In our digital world, SMBs often focus on digital security and hack preparedness yet downplay the importance of physical security and video surveillance systems. This is a folly because any computer system is vulnerable despite the best firewalls if it isn’t paired with on-site security. That means knowing when your premises or assets are in danger of being compromised. In this buying guide, we review the basics of purchasing a video surveillance system for your SMB.
While larger companies have the luxury of outsourcing surveillance to security firms such as ADT, SMBs often don’t have the budget. Thankfully, DIY video surveillance systems have slowly gained popularity with SMBs looking to cut costs. The simplest solution is typically one networked camera that outputs video to a monitor. More advanced systems can include multiple cameras and a DVR system with features such as wireless connectivity and remote administration.
How Many Surveillance Cameras Do You Need?
Your two primary considerations for figuring out how many video surveillance cameras you need are: the size of the area you want to surveil and its layout. The latter may require some planning as you may find certain walls blocking camera coverage.
For a room with four walls and an open floor plan, a camera at each corner should get the job done. You can also get away with installing a single camera if you want an easier to manage solution.
Single Camera – If the area you need monitored is fairly small, a single IP camera should suffice. Many digital IP cameras include all the hardware and software you need to hit the ground running. A single camera surveillance system can be easier to administrate, though you do lose a bit of coverage.
Multiple Cameras – A multi camera solution gives you much more coverage, but you also need a way to monitor, record, and store video from multiple sources. The most common solution is a DVR security system. They just need you to connect a monitor and often come bundled with security cameras, which enable you to quickly set up surveillance.
There may not always be someone in the office actively monitoring the cameras. But some IP cameras and DVR security systems allow for remote viewing and administration over the Internet, you can still check in from time to time when you are out of the office.
Types of Cameras
There are several types of security cameras to choose from, each with their own strengths. We cover the major types below.
Box Cameras – A common type of fixed security camera that typically supports interchangeable lenses and is very visible. Box cameras are often not waterproof, so they are best used indoors unless you place them in a waterproof housing.
Dome Cameras – A ceiling mounted video camera that can be used to surveil a large area while being much more inconspicuous than box cameras. Additionally, thieves can’t easily cover dome cameras with towels, unlike box cameras. An ideal solution if you want a camera that doesn’t stand out.
Pan / Tilt / Zoom (PTZ) Cameras – PTZ cameras feature remote-controlled pan, tilt, and zoom functionality, allowing them to cover large areas with a single unit. They allow a user to remotely move the lens to focus on a subject and view small details.
Bullet – A very common type of video surveillance camera that is cylindrical—hence the name—and equipped with a built-in lens. They can be mounted on either walls or ceilings. Similar to box cameras, they can be quite obvious.
Key Surveillance Camera Considerations
In addition to determining what type of camera to implement, you also need to decide on key camera specifications.
Resolution – Digital video surveillance cameras have resolutions similar to monitors and TVs. It serves as a useful metric for comparing quality between cameras, with high resolution meaning sharper images. In addition, the higher the resolution, the further out you can see fine details.
Vertical Television Lines (VTL) – A common metric for analog cameras, VTL is the total number of vertical lines that comprise the camera’s image. The more lines a camera has, the sharper its image.
Low Light Capability – If some portions of your surveillance area aren’t well lit, you’ll need low-light capable cameras or infrared illuminated cameras. IR cameras feature LEDs that emit infrared light and provide excellent night vision. Some surveillance cameras do not have IR LEDs but instead digitally enhance low-light images.
Lens – Many surveillance cameras have non-adjustable lenses, but select models many come with what are known as varifocal lenses. They feature manual focus to give you exactly the image you want, whether it is zoomed in or zoomed out.
Indoor or Outdoor – Surveillance cameras typically fall into three camps: outdoor, indoor, and ones suited for both. Cameras designed for outdoors have ruggedized features that help them withstand harsh environments.
Wireless Connectivity – If you don’t want to run spools of wiring between the cameras and DVR, consider a wireless security system such as the Netgear Arlo Smart Home Security Camera System. They may require batteries however, so you do incur additional running costs.
Highly Rated Security Solutions
- EsiCam HN03 – A 720p single camera that can be put on top of a table or mount on a wall using the provided anchor screws. It features a MicroSD car slot, two infrared LEDs, and easy software/App interface.
- EsiCam HN11 – A PTZ camera with motion detection, it allows you to zoom in and take pictures from your smartphone.
- LaView LV-CBA3213 – An analog camera that expands your existing DVR-based surveillance system. It is rated for IT66 weather resistance and vandal resistance. It also features IR LEDs, allowing up to 100 feet of night vision.
- Netgear Arlo Smart Home Security Camera System – A wireless surveillance system that includes three wireless cameras with magnetic mounts. The cameras are truly wireless, powered by batteries and not needing any power lines. User reviews indicate that it is easy to install and can be administered through smart devices.
- LaView LV-KH944FT4A8 Premium 4 Channel TVI Security System – An analog system that supports up to 1080p recording at 30 fps. It includes four IR cameras but cannot be expanded. Storage is limited to one bay supporting a hard drive up to 4 TB.
- Aposonic A-BR1B4-C250 4 Channel Mobile Access Surveillance Kit – If you need an inexpensive solution, this Aposonic unit includes four outdoor-capable IR LED cameras. Video streaming is available on smart devices over Wi-Fi or the Internet.
When you purchase your SMB video surveillance system, be sure to scope out your needs beforehand. Answer questions such as how many cameras you need, whether or not they should be weather resistant, or have IR capabilities. Those considerations will help ensure that your video surveillance system will fit your needs.