If you own a business, you might or might not realize that you are being ripped off by your customers, and the people you hired to run your business. Did you know that employee theft exceeds $8.5 billion annually! And 75% of inventory shortages are attributed to employee theft. (National Restaurant Association).
It’s been reported that over 75% of internal theft is undetected, and growing at a 15% annual rate (Justice Department). All this dishonesty costs American businesses between 1/2% 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 or control your employees, you can keep an eye on them, and a video surveillance system is one of the best ways to do it. With all the choices out there, you should take a few minutes to consider what your needs will be.
When choosing a video surveillance camera system for your business, there are 5 Key Considerations Before Installing Any Business Video Surveillance System:
- Hidden Cameras vs. Visible Cameras
- Wireless Cameras vs. Wired Cameras
- CCTV vs. Network IP Cameras
- Indoor, Outdoor, or Both
- Video Recording
This report is meant to cover each topic, giving you an idea of what makes up a video surveillance system, and which ones will be of benefit when you when you make the decision to get started.
Hidden Cameras vs. Visible Cameras
The main thing you want to consider is if you want your cameras to be visible to the thief or not. Current technology has reduced a video camera down to miniature levels, and hidden cameras can be hidden behind a pinhole. You can put a camera in practically any everyday item in your house or office, in a clock radio, wall clock, air filter, briefcase, backpack, or even hidden in a hat, sprinkler, smoke detector, or behind a fake metal screw.
The advantage is that the criminal will not know they are being recorded, and that should catch more theft. However, hidden cameras could be more expensive then visible cameras. Outdoor hidden cameras are usually hidden in electrical boxes, or flood lights.
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 cameras that can zoom in to tight detail, as well as pan a room to monitor it for trouble. 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 can fool many 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
Wireless camera systems are the fastest systems to install, as you just need to mount the cameras, antennas, radios, then hook up the wireless receivers 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, like multi-building locations. If needed, they can be moved to different locations easily, and if the need arises, they can be hidden inside a moving object like inside your, cap, briefcase or carrying bag etc.
All a wireless camera needs is power; either from an external battery, or a 110-volt power line, and it can send the signal to the receiver, which is plugged into the DVR.
To overcome the disadvantages of a consumer level wireless camera, you should consider one with a frequency transmission band that can be switched between 2.4GHz, and 5.8GHz.
Another good idea is to use a high gain antenna for the transmitter or receiver, which will improve the signal transmission/reception. You can hook one up to your receiver, or you can drill a hole in the wall and run a cable in from an outdoor antenna.
If you need to cover greater distances, say in an office park or apartment complex, a series of wireless radios and access points on the roof helps to set up a secure wireless network with no interference problems.
The recent advancements in wireless technology allow you to send signals for up to 35 miles without a repeater, and even set up entire wireless networks to cover a small, medium, or large city.
The disadvantages of wireless cameras are that the video stream might be disturbed or influenced by moving objects, trees, buildings, strong radio or even telephone or Wi-Fi frequencies. Video/audio transmission is limited within the prescribed transmission range, and if it’s not secure, the video feed can also be stolen by criminals to see when it’s a slow time to come in and rob you. These disadvantages will not occur with a wired camera.
Wireless camera systems are also more expensive than wired systems, as they require a receiver to send the video, and transmitter 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 should you need to watch other areas. Overall, the video/audio signals from a wireless camera are less stable, and prone to reception problems than a wired camera.
Wired Camera Systems
Wired camera systems are more stable due to the cable, which doesn’t have the interference problems associated with wireless systems, though the cost to install is higher due to the labor. 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. Some cable can be run in trenches dug in the ground, or run along poles. 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.
Video baluns allow you to send CCTV signals on Cat 5 or Internet cable, which will reduce the cost of a multi-camera installation, or allow you another way to send the video to the DVR. It reduces the need for 2 cables to power the camera and run the video, and in PTZ (Pan – Tilt – Zoom) cameras, it can also control the camera.
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.
CCTV Camera vs. Network IP Camera
Another Key consideration is the cost of installing a CCTV or a Network IP camera system.
The CCTV is the camera you have seen for years; shoots analog video that is sent over a video cable to a monitor or recorder for digitizing for archiving or viewing. The problems are interlacing, poor video quality, and large file sizes. While there are still millions sold each year, the growth rate is less than 20%; they are a mature product that is being replaced by Network IP Cameras.
Network IP Camera
A Network IP camera is one that operates over a local area network, and is a mini computer with a camera lens. It has it’s own IP address, and you can control it from a remote central location. The video is better, and it’s easier to scale, store and access, as if your needs are not too great, you can usually use your current LAN, otherwise you would need a dedicated network to handle large installations.
And on installations over 8-16 cameras, the cost will be less to install, making their higher cost justifiable. After 8-16 cameras, the cost of ownership is lower with the Network IP camera. Network IP cameras are growing at an 80% pace.
They are available for indoor or outdoor use, and some are wireless.
Indoor Systems vs. Outdoor Systems
Depending on your needs, you will need a camera for indoor or outdoor. Unless you are renting in an office building, most installations require both. If you need to monitor your loading dock, or back lot, you will need a camera that can withstand the elements. Unless it’s specifically sold as an outdoor weatherproof rated camera, a regular video camera can’t withstand the beating from Mother Nature that a weatherproof camera can endure.
You can find many types of outdoor cameras; dome, bullet, and PTZ. All are enclosed in waterproof cases and some even have heaters for cold areas, and blowers for hot areas. You can also put a standard box camera into an enclosure that will allow you to use it outside.
You can also buy hardened cameras that will withstand direct hits from bats and hammers, and with infrareds, some can see up to 150 feet in total darkness. 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 Digital Video Recorder (DVR).
A 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. They are also pretty much obsolete, and many companies no longer carry them or the tapes.
The latest technology is using either a Stand-Alone DVR, or a PC based DVR to record the video to disc.
Stand-Alone DVR: The difference is a stand-alone DVR is a stripped down PC with just a DVR card, and has a lower cost. They have limited functions beyond recording video, and are less flexible; you will only be able to change hard drives, and it might not have a DVD burner. You can’t increase the memory, or add a new graphics card.
If there is no DVD burner, you will have to offload to a USB hard drive, flash drive, or DVD burner. They usually are a closed system, running Linux, immune from viruses or spyware.
These come in a variety of sizes, from standard TIVO sizes for indoor uses, down to field use DVR’s the size of a pack of cigarettes that can record up to 60 hours of video from a hidden surveillance camera.
PC based DVR: The PC based DVR is like a weight lifter on steroids; you can add multiple hard drives, increase the memory, and add additional DVR cards for more cameras. They are usually Windows based machines prone to viruses and spyware. It’s a good idea to either run Linux, or a stripped down version of Windows without all the unnecessary parts.
The advantages of the DVR are this is the easiest system to review your recordings, as you can jump ahead to any point in the recording, unlike the VHS tape. You can also be notified when an alarm is triggered, a motion sensor senses motion, or a door is opened, usually sending you an email or text message.
A DVD can be burned from the digital recording for law enforcement. 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.
Most DVR’s and PC based DVR’s can also be accessed from any Internet connection to monitor or control the system by PC or smart phone, whereas a VCR cannot.
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.
With millions of people now out of work, the chances are higher than ever that someone will decide to pick your business to pay for their next fix. Don’t delay installing a complete video surveillance system for your business. You never know when crime will strike and it is too late after the fact. Get it on disc or tape so the police can arrest the criminals.