How to migrate from analog to IP cameras

How to decide what to keep, what to replace as you make the switch

Furthermore, if you head in this direction you will need to determine how to support your existing analog cameras.  Because IP Video Management Software only supports IP video streams, you will need to purchase encoders to convert the analog video stream from your camera into an IP video stream that the IP Video Management software can handle.  Encoders are fairly expensive ($300 - $600 USD per camera) so it may be worthwhile but it is not without its costs.

This covers the fundamental product options and choices.  To determine if the migration is worth it, focus on the next two items.

Eliminate Long Distance Analog Cabling

All cameras need to be connected to a video recorder.  How they are connected can vary greatly.  The most common means for analog cameras is to use a dedicated coaxial cable to connect the camera to the DVR.  Indoors and over short distances, this is usually quite simple to do. However, if you need to go long distances, outdoors or through areas where it is hard to run a new dedicated cable, analog cameras can become problematic.

If you have multiple buildings or outdoor areas to protect, you may not be currently using surveillance cameras or if you are you had to resort to expensive proprietary transmission systems.  This is the most valuable and powerful use of IP camears.  With IP cameras, you have the potential of reusing existing networks in your facilities. You also can use low cost IP wireless equipment to add cameras in distant or outdoor locations.

To the extent that this situation applies to you, your motivation to move to IP cameras should be stronger.  It can either reduce costs by thousands of dollars compared to existing implementation or enable you to add new cameras in places that would have been previously cost prohibitive.

Use of Higher Resolution Images

IP cameras offer the potential to capture and record much higher resolution images than analog cameras.  While the maximum resolution of most IP cameras is the same as most analog cameras, one type of IP camera, the megapixel camera, can offer far greater resolution.

You should determine how and where you can make most use out of megapixel cameras.  Key determinants are (1) the greater the area you want to cover and (2)the higher your need to see details.  For example, a parking lot or cashier's station. By contrast, if you are observing a small office room and just need to know when someone was inside, a traditional standard definition analog camera will do fine.

Megapixel cameras come with two huge impacts that you must consider when migrating from analog cameras: bandwidth and storage.

Assess the Bandwidth Impact

When migrating from analog to IP, if you keep the resolution you record at the same, the impact on bandwidth (your computer network) should be minimal.  For instance, most commercial users record at 5 frames per second at CIF (320 x 240 pixels).  At these levels, bandwidth consumption is quite low (under .5 Mb/s) relative to today's networks (100 Mb/s ++).  Even with a few dozen cameras, this should not make a significant impact on even lower end switches.

However, if you want high resolution or framerates, then you need to start carefully assessing the impact.  With these conditions, each camera can consume 5Mb/s to 45 Mb/s, which starts adding up.  While you can purchases networking equipment that can handle 1000Mb/s or more, you should not assume that this is already in place and that you can just plug this in.

You certainly should test the bandwidth load before deployment. You may need to consider one of the following two options:

  1. Use a separate IP network for the cameras.

  2. Upgrade your existing networking equipment to make sure that it can support the load.

Both are certainly expensive and can have a significant operational and political impact with your IT's organization.  Though this can be accomplished, do not take it for granted as the cost and complexity can be significant.

Assess the Storage Impact

In a similar manner, increasing the video quality, certainly impacts storage needs.  If you use DVRs, you are likely used to buying storage bundled with the DVR (e.g., a DVR with 250 GB or 500GBs of storage for 16 cameras). With IP cameras and, especially with megapixel, you can easily be looking at 1TB per camera, which is a very significant increase. This could increase the cost of your system by tens of thousands of dollars.