What makes a great security camera set-up and what to look out for with changing technology

For anyone who has ever looked at, or purchased a security camera system, you will see the industry and the technology changes at a rapid pace, like the computer industry, particularly in the last couple of years. This has not only left the buyer confused, but has also left many in the industry scrambling to keep up and still offering less than ideal solutions. We will discuss what makes a great system and what is the best value tech for small business, home security, and other smaller installations.

When thinking security cameras, the most common purpose is to catch a perpetrator, or deter theft or both. With such a simple task one would think it’s just a matter of putting some cameras up and away you go. This is rarely the case as there are many variables to consider.

Firstly, you will need a system that records at a quality that is considered as evidence grade, which means that if you get a great recording of a crime, will the police accept it, will the courts accept it, and will it show clearly what the event was? This is not produced by ensuring a certain resolution as many cameras on the market have great resolution, but poor colour reproduction under certain lighting conditions which may turn a red jumper purple. Other set-ups may have a great camera that simply is mis-positioned, or worst of all a camera that simply doesn’t stack up or the recorder skips sections like many IP systems on the market.

You will also need to decide on the focus, is it to catch them or deter them, as a system built to deter crime can be very different to a system designed to catch a particular person or persons. You may decide you want both which is fine, however your security consultant may recommend a blend of overt cameras for general deterrence and a couple of covert cameras to deal with an ongoing problem. Quite often the covert cameras will be moveable so you can use them to deal with issues as the issues move around.

So now you have decided what you want to achieve, next comes all the jargon like AHD, TVI, CVI, HD-SDI, IP and CVBS when selecting the technology base. To clearly explain all the finer details, we simply won’t have the space here, however there are some basics. CVBS is old outdated analogue tech, they now use this acronym and it somehow has distanced the tech from the fact it really belongs in the tip and will never produce what you need. Another easy tech to put aside is HD-SDI, this was developed for the film industry, and even though it a great performer picture wise, it is expensive, less stable, and more difficult to find spares.

Now for IP, IP systems are built on network protocols and make no mistake, several years ago it was the go to tech as there simply was no other way to get a mega pixel image, the problem with IP is that if too much movement happens at once over several cameras, the recorder simply skips the footage to “catch up”. This makes IP a very disappointing technology for many business owners as they will be missing segments of a few seconds here and there when the cameras get too busy. IP however is the best tech for complex installations like warehouses etc. as it allows for wireless bridging and larger expandable systems. IP also has the best analytics like facial, people counting and various other business analytical add-ons.

Lastly are the front runners for small to medium businesses, and are what we at OzSpy use in most of our jobs assisting franchise systems and businesses in general. They are AHD, TVI, and CVI, all of which can produce up to 8MP over coax which allows for old analogue (CVBS) installations to be upgraded to mega pixel quality at a very low price as the old cable is reused. There is little difference in the picture quality, however AHD is an open source product so it develops faster and can also have cable runs of up to 500m or more, but is more prone to hacking and low quality manufacturing, whereas TVI is often used by higher quality suppliers.

Okay, now we have your cameras and purpose of the system decided upon, what other features or tech do you need? Well, make no mistake, the heart of any great CCTV system is the DVR (digital video recorder) or for IP the NVR (network video recorder) as this is where it all comes together.

You should look at the GUI (user interface) and see if it is intuitive, simple to use and makes sense to you. If it looks complicated, you may never actually learn how to use it and the system will get pushed aside and placed in the too hard basket. At OzSpy we constantly help businesses replace their DVRs for no other reason except it was so complicated that it was unusable to the business owner and their team. Don’t let a technician with decades of experience in CCTV assure you it’s simple, look for yourself and make sure you will be comfortable operating it.

Your DVR/NVR should also have P2P remote access. This is very important as this allows you to access your cameras from your mobile devices and remotely without opening ports in your router and firewall which in today’s cyber security age is an unacceptable risk to any business or even home.

So now you have your purpose, cameras and recorder sorted, what next?

Well there are a couple more points to ensure you get the most out of it. Make sure you use a licensed cabler as poorly run cable, or cheap cable can easily turn an amazing security camera system into an unreliable, grainy system that simply never seems to work properly.

Take on the responsibility of learning the system, ask your installers to train you and your key team members, ask for any quick guides they have and provide them to the team or have them next to the recorder. In a mission critical event, you do not want to be calling your provider and asking how to operate the unit.

And lastly, maintain your system, each month wipe the cameras, clean the cobwebs, and check that the system is operating correctly, don’t wait until an event to find out your cameras are blurry or worse your recorder stopped recording months ago and nobody noticed.

Remember, if you get the blend right, you will have an easy to use, reliable, effective security camera system that will last for years and will exceed your expectations every time you use it, that does not have to cost the earth.

Craig Mitchell
Director OzSpy Pty Ltd