Success Story

How Chester Cathedral merged four separate DVR systems into one

November 20, 2023

Table of Contents

“Solink gives us one interface to view four systems as if they were one.”

Concerns

  • Government grants forced Chester Cathedral to adopt multiple separate video security systems which were difficult to access remotely.
  • These systems had no way of integrating video feeds or data into one centralized place, making it challenging and time-consuming to find information.
  • Sharing video files with local authorities was nearly impossible and involved in-person commutes to the office every time.

Results

  • Solink merges everything into one system to manage over 50 cameras across the estate, making it easy to reference data from all four systems at once.
  • The security team dramatically reduced how much time they spend in their video security tool because Solink automatically pinpoints important information.
  • It’s now easy to save, clip, and share video footage to authorities via email, which allows everyone to work faster, from anywhere.

Table of Contents

The Client:
Chester Cathedral

Tucked just below Liverpool in the United Kingdom, Chester Cathedral is one of 16,000 Church of England properties. Established in 1092 and covering multiple buildings, the main cathedral, and 1/4 of the walled city of Chester, it’s a historical sight to see. To handle over half a million tourists per year, they employ over 70 staff, 250 volunteers, and 50 cameras. 

Jon Turley is the Cathedral’s Commercial Director and the main person for overseeing the operations across the estate. He works alongside Lizzie Butterworth, the Safety and Security Manager, to help keep the Cathedral’s premises secure.

A large red brick building with a clock tower.

The Challenge:
Operating multiple separate DVR systems made it difficult to locate and share footage

Government grant policies meant that Chester Cathedral had to purchase a new, separate DVR system every time that they received a new grant. This led them to have four unique systems that didn’t have interoperability with each other. There was no way for any of the systems to share data or video footage with the others. As a result, it was difficult to set up, maintain, and use each platform individually.

"We had four different DVRs, and each was a separate system. They were all physically in the same place, but you had four different systems and four different control panels in front of you.”

Furthermore, Chester Cathedral had no way to remotely access these traditional DVR systems. Each system was only accessible in person. This required a daily commute for every case investigation. It was clear to Jon that they were in need of an entirely new solution that could merge everything into a central system and make it possible for him to view the footage from anywhere, not just inside the control room.

“We had multiple systems, and it was a nightmare to access them. We were looking for one system, almost like a bridge, that would go in the middle and make them work as a single system.”

The inside of a cathedral with wooden benches and a clock.

Summary:

  • Separate DVR systems with no interoperability or data integrations made it difficult to find footage or trends across the entire estate.
  • Learning and managing four different systems was a burden on the users.
  • Without remote accessibility, someone had to be present in person to manually review footage.

Jon was on the hunt for new solutions that could help drive higher efficiency and safety for Chester Cathedral’s operations. He first ran into Solink at the International Security Event (ISE) in Birmingham in 2023.

“Our initial meeting was at the trade show. It was the end of the day, we'd gone to do the health and safety trade show, and the security one was next to it at the NEC last year. We were thinking about heading off at some point soon, but we thought we'd have a quick look. And we approached a few stands at the trade show.”

“We met a Solink representative, who got a chat in straightaway. And as soon as we said we were in Chester, he realized he lived nearby. That was a positive thing for us. Then, when he asked if we should put a meeting in to come out and talk about it, we both just felt positive about Solink’s potential.”

From the beginning, the Solink product stood out to Jon and Lizzie because it immediately made their lives easier. Having a single user-friendly interface means that they can spend less time manually reviewing footage and more time on other areas of the business. Some Solink features like Camera Linking even help guide them to where people move about on the property so they can complete investigations faster.

“It requires less knowledge on the user's part as to what cameras are in use because the system is suggesting, ‘if I've seen you on this camera, I'll next see you on that one.’”

Solink’s cloud video security system also helps them overcome the other major hurdle of remote accessibility. Because Solink operates in the browser, it’s easy for any user to log into the platform on a laptop, tablet, or mobile device. Once logged in, the footage and data are immediately available for any enabled camera locations. 

“The ability to see from our mobile phones, tablets, and laptops is fantastic. The motion search feature is fantastic too, and something we didn’t have access to before.”

A tool that not only saves time on searching for footage, but also offers business insights is a major benefit for Chester Cathedral. Solink’s platform features a dashboard of widgets that can be customized to any business through data integrations. For Chester Cathedral, this allows them to quickly visualize and pinpoint insights that matter directly to their business. Instead of manually reviewing data and looking for trends, Solink automatically highlights data that is worth further investigation.

