Security Camera Basics
Looking to get a good grasp of security camera basics?
Whether you represent an enterprise organization, own a small business, or you are considering a do-it-youself home security camera system, this brief tutorial will provide you with the background to make an informed decision.
Avoid Wireless Security Camera Systems
- The biggest mistake you can make when selecting security cameras is to opt for a wireless system.
- Wireless systems come in two varieties.
- Gimmicky battery powered devices designed for the residential market.
- “Wireless” systems where data transfer is wireless, but a 120V AC electrical outlet is required for power.
- Opt for PoE (power over Ethernet) wired systems instead. They use a single, low-voltage wire to deliver both data and power.
- In addition to looking far cleaner (no big black plug on the wall near the camera), installation is far less expensive, as no licensed electrician is required in a vast majority of jurisdictions.
High Resolution Allows you to Capture Important Details Like Faces and License Plates
- For video to be useful, it must capture important detail, like faces and license plates.
- Resolution is a measure of how much detail can be captured, and is the most important aspect to consider when selecting security cameras.
- High resolution = more detail = high chance of capturing actionable evidence (faces, license plates).
- Insist that a numeric resolution is provided on any estimate you may receive. Using the words “high resolution” without a number is a red flag!
- Opt for 2.1 megapixels (1080P) at an absolute minimum.
Modern Security Camera Systems are Fully Digital Devices that Function on your Computer Network
- Modern systems are IP (internet protocol) based devices that reside on your computer network. This systems are fully digital, and are capable of extremely high quality.
- The term DVR (digital video recorder) has been replaced by NVR (network video recorder) in modern, IP-based systems.
- Both refer to a piece of hardware that records video and allows for playback
“Just Say No” to Analog
- Analog security camera systems are already obsolete, and have been for years.
- If you wire for analog today (e.g. with coaxial cable), the entire job will have to be done over if you decide to upgrade.
- “Hybrid” is an intentionally misleading term used to disguise analog systems.
- Reputable companies are not using analog and/or hybrid equipment on new installs in this day and age.
- Analog systems remain popular with burglar alarm installers. They are easier to install for those who lack computer networking experience. The equipment is also inexpensive, which cameras selling for as little as $20 each at wholesale. This fits perfectly into the alarm business model, where as little as possible is spent on equipment in order to get people signed up and paying monthly monitoring fees.
Enterprise vs. Small Business/Home Grade Security Camera Systems
- Security cameras systems fall into two main categories.
- The first consists of video surveillance systems that are most suitable for home users and/or the smallest of businesses.
- The second category involves enterprise-grade solutions (the term “enterprise” in the world of information technology refers to a large business or government organization that requires absolute reliability and high-level security in all devices).
- The home/small business video surveillance market is dominated by Chinese-owned Hikvision.
- Leading video surveillance manufacturers for enterprise include:
- For more information, please see our more extensive educational document, Understanding Video Surveillance.
Avoid Pan/Tilt/Zoom (PTZ) Security Cameras and Stand-Alone Infrared (IR) Illuminators
- Pan Tilt Zoom (PTZ) Cameras have small moving parts, which makes them susceptible to mechanical failure.
- When you zoom in on one potential suspect, you lose coverage of other areas.
- Instead of PTZ cameras, choose high resolution systems with wide-angle lenses.
- Infrared (IR) Illuminators are invisible spotlights that are used to boost night vision performance in low-cost cameras with inferior quality sensors.
- If even a budget-priced modern security camera system is having difficulty with darkness at your location, the biggest problem in your security plan is your lighting, not security cameras.
- For this reason, we do not routinely use stand-alone IR illuminators in any of our camera setups.
- Purpose-designed License Plate Reader (LPR) cameras are the main exception here, as moving to the infrared spectrum can minimize the glare and overexposure from oncoming headlights.
Mount Cameras Conspicuously at a Height that is Out of Reach for Potential Intruders
- Conspicuous mounting is overwhelmingly preferred over concealed.
- We have spent countless hours in court in support of video evidence. It gets old, quickly. Deterrence is always preferable to evidence!
- Hidden camera are appropriate in a few extremely rare situations. These almost always involve an ongoing investigation directed at a particular target, and usually involve law enforcement or private investigators.
- Mount security cameras at a heigh of 14′-18′ above ground level.
- The goal is to deter a man of average height from being able to strike the cameras with an object he finds present on the site.
On the Efficacy of Burglar Alarms
- As a company comprised of experience law-enforcement officers, the principals at Integramax have little use for traditional burglar alarm systems.
- As any experienced cop will tell you, a vast majority of alarm activations (e.g. well over 95%) are false alarms.
- For this reason, unconfirmed intrusion alarms tend to be assigned an extremely low priority in police dispatch systems.
- Traditional alarm systems will eventually be replaced by systems that interface with security camera systems over the next five years, with the traditional motion sensors likely being phased out over the next ten years.
Do it Yourself Security Camera Systems
- Security camera systems sold in big box retailers like (office supply stores, membership warehouses) run the gamut from highly problematic to quite highly capable.
- Water resistance at the junction between the cables and the cameras themselves tends to be the weakest part of big box store security camera systems.
- If you plan to do it yourself:
- Single-floor commercial locations with drop ceilings present the greatest chance for success.
- Drywall ceilings, multiple floors and exterior cameras add complexity quickly.
- Buy from a retailer with a permissive return policy (e.g. Costco).
How to Select a Security Camera Installer
- Ideally, the firm you entrust with your business should have solid credentials in both security and technology.
- “System integrators,” home theater installers, and other general technology services companies tend to lack understanding of security and law enforcement, specifically with regard to what constitutes usable evidence.
- Burglar alarm installers overwhelmingly lack even the most basic knowledge about IP-based computer networking. This is disturbing, as modern high-end video surveillance systems are IP-based devices that reside on clients’ mission critical business computer networks.
- A reputable firm installing security camera systems will always provide the following information in any estimate:
- Resolution, expressed numerically (e.g. 2.1 Megapixel or 1080P). Simple use of the words “high resolution” is a red flag.
- Manufacturer of the equipment, including any hard drives in the NVR.
- Storage Capacity (e.g. 3TB).
- Number/duration of training sessions provided.
- Anyone who attempts to sell you an analog or “hybrid” system for a new install should be avoided!
- Integramax was formed in formed in 2004 by active law enforcement officers.
- The company provides a wide-array of safety and security services nationwide, with an emphasis on enterprise-level clients.
- Integramax also conducts security camera installation in Westchester County, NY for small business clients. We also consider VIP residential work in our home area on a case-by-case basis.
- The leadership team at Integramax is comprised of experienced active and retired law-enforcement officers with advanced degrees in fields such as law, computer science and even medicine.
- Integramax security camera systems are designed by a veteran police detective with a master’s degree in computer information systems.
- An active and/or retired law-enforcement officer will always be your point of contact with our company, as well as the on-site supervisor for your project.
- If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Now Read the Full Guide
- The information above was complied as a concise primer.
- To truly understand the industry, we strongly suggest reading Understanding Video Surveillance.
- This free 15 page guide provides a thorough understanding of the video surveillance industry, with special attention to information that unscrupulous salesman and contractors don’t want you to know!