Every type of CCTV user has different needs and requirements for their install. This can make selecting the right system difficult for many people who aren’t familiar with security camera installs. Generally these needs can be broken up by the type of user you are. The needs of a home user are different then the needs of a retail store. Some needs people think they have to have, they really don’t need. The basic requirements that should be a bare minimum for all users of all systems are Triplex, the ability to back it up, strong technical support, and ease of playback.
Triplex DVR’s are DVR’s that can record, backup/archive, and view live video all at the same time. Anytime you have to stop recording to view playback, you run the risk of something happening while the system is down. You also run the risk of a user leaving the system in a non-recording mode when they finish with it. Given how it’s almost standard on all DVR’s (PC based or standalone) there is no reason to settle for anything less. This is a strong reason to upgrade a VCR system, since very, very few of them have the ability to be triplex.
Backing up the video in case of an incident allows you to give it to Police or others who may need the video. Giving the video to Police can help them quickly identify thieves and increases the chance of getting stolen property recovered. But giving it to the police isn’t the only reason to have a way to backup the video. CCTV systems can be useful in other legal matters such as slip and fall or personal injury lawsuits. Being able to make a CD of an event and keep it for the future can stop costly lawsuits before they begin.
Strong technical support is very important. If the system isn’t working then it offers you no protection. And Murphy’s Law of CCTV is that something will always happen when the system is off line. This system is one that you are trusting to protect something valuable to you. You need a company that will stand behind its products and support you. Ideally you want to work with a company that is either local to you, or has excellent national support. Buying a cheap DVR from China may save a few dollars now but may cost you a lot more in the long run.
Ease of playback is something that should be strongly considered. One of the reasons that tape systems are fading out is that trying to wade through days worth of video tapes can take hours to find an incident. This prevents people from using it to check for simple irregularities. One of the major points of using systems like this is the ability to apply some degree of intelligence to the system. With any DVR you want to look at the motion detection. Motion detection should reduce the amount of total time recorded. Combine this with a good search feature and it starts becoming a useful tool.
These are the very basics that all users should be looking for. Anything less then those features is just an expensive paperweight. The goal of this technology is to protect you as well as make the information useful. If your system doesn’t meet these needs then it isn’t going to help you very much. Here is a list of more advanced features that different users should look for:
Advanced Motion Detection: Given that most small business have cameras that may view busy streets, the ability to block out certain areas should be something you look for. This reduces the amount of false motion detection you’re looking for.
Support for Dynamic IP’s: Most small companies do not have a static IP address, and the cost with some ISP’s can be extremely expensive. Having software support for Dynamic IP’s can make your life much easier.
Support for DIO modules: These allow you to add an external door contact or window contact to a system. If you have a wired alarm system, this allows the DVR to force recording if any of contacts are tripped.
Remote Playback without a plug-in/, application, or Active-X: This gives you the ability to check on your company from home or any offsite location without needing to install any additional software that may not be compatible with the remote computer.
Synchronized Playback: This allows you to see multiple cameras at the same time in playback. This is great for seeing the sequence of events. Something like vandalism or slip and fall; if it happens in the view of multiple cameras then you can see that child picked up that rock and threw it, even if they moved around the house.
Pre/ Post Motion Recording: This acts as a buffer on either side of the video. This lets you see how things were before an event happened and can help smooth out issues with motion detection.
Large Companies/ Institutions:
Smart Search: Sometimes people leave things where they shouldn’t or take things they shouldn’t. The ability to draw a box and hunt for motion changes in an area can take a three hour task of hunting for something and reduce it to just a few moments.
Watermarks: Watermarks allow you to show that video hasn’t been tampered with. This allows police to use the video without having to take the whole DVR for evidence.
Motion Logs: Motion logs make it easy to start playback when you have a rough idea of when something happened. It’s also useful to looking at traffic patterns.
E-mail Alerts: If someone breaks into the location, you will want to know when it happens. E-mail alerts let you do that.
Scheduled Recording: On some cameras you just don’t care about certain times of the day. Recording on a scheduled basis allows to conserve disk space by recording only when needed.