Video surveillance is one of the most important components of a financial institution’s security infrastructure, but a lot of video-surveillance systems out there don’t quite measure up. Senior security executives from various financial institutions have shared the many frustrations they’ve experienced with systems that weren’t able to provide them with the protection or management capabilities they required — not to mention lost time and budget pressures.
So which key features and capabilities should you look for before committing to your next video-surveillance upgrade?
First and foremost is reliability. In most businesses, but especially in banking, your video-surveillance system’s reliability is critical. You never know when an incident will occur, and you need to make sure your systems are always recording.
Two things you’ll want to consider right off the top are which operating system your surveillance solution uses and how the solution handles a power outage. Recorders with embedded Linux operating systems are typically more stable and trouble-free, unlike Windows-based systems, which can be more vulnerable to viruses and often have time-synchronization issues. If the power goes out, you’ll also want a recorder with an internal backup battery that allows for a systematic shutdown. Systems without an internal backup battery and the built-in coding to allow for a systematic shutdown can lose video, require time and date resets, or fail to power up in a severe electrical storm’s aftermath.
One of the biggest complaints I hear from security executives is that their video-surveillance system doesn’t alert them to a potential problem with a recorder or camera. One Minneapolis-based bank security executive who was in the process of replacing a poor-performing system told me, “If I had a robbery or some other kind of theft and I had to tell law enforcement that our video wasn’t working, I’d be a laughingstock.”
My advice is to invest in a video-surveillance system with robust health monitoring capability that will alert you and your team whenever there is a problem with a hard drive, power supply, fan, camera or any other component that could compromise the availability of video.
Additionally, if you are required by state law or company policy to archive video for a prescribed period — as most financial institutions are — you’ll also want to make sure that your health-monitoring system lets you know when you are in jeopardy of falling short of the target. With such advance notification, you can take corrective action by adding a hard drive, tweaking your recording parameters or adding a recorder at the branch in question.
Some banks are comfortable overseeing the health of their video-surveillance systems in-house, while others look to their security systems integrator or vendor to do it for them. Outsourcing daily system health management and monitoring to a trusted team of experts will give you peace of mind and is one fewer task for a busy, overstretched security department. Make sure the service is available if this is important to you.
Video recording quality has come a long way since the days of the grainy, black-and-white images we once had to work with. Today, more and more banks are moving to high-definition IP cameras to take advantage of the vast improvement in image quality. Some banks are adding a few IP cameras to cover strategic areas of a branch, while others are going entirely IP.
One Chicago-based security executive going all-IP complained about poor image quality prohibiting him from having concrete proof to confirm what he suspected. “If someone stole money from the vault and all I could see was pixelated smudges, that wasn’t very compelling evidence,” he said.
IP cameras can also handle difficult lighting conditions, delivering quality images in the variable lighting typical in a retail banking branch, for example. A camera with a wide dynamic range (WDR) capability can eliminate the silhouetting effect of bright sunlight streaming in through a large window, ensuring that subjects in the foreground are clearly visible.