How to Choose a CCTV System

Welcome to a series of blogs that is going to teach you how to create the perfect security solution for you. This first blog will leave you with a better understanding of what a CCTV system is, and we’ll take you through the first steps and key considerations of choosing the right solution for you.  

What is a CCTV system?

CCTV, or closed circuit television is a system that allows you to keep an eye on what’s going on in and around your premises and possibly take action according to what is seen. 

CCTV systems are increasingly seen as an important component in a holistic security solution, but it is important to understand that not all CCTV systems are the same.  

  

A simple CCTV solution consists of cameras, and a monitor (screen). These enable you to view events live. Most CCTV systems would add a DVR (digital video recorder) or NVR (network video recorder) so that the footage is recorded and can be viewed later. It is important to understand that the amount of footage that can be stored is limited, a small DVR or NVR would only record a few days’ worth of footage, larger DVRs or NVRs might keep a few weeks’ worth of footage.  

  

More sophisticated CCTV systems will give you access to an endless menu of features. Some of which could include cloud storage, integration of smart devices- think of controlling your smart lock through your CCTV system, and of course the integration of Computer Vision and AI (artificial intelligence). Simpler AI systems will only detect movement, some may detect specific shapes such as people or cars, and top end AI systems would include more advanced features such as facial recognition or license plate recognition.  

  

Key considerations when choosing a CCTV system 

1. Do you want to view footage after an incident? 

Most users want the ability to rewind the footage from their CCTV systems in order to see what happened at a particular time. To do this you will need a DVR (digital video recorder) or an NVR (network video recorder) – more about the differences in a future post. Simple DVR’s will allow you to rewind and replay the footage but usually this will require a lot of time because you might not know when the incident happened, and the recording may not have a time stamp. More sophisticated solutions would have time stamps, or stamps or would show when movement (or people / vehicle depending on the system) was detected.  

2. Should you choose analog or digital cameras? 

If you are on a tight budget and don’t specifically need any complicated playback (e.g., time stamped or movement / object detection stamped) then an analog solution would be suitable, but it is important to remember that if you need any additional features at a later stage you will need to replace your entire system as having analog cameras means having an analog system. If you’re looking to start small and upgrade your system over time, you need to keep away from analog cameras and spend the extra money to get digital- it will save you money in the end.  

What is the difference between analog and digital cameras?   

Analog Security Cameras - work by transforming video signals into waves that can be received and processed by compatible technology. These are television, VCRs, or other types of monitors. Analog cameras can transmit signals wirelessly or through a wired connection.  

Pros  

  • Affordable – Analog cameras generally cost less. They are a good choice for people who simply want to have a simple CCTV system without shelling out too much money.  
  • Flexibility – These types of cameras have a wide range of designs. Depending on what you need and what you’re looking for, it can come in the tiniest and largest of sizes.  
  • Compatibility – Analog cameras can work well with other security systems. They work well despite the brands being different from each other, making it easy to incorporate in an already existing surveillance system.  

Cons  

  • Limited features – Analog cameras usually lack advanced features other cameras in the market may already have. For example, analog cameras do not have a digital zoom feature. This can come in handy more than you’d like to think.  
  • Interference Issues – This camera creates a digitized version of video signals. It uses a special encoder that contains a built-in web server, letting it act as a network device. This makes these cameras viewable through existing networks, web browsers, and even through the internet. This means that someone else can easily see what you’re seeing. Yikes!  
  • Difficulty in long distance applications – Analog cameras may not be your best bet if the area needing to be covered by your surveillance system is wide. In general, analog cameras are not designed with the capacity to cover spaces that are too wide. Forcing them to cover a range that is too wide can result in technical difficulties.  

Digital Security Cameras (IP internet protocol cameras) create a digitized version of video signals. It uses a special encoder that contains a built-in web server, letting it act as a network device. This makes these cameras viewable through existing networks, web browsers, and even through the internet.  

Pros  

  • Clear wireless reception – Digital security cameras are encrypted, making your network more secure. It makes sure that only you can see what you have to see. Also, interference is a non-issue.  
  • Can make use of existing network wiring – Given that digital security cameras act as their own network device, setting it up doesn’t have to be difficult. You can use existing network wiring in your home if you have a network installed. This definitely makes installation faster and easier.  
  • Remote access – Whether you’re close by or far away, you can easily access digital security cameras. This lets you view what’s happening real time wherever you may be. Indeed, it’s surveillance at its finest.  

Cons  

  • Higher cost – Because digital security cameras have more features and are obviously more up to date with today’s technology, it comes at a small cost.  
  • Requires high bandwidth – Compared to analog cameras, digital cameras are going to need more bandwidth to function properly. Generally, this isn’t a problem for most networks, but it is something you need to consider especially if you are planning to install a lot of cameras.  

 

 3. Are you keeping the installation challenges in mind? 

We will be sharing an in-depth guide on installation of your CCTV system but when choosing your system, you do need to keep a few things in for the installation thereof.  

  • Ignoring environmental factors in monitored areas is the most common mistake made in CCTV deployment. An example is ambient light level: insufficient or extremely irregular lighting can result in undecipherable footage. 
  • If live monitoring is required, the operators have to work from a secure room, where access is strictly controlled and logged. This room needs to have an adequate size and lighting, and – since the equipment usually generates a lot of heat – adequate ventilation and temperature control. In fact, some businesses opt to do the live monitoring off-premises. 
  • IP CCTV cameras use Cat-5/6 cables and a POE (power over ethernet) switch for their data connections, just like desktop computers. Higher-speed cameras, or cameras used for outdoors deployment tend to use fibre optic cables, which can carry sensitive data at higher speeds and over longer distances.  
  • Some systems may have cables that could interfere with others, you wouldn’t want the cables of your analog cameras running by those of your microwave as that will run an interference. Similarly, various devices may use signals that could interfere with one another. 

4. Do you want the CCTV system to send you alerts if it detects something? 

Modern CCTV systems are starting to have some form of AI (artificial intelligence) built in which will send an alert if something is detected. Cheaper solutions will usually base this on some form of movement detection, and whilst this is better than no detection ability it does usually result in a high number of false alerts. More sophisticated CCTV solutions will detect specific objects (people, vehicles, etc.) which reduces the number of false alerts, but these systems are more difficult to set up and maintain.  

 
5. Do you want your system to react? 

When your system detects a possible threat, it could actually do more than just send an alert, your system could do something as simple as activate an alarm or if you have more proactive countermeasures integrated in your system it could simultaneously activate devices such as The Reaper and The Inferno which uses targeted pepper spray and high frequency sounds respectively in order to actively stop an intruder from entering. 

We would encourage anyone interested in installing a CCTV system to contact a professional installer who will guide you to the best solution for their needs and budget. Send us a WhatsApp message on +27 10 900 3917 and we will be happy to assist.