Today, there are well over a million network cameras and video servers installed worldwide. These installations range in size from just a single camera to thousands of cameras -- and are found in almost every type of industry application. No matter the size, every installation benefits from a simple set of best practices that will ensure all network video equipment is optimized. These tips range from basic camera placement and lighting conditions to working with IT departments and technicians to figure out issues such as the peak times for network usage.
When first installing IP-based surveillance, it is important to take note of any existing inventory. For example, there may be analog cameras currently installed or the IT department may have a standardized server platform in place, such as a certain type of HP server and Windows operating platform. Also evaluate the speed of your network and work with the IT department to determine how much bandwidth is available or whether network video can be piggybacked onto other infrastructure, such as that for Voice over IP (VoIP) applications. Security professionals are often surprised as to how much equipment their organization already has at its disposal for an IP-based video system.
Although existing analog cameras can often be upgraded using video servers, it is sometimes necessary to make a total migration to network cameras in order to simplify the installation. A large retailer recently changed its analog closed-circuit television (CCTV) system to an IP-based system for about 200 of its stores. Although the company already had some analog cameras in place, it decided not to digitize them with video servers. Instead, the retailer switched everything over to network cameras to simplify what the IT industry refers to as MACs -- Moves, Adds and Changes related to IT equipment. When all hardware is standardized, it limits maintenance, reduces the need for spare parts, and makes adjustments to the system simpler and more cost effective. For many installations however, it is typically not necessary to replace all analog cameras with network cameras, so video servers are more viable.
Evaluate Site Conditions
Conditions at the camera locations will largely determine which type of network camera should be purchased. Just as with analog cameras, factors such as placing a network camera in an area with very little light or exposing it to extreme heat or cold, will dictate which equipment will work best.
Electrical outlets are another important consideration. Although it may seem like a minor consideration, it costs an average of $300 to install power to a single location. Today, network cameras are often installed in areas where power outlets do not exist -- such as on building exteriors, in parking lots, or on bridges. In these cases, cameras with Power over Ethernet (PoE) functionality will be a major time and cost savings because they can receive power directly from their network cable connections. The PoE feature should be in 100 percent accordance with the IEEE 802.3af standard, otherwise it will lock the buyer into proprietary systems that are likely not compatible with equipment from other vendors.
Determine Camera Usage
In addition to site conditions, camera usage also dictates the necessary specifications. Network cameras range from less than $200 for an entry-level model to professional equipment that functions under a broader range of conditions and offers improved functionality. For example, a camera that will be used to capture objects moving at high speeds -- such as moving cars -- need a progressive scan sensor that will reduce blur. Pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) will be necessary for looking at objects at a distance or to set up automatic patrols of an area. Megapixel cameras provide higher resolution and help reduce the number of cameras needed.
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