Small business owners or managers know that camera systems solve a lot of problems that otherwise would go unsolved. Whether those problems come in the form of employees, customers, or vandals, having eyes in the right spot deters and exposes the facts of “what happened.”
With the increasing demand and availability of cameras systems catering to the sea of different business applications, finding the right camera solution can be rather daunting. That’s why our team of security professionals put together a thorough breakdown so you can be well educated in your search for the right business security camera system. Here’s what you need to know.
Security Camera Basics
A basic understanding of cameras is an important starting point. We will discuss three aspects, three configurations and four types of cameras. These are just the basics, but a Prowire professional can give you more detailed information about additional security camera systems in person.
The 3 Key Aspects of Cameras
Viewing angle, resolution, and wide dynamic range are three aspects of cameras I will discuss in this article.
Viewing angle is determined by the lens on the camera. The lower the “mm” the wider the angle and the less details. The following chart gives typical viewing angles per lens sizes:
|110-degree angle of view
|90-degree angle of view
|51-degree angle of view
|29-degree angle of view
|7-degree angle of view
Some cameras lenses have adjustable zoom capability and are considered variable. Other cameras are fixed, meaning the viewing angle of the camera determines what the camera will see. It is important to remember that the more a camera sees the less details are seen because the resolution of the camera is spread over a larger area.
Security Camera Resolution
The Resolution of a camera is the clarity of the camera, and this is determined by the number of pixels the camera has and is usually measured in MP (mega or millions of pixels). The chart below typical resolution:
|720 x 480
|High Quality Analog Video
|1280 x 1024
|Generally Considered 1 M
|1600 x 1200
|Generally Considered HD
|2688 x 1520
|3840 x 2160
|Generally Considered 4K
|4000 x 3000
|Generally Considered IP 4K
Over recent years these numbers have risen as technology has increased and pricing has decreased.
Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) is the ability of the camera to adapt to having high levels of light in the background without washing out the rest of the picture. This becomes a factor on cameras that are looking at windows and doorways where outside light can be bright at certain times of the day.
Top Security Camera Configurations
Cameras can be configured in several ways. These are the top three configurations we recommend for businesses.
Bullet cameras are contained in a small box that has a swivel mount and usually a back box that holds the connection between the camera and the cable run. It works best when mounted on an inside or outside wall and in harsh conditions.
Dome cameras have a housing that contains a clear dome for the camera to see through. Dome cameras are best installed on the inside ceiling and are usually less obvious.
Fisheye cameras are designed to be mounted on the ceiling and can see in all directions. They are particularly desirable on show floors, large rooms and at the intersection of corridors. The 360 lens on a fisheye camera causes the picture to be distorted and warped but the electronics on the recorder can “dewarp” the image and display it several different ways as a flat image.
Other special configurations for cameras include license plate recognition (LPR) and pan, tilt, zoom (PTZ) cameras.
Types of Security Cameras
The type of camera is determined by the technology the camera uses to send video and this in turn determines what type of cabling and connectors are used.
The analog camera is quickly becoming obsolete because of the lack of resolution. The signal for analog cameras runs on a coax along with an attached two conductor to power the camera.
IP Security Cameras
IP cameras are designed to be connected directly to a data network and are, in a sense, little computers that pick-up video and digitally send it over a network. These cameras are connected using Cat 5e and Cat 6 wiring with standard RJ-45 connectors or use WIFI. They are powered off the Cat wiring using POE (Power Over Ethernet) or by a power transformer as is the case with WIFI IP cameras.
Digital Coax Security Cameras
Digital coax cameras (also known as HDoC) use existing coax wiring that is often in place because of an older analog systems. These cameras convert the video to digital signal that can run on the coax to the recorder. There are several digital formats for digital video over coax.
Proprietary Security Cameras
Proprietary cameras use wiring, connections, and technology that are not standard and are specific to the manufacturer’s camera and recording box. Cameras, wiring, technology and equipment required for these cameras to work are not interchangeable with other camera systems.
Recording Video with Security Cameras
Camera systems are typically an “after the fact” device and not proactive. It is rare that video on the system is actively being viewed so video recording capabilities are key to any camera system. When there is an incident, it is important to be able to pull up the recorded information for review and investigation. Information is either recorded on the Internet cloud or on site. Since remote access to the recorded information can be done by either, the main difference is where the recorded information resides and how that affects the recorded information.
