Invest heavily in video systems for your business. Make sure that
both the interior and the exterior are properly covered. Get good quality
cameras that produce good quality video. If you have a crime committed against
you, you will want to have good clear video of the perpetrator's face that will
allow them to be quickly identified and caught.
Closed circuit television (CCTV) systems can provide security for a
wide range of businesses. A CCTV system can make your business safer, more
efficient, and less prone to theft and accidents.
CCTV can provide many benefits such as:
Identify visitors and employees
Monitor your business area
Increase secuirity in and around the business premises and
Adhere to insurance requirements
Monitor employees with cash transactions
Monitor hazardous work areas and record evidence to prevent bogus
In some cases you may even want a moveable camera to cover a
Consider your CCTV needs carefully
First, consider what you want to monitor.
General comings and goings?
Inside and outside of premises?
Do you want to see faces, merchandise, and crowds?
Once you decide what you want to monitor, you will be able to make
a better decision.
Second, decide what picture quality you need.
Quality can refer to how detailed the image is and how fast the
frame rate is. Frame rate is simply a measure of how many individual pictures
make up the video.
Full motion what you see on television and on VHS tapes, is 30
frames per second( fps). In most cases security systems record at slower rates,
which result in more jerky-looking images but saves tape or hard drive space,
allowing longer periods of time to be recorded.
Third, how will your system be monitored?
Will you set your system to record at all times, and only check
the tape when a problem occurs?
Will you have a dedicated employee watching for trouble?
With multiple cameras, you have the option of connecting each to
its own monitor, or combining multiple images onto one monitor.
Fourth, decide whether your priority is to deter potential crimes
or to catch perpetrators. They are both equally important, but your priority
will influence your purchasing decisions.
Are you more interested in deterring certain activities, large,
visible cameras are your best bet.
Trying to catch criminals on tape without them being aware of it
requires hidden cameras, which cost more both for hardware and for
If your monitoring target is internal, you will have the added
cost of having to hide and secure the recorder and monitor.
There are many technical terms and specifications that dealers will refer to
when discussing security cameras as part of a CCTV system.
Charge Coupled Device (CCD)
The technology behind most security cameras converts the images that come
through the camera's lens into electronic impulses. CCDs provide a good
combination of low price and quality picture for security applications.
Camera formats are measured in inches and fall between 1/4" and 1". This is the
usable image size created inside the camera. Most security systems use a small
size, which is fine - 1/4" or 1/3" cameras formats dominate CCTV sales. Larger
formats can be advantageous in dimly lit situations since they are able to
gather more light.
Color vs. black and white
For security and evidence purposes, color cameras are better since you
can see things more realistically.
In extremely low light situations black and white cameras can operate better
than color cameras, however, most small to medium sized businesses use CCTV in
well-lit indoor environments.
Many high-quality color cameras can switch to black and white mode when
necessary. Since prices have dropped significantly, many businesses today opt
for color cameras over their black and white models.
Some vendors do not even sell black and white cameras any more.
How detailed a picture the camera can see is know as resolution. A normal CCTV
picture is around 350 to 400 horizontal TV lines (TVL) with high resolution
getting up to 480 or 500 TVL.
You need to make sure your entire system is capable of supporting the camera
resolution you selected. If your monitor displays 400 TVL and your VCR records
350 lines TVL the money you spent for a camera with 500 TVL is completely
Do not be impressed by pixel measurements in the hundreds of
thousands. TVL is a more consistent measurement.
Other specifications to consider
Signal to Noise ratio (s/n) specifies how much "signal," or actual
picture information, the camera transmits, as opposed to "noise," which comes
across as static. A 30db s/n ratio results in a poor picture. A 40db s/n ratio
indicates that the signal is 100 times the noise, this results in an acceptable
picture with some fine grain or snow. A 60db s/n ratio produces an excellent
picture static is not visible.
Sensitivity to light measurement is known as lux. A 2 lux sensitivity means the
camera can see fairly well by the light of a 40W fluorescent bulb. A 0.5 lux
sensitivity means the camera can make out images outside on a dim night. Your
needs will depend on the lighting in the area being filmed, however, lux
ratings should not be the most important aspect of your camera decision.
You need several peripherals to get your video surveillance system
working with your CCTV camera.
