At Preventia we have installed or serviced more types of video surveillance systems (camera systems) than any company should have to deal with. Even though they all have similar components, the variety and differences between each will surprise you. Over the last ten years we have narrowed our offerings based on all the experience and I’d love to share tips on how to pick the right camera system for your business.

First, let’s talk about the motivations for installing a video surveillance system.

  1. Security. Protect your family, employees or goods from harm or theft. We recommend a camera system in conjunction with a properly designed and installed burglar alarm system. They serve very different functions and work best with both in place.
  2. Liability. Protection from claims against your business, whether those are internal claims from employees or claims from customers. We’ve seen everything from employee theft, slip and fall, employee discrimination and more mitigated by a properly designed and installed video surveillance system.
  3. Operations. If you are a small business owner, you can’t be there 100% of the time. If you have multiple locations, you can’t possibly be at all locations at once. If you have a large facility or multiple areas within your facility you can’t be in all places at once. Well, you can’t do all of these things unless you leverage the benefit and power of modern camera systems. When properly utilized, you can use a camera system to optimize your operations and use them as a management tool. My personal realization came from a customer I was working with many years ago. I was promoting the security benefits of the cameras and he said, “Aaron, I really don’t care about the security aspect. I use my cameras to check the operations of my business. I have 5 locations and I need these cameras to make sure food is getting out on time, our dining area is staying clean and my locations are properly staffed.”
  4. Lot’s of Other Stuff. That’s my technical term obviously but the truth is I’ve heard more reasons than I can remember over the years that one of our customers invested in their camera system with us.

Great, now that we know why people buy camera systems, let’s talk about the primary options and how to pick the correct solution for yourself.

Do It Yourself Options / DIY: We frequently see small business owners who have installed or are considering installing their own camera system to protect their business. The truth is you can easily purchase camera systems online or at most large retailers. It seems like everyone from Amazon to Wal Mart and Home Depot have added cameras to their retail offerings. These are primarily sold in bundles where all the equipment is ready to install with pre-made cables and plug and play design.

  • PRO: Price. This will be your most cost effective option for any camera system (on the surface). There are hundreds of consumer grade options designed to hit the lowest price point.
  • PRO: No installation expense. Yes, it’s related to price but important to clarify, if you have the expertise to install on your own this will save hundreds or thousands of dollars compared to professional installation.
  • CON: Limited Options. Yes there are hundreds of manufacturers and cameras to pick from but what you are picking from is essentially the same. There is a recorder, the cameras and the cable to install them in a specific length. When you have different needs this becomes a big con. You made need to install the cameras farther than the cable allows or in a location that the camera wasn’t made to be (like outside or in a harsh environment). You may need a wider lens or a longer range lens, depending on the field of view you need to cover. Typically you will quickly exceed the capabilities of these systems if you have more than the most basic needs.
  • CON: Network Security. This is a big one that should keep people up at night. We all get camera systems so that you can view them remotely. In order to do so you are typically opening up a port on your network, creating a back door for hackers. We’d all like to believe we won’t be the target for cyber criminals but everyone is vulnerable these days.

Traditional DVR / NVR (Digital Video Recorder / Network Video Recorder): This type of system can by DIY or installed by a professional. I’ve addressed DIY so let’s talk about working with a professional. There are millions of traditional camera systems installed and being used around the world. Most people are familiar with this concept, you’ll have a recorder on site, you can pick from a variety of compatible cameras to suit your needs and they can be installed wherever you’d like when properly designed.

  • PRO: Flexibility. You will have many different types of cameras to choose from, as well as recording devices. This allows you to get the right camera for the needs you have, as well as the correct recording storage and resolution you need. You can spend as much or as little as you’d like to get the desired result. You will literally be able to pick from a $75 camera to a $10,000 camera.
  • CON: Onsite Storage. We’ve seen recorders stolen, damaged and tampered with, it happens. You are vulnerable to all of these items when you need the footage the most!
  • CON: Ease of Use. In comparison to other options, these systems are not as easy to use when you need to review footage or share with other people. We frequently have to assist customers with both of these issues because the systems just aren’t intuitive or easy to use or the footage requires a special player to view after downloading.
  • CON: Awareness. Another large complaint we have with traditional systems is that a customer does not know when a camera (or an entire system!) is working or not. Because they are using it on a limited basis, or in reaction to an incident, they are upset when they find out something had gone wrong and they don’t have the footage they need.
  • CON: Network Security. This is a big one that should keep people up at night. We all get camera systems so that you can view them remotely. In order to do so you are typically opening up a port on your network, creating a back door for hackers. We’d all like to believe we won’t be the target for cyber criminals but everyone is vulnerable these days.

Cloud or Hybrid Systems: Available over the last five years in a reliable and secure solution are cloud or hybrid solutions. These systems still offer all the flexibility of a traditional camera system but without many of the cons. You still pick from the huge variety of commercial grade cameras but you are no longer dependent on a local recorder to store the important footage. The footage is transmitted to the cloud for ease of access and safe storage away from any of the vulnerabilities of the traditional system. We have found these to be the best solution for most of our customers thanks to the major pros vs cons.

PRO: Ease of Use. The easiest to use platforms we have ever seen. Remote viewing from any device, user management, reviewing video or sharing video, it’s all easy because of the software and platform used in the cloud.

PRO: Network Security. Cloud systems are designed with security first, allowing outbound traffic without any need for inbound traffic. So that back door is never left open for potential cyber threats.

PRO: Awareness. Our customers are able to be notified if a camera or system goes offline.

PRO: Remote Support. Because of the cloud software we are able to provide more support remotely, minimizing any system downtime and reducing the overall cost of ownership.

PRO: Price. Cloud systems do not require the same onsite storage hardware so the upfront cost is lower than a comparable traditional system.

PRO: Analytics. Cloud systems are able to continuously add features, such as analytics because it’s more of a software solution than a hardware solution. Our current offerings offer motion detection, loitering detection, intrusion detection, people counting, facial recognition, people tracking, vehicle recognition and tracking, license plate capture and even search by shirt color. The features far exceed those that we have seen over the years from traditional systems.

CON: Monthly Cost. Yes, because you are now storing footage in the cloud and accessing the footage through a modern, intuitive software platform you will incur a monthly expense.

I hope this helps in some way if you are considering a video surveillance system for your business. If you have additional questions please reach out to us at Preventia: 615-422-5276 or [email protected]. Our team of security consultants will be happy to provide more in depth knowledge any time!