Cloud Based Recording
Cloud based systems do not have a DVR (Digital Video Recorder) on site, rather the cameras connect to server on the Internet and recorded information is stored there. This information is typically recorded in video clips of 10 seconds or so that are triggered when the camera sees motion. The clips are stored for a determined number of days and then deleted. The band width required for high quality recording is important, thus the upload speeds on the Internet connection must be adequate. The more cameras on cloud storage the more speed is required and any interruptions in the Internet service will affect recording.
Cloud storage requires a monthly or yearly fee to the Cloud services. Typically cloud storage is adequate for a few cameras that are marginally important. Most small businesses will opt for the more robust recording capacity of an on-site DVR.
On Site Recording
A DVR or sometimes called a NVR (Network Video Recorder) is a box that has software and hard drive space to operate and record multiple cameras on site. Because the cameras connections are direct to the DVR the recording resolution and recording capability significantly increase. It is not uncommon to have 24-hour full resolution recording on the DVR that is not dependent on the Internet connection.
Recorded and live information can be accessed remotely via the DVR’s network connection when provisions are made to the firewall on site to allow outside access to the DVR. The DVR records and runs the hard drive(s) 24-7 and so in time the hard drives will need to be replaced. Once the hard drive(s) are full the oldest recorded information will be recorded over by new incoming video. There are no monthly or yearly fees for an onsite DVR unless a maintenance contact is desired.
Choosing the Right Business Security Camera System
With the above background information, you are now ready to consider some options. Knowing about the camera and recording method will help you has you consider each of these options.
WIFI Cloud Systems
There are a growing number of WIFI Cameras that use cloud storage. These cameras usually require a plug-in power transformer to power the camera but otherwise connect to your WIFI system and are relayed on to the Internet cloud service. Doorbell cameras are usually an option with these systems, and these are powered from the doorbell. Viewing and recording information is done via an App on your phone or computer. There is an up-front cost for these cameras and an ongoing cost for cloud storage. These are typically offered with 7-day or 30-day storage options, and the number of cameras may be limited to six. Many of these systems are designed for DIY installations but getting wiring from an electrical outlet to the camera may require the help of a professional.
Beware of the resolution and recording limitation of these cameras, the lack of lens options, and limited camera configuration. The WIFI signal where the camera is mounted must be adequate and this is a challenging but critical consideration when the camera is on the side of the building. Manufactures such as Ring, Resideo, Alula, Nest, Wyre, Arlo, and Blink have these types of camera system available for purchase online or through a professional dealer.
All-in-One Box Security Camera Systems
The all-in-one box solution includes a DVR, wiring, and several cameras boxed together for DIY installation. There are no monthly fees on these systems. Normally all the cameras have the same configuration, lens type, resolution and do not have very good WDR. Many of of these solutions use proprietary cabling and connectors making them only usable together and eventually not replaceable as the model becomes obsolete. These systems lack expandability and are challenging to adapt to some applications. In a few cases this all-in-one box solution is of good value if it uses conventional connections, IP technology or digital coax technology and standard hardware. Even professional dealers may choose to sell this system if their manufacturer gives a significant discount for the combined purchase and the equipment integrates with other standard systems.
Professionally Installed Security Camera Systems
A professional security camera dealer may use one of the above solutions but generally will gravitate toward a custom camera system that best fits the needs of the business and has better long-term value. Different camera options will be considered based on the location of the camera and what is trying to be viewed. Higher resolution cameras are usually available at a good value, lighting and camera characteristics are taken into consideration, and because businesses generally want good, recorded information, a professional will usually recommend an on-site DVR or NVR.
Fisheye, PTZ, or LPR cameras may be needed and customizing allows for these options where the other two options do not. Common camera manufacturers of custom systems include Honeywell, Dahua, Speco, Axis, Hikvision, Geovision, and Panasonic.
The Next Step for your Business Security Camera System
The best place to start is to get a working knowledge of cameras and what problems you are trying to solve. This article provides some foundational information that should be helpful as you start on this journey. It is a good idea to talk with other businesspeople that have had a camera system installed to see what they learned through the process and what they appreciate and dislike about their camera system.
In addition to doing your own research, it’s always best to engage a professional like Prowire to help assess your application and see what kind of system they recommend. Walking through the application and getting a bid is an educational process. Most dealers like Prowire are willing to take the chance on working through a bid with the understanding there is no commitment and that their value will show itself through the process.
If you’re looking to take the next step in protecting your business, contact our team at Prowire and we will be happy to look at your application and find the right solution for you.