The need for video surveillance systems goes far beyond simple security. These days, video surveillance can also give you piece of mind by allowing you to monitor your home, keep an eye on your kids and monitor the inventory in your small business. Imagine the reassurance of being able to remotely access real-time or archived footage of your residence or business. And maybe you’ll catch a neighborhood cat up to no good.
But with all of these capabilities come many choices and options, and determining which system is the right one for you may seem tricky.
Here’s what to consider in choosing a video surveillance system:
- Wireless vs. Wired –Wireless camera setups are typically used in homes, easier to install, and give you the flexibility to change camera locations without having to run new wires. Larger homes and business may need a more complex solution, so they typically choose wired camera setups. These require cable being run from camera to DVR through low voltage lines, so you won’t necessarily need a contractor for installation.
- What kind of DVR? – A system may come with a few cameras, but you may want to add more for maximum coverage. The limiting factor is the DVR, or recording device, included with the system. It has a maximum number of channels it can accept video feeds from, so the number of available channels determines the maximum number of cameras you can use with the system.
- Analog vs. IP Digital Cameras – Analog security cameras send the images via an analog signal to the DVR. The DVR can transmit it over the Internet as one IP (Internet Protocol) address stream. This makes efficient use of bandwidth, and it typically costs less per camera as well. IP digital cameras broadcast every camera stream separately with its own IP address. Businesses typically already have IP networks in place, so that can greatly reduce the need for additional cabling or hardware. IP digital cameras are capable of higher resolution than analog cameras, so if image clarity and motion capture is paramount, then analog may not be the ideal choice for you. IP digital cameras are also less susceptible to interference from other wireless devices.
- Enable Remote Access – Will you want to use a smartphone, laptop, or tablet computer to monitor your video footage? How about receiving text alerts wherever you go? If yes, choose a system with remote access capabilities.
- Recorder Capacity – Consider how much footage you’d like to record and keep archived. Also, what kind of video quality do you need? This determines the size of hard drive you’ll want on your DVR. For example, if you wanted to be able to store five days of video (with no audio) from four separate cameras at a standard frame rate, you’d need around 50GB of storage capacity. It’s also possible to set your cameras to record only when motion is detected to greatly increase your active recording time. Some systems provide video compression, which can increase memory capacity even further.
- How Many Cameras? – How many cameras do you need, and where should they go? Do you need weather resistant cameras for outdoor use or night vision capabilities? It all depends on the needs and size of your site. The higher the resolution of your camera, the more area you can cover and with more detail. A digital “PTZ” camera can pan, tilt and zoom around an area instead staying on a fixed position. Additionally, digital/IP systems are far more scalable, so you can expand to meet additional needs.
As a general reference, a four channel DVR is a good size for small businesses and homes under 2, 000 square feet. An eight channel DVR can more adequately cover small businesses such as a small retail operation that wants to monitor inventory, and for homes up to 3, 000 square feet. Sixteen (16) channel DVRS are good for small businesses, homes over 3, 000 square feet, and those interested in expanding their systems in the near future.