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Which Surveillance Camera System Is Right For My Business?

If you own a business, a surveillance camera system is a requirement you can't afford not to have. I am sure you know that theft occurs by your customers and employees, and it exceeds $8.5 billion annually!

And its been reported that 75% of inventory shortages are attributed to employee theft (National Restaurant Association). This theft is undetected, and growing at a 15% annual rate (Justice Department). All this dishonesty costs American businesses between ½% and 3% of their gross sales! Even 1% costs over one billion dollars a week in employee theft.

The results of all this? 30% of business failures are due to poor hiring practices by hiring thieves. Annual losses generated by poor hires, absenteeism, drug abuse, and theft amount to $75 billion per year. (U.S. Department of Commerce-Atlanta Business Chronicle.).

While we can't screen your employees, you can keep an eye on them, and a video surveillance system is one of the best ways to do it.

When choosing a video surveillance camera system, there are several things to consider:

  • Hidden Cameras vs. Visible Cameras
  • Wireless Cameras vs. Wired Cameras
  • Indoor Systems vs. Outdoor Systems
  • Video Recording vs. DVR Recording

Hidden Cameras vs. Visible Cameras

Hidden Cameras

The first thing you want to consider is whether you want your cameras to be visible or not. Modern technology has reduced a video camera down to miniature levels. Hidden cameras can be hidden behind a pinhole, and can be put in practically any everyday item in your house or office, in a briefcase or backpack, or even hidden in a hat or behind a button. The advantage is that the criminal won't know they are being recorded, and you should catch more theft. Hidden cameras could be more expensive then visible cameras.

Visible Cameras

A visible camera system consists of any number of visible cameras from the black dome cameras you see in most stores, to the old fashioned kinds on brackets pointing at you at the bank. There are also high resolution pro series cameras that can zoom in to tight detail. The advantages of these types of systems is that your criminal will know they are being watched, and that should deter a lot of crime that normally would occur without the cameras.

Even a series of dummy cameras, camera bodies with no working parts except a flashing red light, are proven to deter crime. If you don't have the funds for a working video surveillance system, just installing four to twelve dummy cameras fools the criminal into thinking you have a real system in place.

Wireless Cameras vs. Wired Cameras

You have two choices for the type of surveillance system, wireless and wired. Both have advantages and disadvantages;

Wireless Camera System

2.4GHz Wireless camera systems are the fastest systems to install, as you just need to mount the cameras, hook up the wireless receiver in the back room, and wire it all together to a power box and some type of system to record the video.

The advantages of wireless cameras are that they can be installed in locations that are difficult, if not impossible to wire. They can be moved to different locations easily, as often as you like, and if the need arises, they can be hidden inside a moving object like inside your tie, baseball hats, briefcase or purse etc.

To overcome the disadvantages of a wireless camera, you should buy one with a higher frequency transmission band of at least 1.2GHz or above. The best are in the 2.4 GHz range. If you need to take video from the wireless camera a long distance from the receiver, or there are walls, metallic or steel obstacles between the wireless camera and the receiver, you should buy a wireless model with a higher transmission power, that is, a transmitter with longer transmission distance. Another good idea is to use a high gain antenna for the transmitter or receiver, which will improve the signal transmission/reception.

The disadvantages of wireless cameras are that the video stream might be disturbed or influenced by moving objects or strong radio or even telephone frequencies. Video/audio transmission is limited within the prescribed transmission range. These disadvantages will not occur with a wired camera.

Wireless camera systems are also more expensive than wired systems, as they require a lot of receivers and transmitters to received the video that normally would run in the inexpensive wires. However, the costs are usually worth it, as it could cost less to install, and less to relocated. Overall, the video/audio signals from a wireless camera are less stable than a wireless camera.

Wired Camera Systems

Wired camera systems that use CCTV Cameras, which are more stable due to the cable, which doesn't have the interference problems associated with wireless systems. You need to run a video cable to each camera in order to get a video feed. You will have to run the wire either through the walls and ceiling, or have it exposed on the wall. While the cost of the system is less than a wireless system, it will require more work to install, and if you are paying someone, it might cost more than buying a wireless system.

You should look at the total costs to purchase and install both systems and go with what is best for you. Overall, the video/audio signals from a wired camera are more stable than a wireless camera.

Indoor Systems vs. Outdoor Systems

Depending on your needs, you will need a camera for indoor or outdoor needs. If you need to monitor your loading dock, you will need a camera that can withstand the elements. Unless it's specifically sold as an outdoor or waterproof camera, a regular camera can't withstand the beating from Mother Nature that a weatherproof camera can endure.

You can find many types of outdoor camera, dome, bullet, and standard. All are enclosed in waterproof cases and some even have heaters for cold areas. You can also buy armor dome cameras that will withstand direct hits from bats and hammers. These are recommended in high crime areas.

Video vs. DVR Recording

You need to determine if you want to record the activity, or just hire someone to monitor it. It's a good idea to record the video so you can give a copy to law enforcement for future needs. You have two choices, VCR or DVR.

VCR allows you to record the video with a Video Cassette Recorder (VCR) directly to a VHS tape. You can use a bank of standard VCR's, or there are high density VCR's that allow you to record days of video. Some come with motion detectors and won't record unless the video changes. The disadvantages are that you have to know about what time the event occurred, or you will have to review all the tape sequentially, or on fast forward.

The latest technology is using a DVR or PC based DVR system to record the video to disc. The advantages are a DVD can be burned from the digital recording. This is the easiest system to review your recordings, as you can jump ahead to any point in the recording, unlike the VHS tape. The initial cost will be larger than a VCR system, though you won't need to buy tapes, and the ease of use will be worth the extra money for a DVR based system.

You have two types of DVR systems; TiVo like digital video recorders, and PC based. DVR recorders feed the video directly into the hard drive or disc on the recorder and you either burn the disc, or back up the hard drive. These come in a variety of sizes, from standard sizes for indoor uses, down to field use DVRs the size of a pack of cigarettes that can record up to 60 hours of video from a hidden surveillance camera.

Your other option is the PC based surveillance system that uses a Personal Computer, a DVR  cards, and some type of surveillance software as a control center that can not only record the video and burn it to disc. Or if you just want to watch the video and not record it, a quad can be installed to monitor the feeds on real time over a video screen, and break it up into quadrants to monitor multiple cameras at the same time, in real time.

We have only just scratched the surface of video surveillance systems with this brief overview, and future articles will focus on the pros and con's of what is out there, and is it right for you.

Don't delay installing a surveillance system for your home or business. You never know when crime will strike and it is too late after the fact. Get it on disc so the police can arrest the criminals.

Christopher Winkler
Spy & Surveillance Equipment Expert

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