Whenever we leave home for work or close the doors of a business for the night, we accept the risk of intrusion and theft. While locks and alarm systems have helped general security, we cannot be in two places at the same time and empty property is a target. Even when we are at home, security camera systems can provide an excellent forewarning of undesirables approaching or breaking in. Security camera systems enable us to monitor what is going on inside and outside our largest investments. They can be discreet or obvious, are easily monitored, and modern security camera systems are able to grow with evolving technology: what the industry calls ‘future-proof’.
There is a wide variety of systems available. Larger outdoor cameras serve as strong deterrents to criminals, while hidden cameras enable covert monitoring of children or employees. What camera system you invest in depends upon your needs.
Questions to get started
Before making an investment in security of any kind, you should determine what your needs are and how many cameras you require. You’ll probably need to speak with a security expert to button down the details, but answering the following questions will provide a good basis from which to start:
- Will you need to monitor indoors, outdoors, or both?
- Will you require cameras to film in the dark?
- What distance will the cameras need to focus on?
- Will you need to monitor in real-time, or record for viewing later?
- Will you need remote access to view and monitor?
Types of security cameras
There are several types of security cameras available on the market today. These include CCTV, HD-SDI, and IP. The cheapest and most common are analogue CCTV cameras. These are cabled to monitors or recording systems; recorded content has to be watched on a screen, most commonly at the place where it was recorded. However, increasingly technological advances are rendering the use of analogue CCTV as near obsolete: they suffer from inflexibility and poor image quality.
HD-SDI security camera systems can be wired up using the same coaxial cable as CCTV systems, but offer far better image quality. While they are somewhat restricted in their use, they do provide more flexibility than pure CCTV.
Finally, and most versatile, there are IP cameras. These ‘plug into’ computer systems (and can be wireless) and enable remote monitoring of camera views as well as more customisable operating solutions, such as timed start and ends, audio and motion detectors, and personalised record keeping.
A word of warning here – self-installed wireless systems can be susceptible to hacking: suddenly the watcher becomes the watched. You should always ensure that video feeds are encrypted.
Installing security camera systems
When you’ve decided on the scope of your security system – what areas are to be monitored, when, and how – you’ll need to consider installation. A poor installation will result in wasted time and money, with poor picture quality and valueless for security purposes. Many of today’s security camera systems are uncomplicated, but if you are in any doubt then it is best to have a professional surveillance technician complete the installation.
When installing the system, care should be taken to ensure that areas are in focus when viewed and that distance from camera to monitor/server is in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations. Images suffer with severe distortion when cameras are placed out of range.
Camera mounts should be fixed tightly to avoid wobble, and outside cameras should be equipped with weatherproofed coverings and possibly anti-vandalism cases.
Motion detectors start cameras upon movement in their line of vision, saving time and cutting down recording resource needed.
Maintaining security camera systems
Once installed, you’ll need to properly maintain and service your security system. Cameras should be regularly serviced, lenses cleaned, and mountings and cables checked. Especially with external cameras, direction and focus should be corrected: particularly after periods of high winds and harsh weather conditions.
It’s likely that recorded images won’t be played back for weeks, possibly even months. Daily checks on recording equipment will ensure that it hasn’t broken down.
Whatever your reasons for investing in security camera systems – business or home – you’ll find that making the right choice, installing properly, and then instigating a regular maintenance and service plan will pay dividends and protect your investment as well as your property.