What you need to know about security camera systems
A security camera system can help you keep tabs on your property, employees, and customers. Your system designer will help you select cameras that have the right viewing angles, resolution, low-light sensitivity, and control capabilities for your purposes.
You'll need to answer two key questions:
- Which styles of cameras meet your needs?
- Which connection method suits your purposes?
Some cameras connect to a DVR via a lengthy cable. Others connect wirelessly to a DVR or cloud storage. Wired systems may be more reliable, since they don't depend on your Wi-Fi router.
- Bullet cameras
- These are great if you know exactly where you want camera coverage. Just mount them on a wall and point them in the right direction.
- Dome cameras
- Some are fixed in place, others can be remotely controlled to pan, tilt and zoom in for a closer look.
- Hidden cameras
- These cameras are designed to look like something else, such as a smoke detector, so troublemakers are none the wiser.
Other things to consider
- Will the camera be located indoors, or out in the weather?
- Do you want the camera to have night vision?
- Do you need a color image, or will black and white be fine?
- Do you need sound to go with the image?
- Do you want cameras with built-in motion sensors that can send an alert to your phone when an intruder enters your building?
Your answers to these questions will help your designer recommend the right solutions.
Most systems allow some remote control via computer or mobile device. Think about whether you want to schedule on/off times for various cameras. Do you want to zoom, pan, or tilt the camera via remote control?
Security cameras that feed pictures into constantly-running VCRs are a thing of the past. Now, vast amounts of data can be stored in small spaces, including:
- Memory cards
- Some cameras record images to the removable memory cards used by digital cameras. This is an affordable option, but you have to swap full cards for empty ones on a regular basis.
- Hard drives
- This can be your computer's built-in drive, or an external drive packaged with a security system. Many advanced systems come with digital video recorders.
- This approach frees you from having to change out recording media, though it is still limited by the capacity of the drive. But that capacity is enough for most businesses. For example, a 500 GB DVR can record thousands of hours of video before it starts overwriting the oldest images.
- Cloud storage
- Subscription-based cloud storage is offered with some package deals. Off-site storage can provide up to two terabytes of encrypted storage for a recurring fee.
It's nice to review footage later, but you'll probably want to be able to check in more often. Most security systems can be set up to send alerts to one or more system administrators, especially if a motion sensor is triggered. That way, you can determine if you need to call the police. You can also choose a system that lets you look in live using your mobile device.
Some places, like employee locker rooms or dressing rooms for customers, might need surveillance. However, one person's security can be seen as a violation of privacy by another. Interpretations of the law vary from state to state. Make sure you know any statutes that apply to recording of images or conversations in your local law enforcement jurisdiction.
Many security systems offer a privacy masking function, so the camera can only view certain non-sensitive areas in a room.