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Buying a CCTV systems and what you should know part 1

I have recently been asked to do an interview to explain some of the basics that a novice consumer should look for in a security system.  With this I have decided to write down what I would normally go over with a customer who are new at this, and who are looking to get a CCTV system to provide them with coverage that they will need.  When you are looking at all the different systems that are available on the market, there are many things to look at besides all of the pretty pictures or low prices you are seeing.


Big box retail

When you are looking for a camera system, you will see tons of bargain systems on the market.  Whether it is from a big box store or a too good to be true system on Amazon or Ebay.  A lot of the systems you find at these big box retailers are made using technology that we used to sell a few years ago.  Many of the “Name Brand” inexpensive systems you see on the market are using these older outdated chip sets.  Basically what these companies do is go to all the factories and say, “I am looking for a system with X amount of cameras and we want to be at Y price, and we are looking for Z quantities of these systems.”  The factories will look at what chips they have excess of and housings they also have plenty of to supply these customers.  When this occurs the company now has a very inexpensive system that they can unload on the general public for a “Bargain”.  This often times reminds me of what Dell used to do when they were “Custom” building computers.  I had one of their computers back in the day and I called them to help me with getting some drivers.  The technicians could not give me an exact driver as they could not narrow down what components were actually in the machine they built for me since they would do the same type of things with their suppliers.  Try calling some of these companies and have them support the products you purchased from them and it will likely be that they won’t know exactly what the components of the system you bought from them are, which makes supporting the product extremely difficult.


Cheap or Quality?

Now this is not the same with all of the systems you will find, but for a large portion of them you can never be sure.  One saying that has always stuck with me is, “You get what you pay for!”  and that can be very true with technology.  If the components of the items you purchased are “cheap” then the final product will be cheap.  There is a huge difference with getting a good deal on a system and buying a “cheap” system.  I have many customers who tell me that they will just go purchase one of these cheap systems and I tell them to keep my information so that when they need footage and the quality is so poor that it does them no good to call me and we will set them up with a system that will do what they need.  Every customer that has done this and then needed the footage, has called me back and told me the situation.  They ended up spending more money in the long run by having to completely rip the “cheap” system out and put in a new solid system.  Now, not every person that has a system will need the information from the system.  But don’t you want to have the confidence that if you need it the data on it is worth something?

Custom complete System coverage

Custom complete System Coverage

Now, there are lots of different cameras, recorders, cabling, and powering for the different systems.  There is not and should not be a one size fits all system, as all customers needs are different.  We don’t live in the day where you can have any color you want as long as it is black, like Henry Ford used to put it.  We don’t all live in perfectly square boxes, or have exactly the same size business.  That is why you need to be able to get a system that will fit your needs.  Not every customer will want dome cameras, or want analog resolution.  With a typical system that you buy, you can choose from a DVR (Digital Video Recorder), an NVR (Network Video Recorder), or a Server setup.  With a DVR you can get standard analog resolution also known as D1 or 960h, the lowest HD resolution possible.  With modern day technology you can also get up to 1080p resolution on the same style of recorder.



With a DVR you will need to run all camera cables back to the DVRs location, which can end up causing issues for some customers.  With a DVR you will typically use Siamese Cable, which is just a coaxial cable with an 18 gauge 2 conductor cable attached to it for carrying the power to the camera location from a centralized point.  With an NVR system you can get as low of resolution as you want and there are systems that can handle 12MP or greater.  With this type of a setup you will use network cable, often called Cat5 or Cat6 cable.  This is the same cabling that you would use on a normal computer network.  What is nice about this type of system is that you can decentralize your runs back to a network switch and connect the NVR to the network and now, your system is connected. There are also systems that will have PoE (Power Over Ethernet) built in to the NVR.  With this type of a setup you will also home run the camera cables back to the NVR location as with a DVR.  This type of a setup is good for helping to isolate the cameras from your main network.  The reason this can be important is if you are running an HD camera on the network it is essentially like having a computer on the network that is streaming YouTube® videos constantly. Now multiply that by the amount of cameras you have on the network, and that can add up to a large amount of extra data on your network.  A server setup is very similar to a decentralized NVR setup, except you are using a PC style setup to record the cameras instead of a Linux based standalone unit.  Some of the advantages to this type of a setup is that you can get some very intensive software to do things like people counting, height specific searches, color specific searches, lost object detection, trip wire detection, perimeter intrusion, and much more.  Some of the more sophisticated NVRs can do similar things, but servers have the ability to run significantly more analytics than an NVR can.

Now this is just some of the information you will need to understand when buying a security system.  Stay continued for more of the basic need to know information when first starting out buying a security system.  It is way too much to put into one article.  I am not sure how many it will take!