A Little Less Conversation, a Little More Action

How to convert to an IP video system


If you have read anything I have written over the past two years, you know I've been pushing the idea of designing and installing IP cameras. The reasons I advocate the use of this technology are fairly obvious.

First, IP was the snowball at the top of the hill. It's been rolling downward at an alarming rate, and frankly, it's gotten quite large. Second, in the middle of a frenzy to compete in the DVR market, the manufacturers of IP cameras, switching and recording technology remained steadfast and focused. Their objective was to improve the quality, understanding and general acceptance of a future market. Last, there has been no indication that the world is staying with or going back to analog technology.

In my writing on this topic I've spoken quite a bit about the applications of IP technology, but I haven't really touched on the "how-to." Let's cure some of this and speak about the progression from analog to digital and some of the equipment involved.

All Aboard!
Say you spent $50 thousand on an analog camera system just two years ago. Now you want to update to an IP camera system without trashing your existing, long-term investments. Or maybe you have a very small existing system and a very small budget, but you still want the advantages of the IP network. Or maybe you have a DVR and you think your system is now IP based. I'm sorry; it just isn't that easy in most cases. Most DVR recorders are not digital recorders. They are glorified analog recorders with a hard drive to record on. Most DVRs on the market cannot accept a digital signal.

Regardless of your current situation, if you are upgrading or just want to take advantage of the improved communication of IP networks, your first step is to include your IT folks. This should be done up front to avoid major confrontations in the future.

Plug It In
Once your IT folks are on board, your first consideration is the high-speed video switcher or server. There is no magic to this unit. You connect it, in line, to your existing analog cameras without disrupting your existing system, and you are suddenly able to jump onto the existing computer network.

If you use a high-speed switcher, you will be required to indulge in some operations software, usually included with the switcher. This is a minor concern. It's like installing Word or WordPerfect. If you use a high- speed analog-to-digital server, you will not be required to install software, because the server will have everything you need.

The bottom line is that you are now able to access your analog CCTV system via any PC within your network. The only requirement is that your PC has a Web browser. Yes, you should have firewalls, passwords and other such things to protect your privacy. However, these are topics for your IT personnel, not an old camera dog like me.

Set It Up
If you are starting from scratch with your IP system, you have several options for configuration. The first is to connect your cameras directly to an existing or new network via a standard ethernet junction. You may also have the option to power the cameras over the ethernet so you don't even have to run power lines. The savings in cabling alone can be huge.

A second configuration option is to group or bunch your cameras in the field and then attach them to your network. This is done in the same way as adapting an analog system. We take two, three or 20 cameras from one section of your system and tie them into a high-speed switcher or server. Then you simply attach a multiplexed output from your switcher or server to your network. The advantage of this configuration, again, is a potentially huge reduction in cabling costs.

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