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Video surveillance systems : a buying guide

Video surveillance systems : a buying guide

Shopping for video surveillance systems can be a nightmare when it comes to deciding which system would best suit your needs. Quite often people make the mistake of shopping by price alone but as with any electronic equipment, lower prices can sometimes mean lower quality.

You can often find great deals on complete video surveillance systems online but make sure you know what you're getting for your money and find out what kind of support you will receive before buying anything.


Things to consider before buying digital video surveillance systems

1) Consider what needs to be monitored.
Different environments have different security needs and these needs determine how many cameras and what types of cameras are required, and where they need to be positioned. Different environments also determine what other equipment may be needed.

So for example, if the area to be monitored is a parking lot then 24 hour surveillance may be needed to ensure that if a car was stolen, there would be video footage available to help catch the perpetrator. Four weatherproof cameras that function well in low light conditions may be needed for complete security. Good color image quality would be essential for evidence and identification purposes and zoom functions may also come in handy. Lastly, a recorder that could cope with continuous operation is also essential and for this reason a DVR would be best in terms of storage space and maintenance.

2) Consider the picture quality.
Once you have established your monitoring requirements you will have a clearer idea of what kind of video surveillance system you will need. The next step is to decide what sort of picture quality is required. If there is a possibility that surveillance footage may be used as evidence in legal proceedings then it is a good idea to invest in the best image quality that you can afford.

Specifications that affect image quality include resolution (sharpness of the image), light sensitivity, signal to noise ratio and the CCD chip. Make sure the resolution of the cameras, monitors and recording devices are compatible. Read the surveillance systems page to learn more about these features.

3) Consider how the system will be monitored.
Recording is essential to any video surveillance system because without it you need someone watching the monitors constantly and even then, if something happened there would be no recorded evidence of the event. The type of surveillance required will determine what type of recording device is needed. There are two types of recording devices: DVRs (digital video recording) and VCRs.

DVRs (digital video recorders) are best for most applications because they store footage as compressed data on a hard drive. This certainly saves time on having to change tapes every day but they can be more expensive than a VCR. Read the digital surveillance page to learn more about DVRs.

VCRs have been used for years but are slowly becoming obsolete with the introduction of DVRs, even more so now that the price of digital equipment is dropping. A VCR is still cheaper but the added cost and hassle of changing and replacing tapes, not to mention maintenance costs, may not be worth the saving.

Legal note: Video surveillance systems do not come with audio recorders because in most cases recording audio without consent is illegal.