Choosing the right system for your needs and your budget...
Megapixel, IP cameras, HD SDI, video analyitics what does it all mean? Very often people get sucked in by what we like to call the wow factor, that is, the system with the most flash and bang, but are all the fancy bells and whistles really needed?
Before picking up the phone book and calling your local CCTV integrator ask yourself what you are trying to accomplish with your new camera system,and be realistic. For example, are you looking to stop retail theft? Are you looking to capture license plates of vehicles coming and going? Are you wanting to be able to read the serial number off of a piece of paper from 100 feet away? Or, do you just simply want to be able to see what's going on when you're not at home or at work
Do a simple Google search of CCTV technology and you will see the majority of products leaning towards IP video surveillance. While IP video surveillance definitely has it's place there is still something to be said for a traditional analogue CCTV system and despite what some sales people may claim, analogue CCTV is far from obsolete.
So, how do you actually chose the right system for what you want to do? The answers are endless but here are a few things to remember when considering a CCTV system:
1 - Be realistic with your budget. Depending on your environment and what you are trying to accomplish plan for a minimum of 2 - 4 cameras and a minimum of a 4 channel DVR. Consider where you will be housing the "head end", that is the DVR itself and do a rough walk through of the distance from the head end to each camera. Plan for between 50 cents to a dollar per foot for cable for each camera. Consider what type of cameras you are looking to install and think of any mounting hardware that may be needed. While most companies may not list the pricing of the mounting hardware it will definitely be reflected in the price of the camera. Consider the labor involved with the camera install (everyone likes to get paid) and plan for a minimum of between 2 - 4 hours of labor per camera or more depending on how and where the camera will be located. Consider how the cameras will be powered. Although most companies won't list the power supply in their parts list on the quote the power supply isn't cheap and will most certainly be buried somewhere in the quote. At the end of the day the price for the DVR and cameras is never going to be the biggest part of the end cost and often it's the sticker shock of all the other things involved with the job that drive the customer to shy away from putting in a system.
2 - Be realistic with your equipment and what you are trying to accomplish. There is a term in the security industry called "the CSI effect", that is people watch TV shows like CSI and expect their 20 year old black and white CCTV camera with the 2.8 mm lensmounted at the back of their store to pick up a decent suspect face shot from the front door 400 feet away. Think carefully about what you are trying to accomplish with your cameras and ask questions if you don't know if it can be done. The basic rule of thumb is that you want two types of camera shots, the identification shot and the story shot. The identification shot can be accomplished by either using a high resolution camera at the entrance, a height strip camera at the exit, or setting up a camera on what would be considered pinch points, that is areas where people would be forced to pass through during the course of their travels. The story shot is just like the name says, it's a camera shot that is a wide angle shot placed in such an area that tells the story of what's occurring. For the story shot ideally you want to be using high resolution cameras with a wide angle lens to capture as much detail as possible. The idea is that using a multi-camera system you can use the cameras that get the story shot to see the big picture and get a description of the person or object you are looking for, then you go back to the identification shot to get the face shot or license plate and you piece them both together.
3 - Be realistic about your DVR. A good rule of thumb, a 4 channel system with a 500GB hard drive set up in an office or store with heavy traffic will generally record between 10-15 days worth of footage before overwriting itself. As your camera numbers increase and the resolution of your cameras increase your DVR hard drive should also increase. Put careful thought into how long it will realistically take you to find out about an incident after the incident has occurred and how soon you are able to access your DVR to retrieve footage. For example, in a retail setting you could find out 30 days after a credit card transaction that the customer is disputing the charge and you may have to go back 30 days in history to see CCTV footage of who was using the credit card, while in a small office you may only need to go back a few days or a few hours to see incidents.
4 - Ask questions and avoid the "jobbers". With the potential to cost you upwards of $2000 for a basic entry level system do you really want to risk your money on having your system installed by someone you found on Craigslist? Not to say that Craigslist, Kijiji, or a host of other local websites aren't great places for reputable companies to advertise but do your homework before committing to a job. Ask for references and get a few quotes. When getting multiple quotes make sure you are doing a true apples to apples comparison with regards to your specifications and needs. Don't take one quote and shop it around, that will just cause frustration but give each company a fighting chance to win your business by offering the same type of system. For example, don't meet with one company and get a quote for a 4 channel analogue CCTV system with low resolution cameras then get wowed by the next company offering a larger fancier DVR and HD cameras and try to compare the two side by side. Remember, at the end of the day you are the end user that has to live with your purchase so don't be afraid to ask questions, the more the merrier. Advise should always be free no matter who you deal with.
Thank you for taking the time to read our first blog post. We look forward to many more to move and hope this is one avenue to provide the latest news and information from the security industry.
Should you have any comments, concerns, or questions about anything security related please feel free to either email or visit our company website.