Lenses are generally sold separately from cameras. The lens on a
security camera determines how wide an image is created and how much light is
The lenses should match the format of your camera. For instance
1/4" lenses work best with 1/4" cameras. The least costly lenses are Fixed
focal length which offer only one field of view. Variable focal length lenses
and zoom lenses offer greater flexibility, allowing you to adjust your image's
field of view. The most costly type available Motorized zoom lenses give you
the ability to control your cameras remotely. Motorized zooms are the way to go
if you want to zoom out for surveillance and in for detail when you spot
suspicious activity. If the CCTV camera will be used outdoors consider using a
lens with an automatic iris. Automatic irises can significantly improve
performance for outdoor cameras, where light levels vary considerably. The iris
of a lens is what controls the amount of light coming in to the camera. When
the scene illumination never changes, like in an illuminated store or office,
you can save money and use a manual iris lens.
Pan, Tilt, Zoom (PTZ)
PTZ camera allows you to pan(scan left and right), tilt(look up and
down), and zoom (look up close). A camera operator can pan, tilt, and zoom in
and out. PTZ cameras are considerably more expensive than fixed cameras.
Housing protect cameras from the elements or potential vandalism.
Choose the right housing based on the location of the camera and its expected
usage. Housings can range from simple coverings, to impact-resistant
protection, to outdoor housings that include heaters and blowers for cooling.
Tinted Plexiglas hemispheres (the dome) that prevent subjects from seeing which
direction a camera is pointing is a more specialized type of housing.
There are a few important points to keep in mind when
selecting a monitor for your CCTV system.
The monitor should match the type of use it will receive.
The monitor should match your cameras resolution.
If you opt for color cameras make sure you buy a color monitor.
Consider the size of the monitor if you are considering combining
images from multiple cameras onto one monitor. This is also an effective way to
Larger is better if there is a dedicated employee who has the
ability to zoom in and out to review suspicious activity.
Flat-panel LCD screens make great CCTV monitors because they take
up little space, have excellent resolution, and generate less heat than regular
Televisions are not good monitors they are not designed to be on
for the 12 to 24 hours per day they will endure.
Video security recorders
All CCTV systems include some sort of recorder to store the images
the cameras capture. Without a recorder, you need to have an employee watching
a monitor at all times - not a very cost-effective solution. If you spot
suspicious activity, without a recording, you have nothing to use in court.
The universal solution was the familiar VCR. With the introduction
of digital video recorders (DVRs), which record onto hard drives instead of
tape, this has dramatically changed the situation.
DVRs offer many advantages over VCR such as:
Ease of locating events - Instead of fast-forwarding through
hours of tape, DVRs can instantly retrieve images from any specific time or
date, or automatically skip to the point on a recording when something changed.
Storage quality - Almost immediately video cassette tapes
start deteriorating once you record on them - and gets worse every time you
reuse them. DVRs recordings have no degradation at all since they are stored
onto a hard drive.
VCR can either record or play, DVRs can do both at the same time,
letting you review images while still recording.
Smart monitoring - The DVR can be set to take one picture per
second or less - just enough to create a running record. It can automatically
bump the recording speed up to a full 30 frames per second, getting every
detail of the unauthorized activity when it detects motion.
Security VCRs usually offer a time-lapse mode that lets them
record for long periods of time, the resulting images are not a good record of
events because they record only one snapshot every eight seconds. You need to
change tapes every day or more often to get higher quality. DVRs can record for
weeks or even months.
DVRs are considerably more expensive than a VCR, which is their
only major drawback.
We recommend CCTV system buyers purchase DVRs despite the increased cost. DVRs
prices have fallen considerably over the last year and will continue to do so.
Low-end DVRs and high-end VCR are in similar price ranges.
Choosing a DVR
You need to decide how "good" the recorded picture needs to be,
either for your own use or possibly to use for police and in court.
Look at samples on the DVRs you are evaluating and see if they meet
your standard. Ignore compression settings, pixel counts, and other statistics
those numbers are irrelevant if the picture itself does not offer the detail
you need for investigatory or legal purposes.
The size of the hard drive will dictate how much you can record.
For most businesses, spending a little extra to get 120 or 240 GB is a
worthwhile investment; they are getting cheaper every day. Units can be
expanded easily. Replaceable hard drives are a cheap way to boost storage
capacity and can be swapped in and out as you need. Giving you the advantage of
being able to store your data separately from the main security system.
You will also need to consider how many cameras you want to connect
to the DVR. Buying a higher-grade DVRs to get more inputs and more storage
space can save you considerable money in the future. Keep your future expansion
needs in mind.
The DVR will also function as a multiplexer, putting up to 16
cameras on one display and allowing operators to call up any one image for
If you ever have to use your security images in court or in other
ways make sure you are able to export the video. Some systems let you create
industry-standard files, which can be played on any PC, and burn them to a CD.
Others only allow you to export proprietary formats that can only be played on
the same brand player. Most DVRs do offer the option to connect a standard VCR
which allows you to simply tape the digital recording onto a standard VHS tape.