“The Solink system tells us that, ‘if you've got five minutes, here are five things to look at from yesterday,’ which are either transaction voids or refunds from the day before, so we can just start reviewing some of those potential issues. We've also got a door access system, which we are hoping to integrate, so if we've got failed access attempts on doors, it will flag those for us to look at as well.”

The Result:
Faster collecting and sharing of evidence during investigations

The time-saving results of Solink’s cloud video solution are front and center for Jon. Whenever he or Lizzie have to deal with investigations on the estate, they find it easy to leverage Solink features like Motion Search to identify where activity has occurred. This feature saves Jon and Lizzie hours of time in each case they work. Jon mentioned one specific case for which he wished he had Solink around earlier, as it would have saved him so much time.

“We had one incident with a car. It took two and a half hours to find the clip of it, whereas if we did that today with Solink, it would take us 5 to 10 minutes.”

Using Solink to find and predict activity is very convenient for the Chester Cathedral team. Now that they have a dashboard of data highlighting suspicious activity around the estate, they don’t need to spend as much time actively monitoring their video security cameras. Instead, they can quickly enter the Solink platform and gain all the information they need to guide their investigations within a matter of minutes. Jon says his daily check-ins to the Solink platform are very fast, which allows him to get back to other important work.

“It varies between me and Lizzie, but we usually only need to spend 10 or 15 minutes a day on the Solink platform to get everything done.”

Jon has noticed a clear return on investment (ROI) from merging four separate DVR systems into a single system with Solink. Getting that time back has also allowed him to be more proactive about how he manages health, safety, and operations around the cathedral grounds.

“It's definitely had an impact on our costs. So the cost of the system is absolutely offset by the amount of time we were spending messing around trying to find things. We're also more proactive with using our security camera system now. CCTV was always a last resort, because it was so painful to get. Solink makes it so much easier now.”

Chester’s Cathedral shares how great customer support made onboarding and maintenance easy

“The Solink onboarding process has been brilliant. The Solink team has been absolutely amazing.”

“Solink made the setup easy. It was an absolute breeze setting it up. You found the best way to configure it for us. We were happy, but you were not. So you came back and made it better. It's just that almost relentless drive to make sure that it's the best it could possibly be for us. Interestingly, I've just found a camera that isn't yet on Solink that was on our network. By the end of today I know it’ll be up and running on the system. You know, everything has been turned around so quickly. Since joining Solink, they always proactively come to us to say, ‘have you seen this camera has an issue or could be improved by doing this?’”

“It is just brilliant the way that Solink have stuck with us throughout the process. They've tweaked things to help Solink fit our needs and help us develop the system to get the best out of it.”

Birmingham cathedral, birmingham, england.

The relationship between Chester Cathedral and Solink has a lot more in store. For starters, Chester Cathedral looks forward to connecting their POS integration with Solink through one of over 200 integrations available to date. Gaining access to another level of data will give Jon and Lizzie deeper insights about the transaction activity across customers and employees.

“When we integrate the POS with Solink, that's when we'll really start to see things in a different way. I'm confident that we'll be surprised with what we find when we do that.”

“I think it's the number of transaction voids that we get. Having the integration with our POS system and CCTV will make it much easier to identify these, and put appropriate training in place.”

Chester Cathedral’s three favorite features

Motion search allows users to select an area within a video frame and identify points in time where motion has occurred in those specified areas. It’s a big time-saving alternative compared to manually reviewing footage at 2X or 4X speed.

“Motion Search saves me hours saves me hours of my time. If you want to see something on an image or just see all activity within that little part of the image, it just makes it so much easier.”

Saving clips

Saving clips allows users to keep selected segments of video footage that are most important. With Solink, saving video clips to the cloud with an infinite retention period means that Jon can always come back to reference them later with ease.

“Saving footage is something that was so traumatic on our previous system, and that is just so easy in Solink.”

Sharing clips

When handling an investigation, sharing clips on the fly is important so that emergency response teams or authorities can act on the incident. For Jon, using Solink has allowed him to start communicating evidence to police quickly via email, meaning he no longer has to think of creative solutions to transfer video footage.

“The ease of sharing video in Solink is a major benefit. Prior to using Solink, we were in a position where, for one incident, the police came in and used their body cameras to record the screens in our control room because we just couldn't get the system to share. Whereas it is so easy now to press a button and share it securely.”

A woman with brown hair smiling in a circle.

Alexandria Hewko

Alexandria Hewko is Solink’s Field Marketing Specialist. She brings a blend of international marketing, cybersecurity, and digital transformation expertise to her writing. She has practiced her love for storytelling through her own travel blog and writing for fast-growing tech brands like Thinkific, Fellow, and DZone. When she’s not at work, you’ll likely find her traveling to somewhere new!