest is history.

Dani Elias adds: “A lot of the features we have today are driven by customers that we’ve acquired over the last year. Our product development is all feedback driven. Our first customer was Continental Computers, where Ronen worked, and their feedback initially made us create the device groups tool, then some bulk operations from there. Then the dashboards and the camera reports, and all that came from customer requests.”

Community Innovation by Partners Collaborating

As of summer 2020, The Boring Toolbox will release an integration with IPVideo Corporation’s HALO security solution , which will manage smart sensors with the Milestone platform. This combination will give HALO customers the welcome ability to handle bulk management of their security installations measurably faster.

Milestone Systems is a happy customer of the Boring Toolbox, as illustrated in the Professional Services group, who are likely to come with more requests as they continue to use it in the field. And the news is spreading fast: Milestone Diamond Partner Stone Security is a big fan of the Boring Toolbox, as well. They have a large global customer, among others that make good use of the mass configuration, cyber security and reporting time saving features.

Camera Retention Verified for Compliance

In Boring Toolbox V4 there are expanded details around camera storage and camera retention in number of days. In the Milestone software, you can configure how long to save the video data, like 14, 30 days, or whatever is required but there is no way to audit actual retention. In the V3 report, there previously was a column for Actual Retention – how many days are actually being saved on the recording server.

“Now we have a column for Actual Retention and Configured Retention, which shows side-by-side how much data, how many days are actually saving vs what is supposed to be saved on the recording server. And another column shows you the difference between the two. Boring Toolbox does the math so you can quickly filter the report and see which cameras are out of compliance or out of tolerance or whatever that might be,” says Dani.

Most people need to show they are in compliance with the laws and regulations, especially casinos, the cannabis industry, law enforcement and jails, etc. Today they have no way to do that. With Boring Toolbox Version 4 and the compliance reports showing actual retention vs configured, they can just hand over the Excel file and say, “Here, this is your proof that we’re in compliance.”

Check out a trial demo of the Boring Toolbox or HALO.

Part of this article appeared in the April issue of SDM magazine.