Choosing a VCR
If you decide to save money by going with a VCR, make sure you
purchase a model built for security system usage, not a consumer VCR. Security
VCRs offer far more reliable operation than home models, so they can stand up
to constant operation.
The main feature to look for in a VCR is how many hours it can
record: models range up to 960 hours on a standard tape. These extended
recording times result in fewer frames per second.
VCRs have hidden and ongoing costs such as buying, rotating, and
replacing VCR tapes this can be expensive and time consuming. Constant usage
creates quite a bit of wear and tear inside the machine, requiring expensive
If you plan to have multiple cameras and to avoid purchasing a
separate VCR for each camera you will need a multiplexer. A multiplexer is a
separate piece of hardware that combines multiple video images into one.
How to Choose a Vendor
There are many important factors to take into consideration that
require an expert understanding of lighting, optics, wiring, security, and
more. The overall success of your CCTV system can hinge on the expertise of the
installers who set it up.
In the CCTV industry, these vendors usually work with multiple
manufacturers to offer a range of products, as well as installation and
There are several key factors to look for when choosing a CCTV
Reliability and long-term stability: Choosing someone who will be
around next year is important since you will want to be able to work with your
chosen vendor on an ongoing basis as you expand or upgrade your system.
Specific experience: Do they have specific experience with your
business type and size.
Qualified installers: Should do a needs analysis to make sure you
get a system that is customized to your location and business needs.
Training: They should provide enough training to make sure your
staff fully understands the operation and any maintenance of your system.
Documentation: User manuals and any technical manuals should be
part of your installation. You never know when you will need these for future
Proximity: This may be important to you if you expect field
technicians to come to you.
Facilities: If you can, visit the vendors' facilities to get a
sense of their operations. You can also check out their repair shop and find
out how busy they are.
Help Desk: Depending on your support needs and if you plan to rely
on telephone support checking out the Help Desk is very important. Find out
where it is located, hours of operation and if possible find out peak hours,
busy days, and how fast they resolve a problem.
Demo: The best way to see how well a CCTV system achieves your
goals is to see it in action.
On-site demo: Some vendors conduct on-site demos, this allows you
to see the system in action and see how the hardware looks in your location.
Vendor Office: Some vendors will invite you to try the system in
their office, which gives you that facilities tour mentioned earlier.
Online demo: This is helpful if you plan to view images remotely.
Check References: Of course, as with any business decision ask for
references to other clients. Ask for references that are in a business similar
Here are some sample questions to ask the references:
How did the initial installation go and did it meet your needs?
Did you have to add components or upgrade?
How has the CCTV system accomplished the goals you set for it?
Are you satisfied with the quality of the live and recorded
Has your system had any problems? If so, what type of repairs did
How does the vendor respond to problems and did they resolve the
Do you know of any one else who uses this system? Sometimes this
can get you additional references to speak to.
If you had to say one negative thing about the system or
vendor, what would it be?
What do you wish you had done differently?
There are many devices needed for a complete CCTV system: cameras,
monitors, recorders, and cabling in addition to a quality installation. Pricing
in not the only consideration in selecting a CCTV system. Be wary of low-end
packages these systems suffer from lower quality, shaky reliability, and will
not last for years the way higher quality systems do.
Low-quality devices and a lack of support combine to create an
offer that can do more harm than good to your business.
The average installed system will run $500 to $1000 per camera,
plus the cost of your recording device.
Of course, this depends on the type of hardware you choose and how you set it
up. Below is a more thorough breakdown.
Cameras and lenses
In most cases basic CCTV cameras are not very expensive since the
hardware cost is fairly low, it really is worth spending a little more money to
get the best system performance. The cost will go up depending on the features
selected such as larger formats, higher resolution, and better sensitivity.
Brand name cameras can be found for $150 to $250, and are usually a
better investment than a no-name camera.
Hidden cameras, concealed in everyday objects like clocks, smoke
detectors, and other items run $200 to $400.
PTZ cameras are far more expensive, running $1,500 to $5,000 for one camera and
Remember, if you don't have an operator to run a PTZ camera, what's
the point of buying it.
Avoid dummy cameras. They can create a legal liability by
creating an expectation of safety when none exists.
Post signs that let customers and employees know they are on
camera, make sure they are easily visible.
Do not buy audio monitoring equipment and besides most CCTV
system do not come with this equipment. It is illegal to record voices, you can
videotape people in public places without their consent, but you can't record
Get expert advice. Don't waste money and effort with high-tech
solutions to solve low-tech problems. Buying for the right reason is always
more cost effective.