Surveillance Overview- Why Invest in One?

Jeff Archer, VP-IT, Tijuana Flats
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Jeff Archer, VP-IT, Tijuana Flats

Video Surveillance: Needs and Advantages

Video Surveillance Solutions helps protect people, places and things. Video surveillance comes in many different forms and types. Let’s review a few and see what could work for you. I am going to assume (I know what assuming does…I am willing to take the risk) that you don’t have an existing surveillance system and you are looking for one.

"Video Surveillance is an integral part of your overall security and risk assessment for the company"

Why would you need or invest in a video surveillance system? Video surveillance is a required item for almost any company large or small that has a storefront and/or offices. Video surveillance provides real time recorded video of on-premise actions. The video can protect your employees from actions like customer or guest harassments, fraud, counterfeiting, and the list goes on. Video also provides visual accounts of any property damage, litigation artifacts that are needed for things like slips and falls and other liability related items. All in all the video surveillance system should be an integral part of your overall security risk profile.

A Four-tiered Video Surveillance

A Video Surveillance Solution has four basic parts. The Software to view the video, backup or recording device, the communication mode/type and protocol in which the video gets transmitted to the software, and of course the cameras in which the images are captured. Depending on the extent of the surveillance solution, you want to implement and especially with larger implementations, you would want to consider using a professional video surveillance expert to layout and give you options for the overall solution. Perform your due diligence and make sure any expert has industry certifications like BICSI (Building Industry Consulting Service International), and/or RCDD (Registered Communications Distribution Designer), which is a physical IT infrastructure certification, and ASIS PSP (Physical Security Professional), which demonstrates security design expertise.

Camera Selection

Why don’t we start with the cameras and work our way up? I believe this is the easiest of the selections you need to make. The cameras come in a variety of shapes, styles and colors. I am going to discuss the types and not the styles and colors. One of the first things you need to think about is what locations need stationary (no movement at all) or need to pan (back and forth), tilt (up and down) and Zoom in for a closer look. Typically, stationary cameras cost the least and the Pan, Tilt, Zoom (PTZ as the industry calls it) combo cameras typically cost the most. You will need to also consider if these are inside or outside cameras as they will need to have protective housings and/ or rated for outdoor use which also drives up the price. Audio recording is also an option for many of the video cameras today. You also want to consider if you need night vision so you can see in dim light or at night. Remember you will need to run power to each of the cameras unless you are using computer-networked cameras that provide Power Over Ethernet (POE) power. Once you laid out where your cameras are going to be located (use a mechanical drawing of your building or store, and mark where the cameras will be located) and what types of cameras you need, you can move on to the next item to consider.

Video Communications

The communication type between the camera and the software and backup recording device is also important. This can differ from location to location and can be application specific based on the needs of your implementation. Some of the basic types of communication are Closed Circuit TV (CCTV) coaxial based, computer network (LAN/WAN) based, and Wireless (Wi-Fi). CCTV and coaxial is the most secure and provides the best picture, but also is initially one of the most expensive because you have to run cables from each camera to the recording and software devices. LAN/WAN connected is also a good option, but you also have to run network cable to each of the cameras to your LAN/WAN switch. Lastly, wireless communications for cameras is typically the least expensive and not quite as good video quality and you still have to run power. You can also have a combination of all of the communication types based on the size of the project, location of cameras, and the ability to run power and communication lines. Security is also one of the primary items in this category. Make sure you get a camera and communications that support the latest security protocols and video compression, especially for Wi-Fi, you don’t want someone easily hacking into your video feeds. We can discuss the pros and cons of each type of communications for hours, but in the interest of time, let’s move on.

Video Recording and Backup

Next, let us discuss the need for real time and back up/Digital Video Recorder (DVR) of the video for the surveillance solution. Depending on your applications, you may have a need to have multiple display monitors and have security staff on premise to have real time visuals on the important areas like doors, elevators, safes, parking area /garages and the like. In other applications, all you need is a small monitor to make sure the video cameras are working and let the recording device do all the work, then verifying the saving of the video data and recall it as needed. Either way you will need to store the video data for a period of time. I would recommend at least 30 days of online storage and offline of perhaps 90 or 180 days or more in case you need to recall it for liability and litigation purposes and having video evidence could mean either winning or losing a case. The last area I will cover for video surveillance solutions is the software.

Software Aspects

The software and support really does set apart the offerings of the video surveillance solutions. There are also security companies that have SaaS model where the software is hosted in the cloud. The hardware and communications are important. However the functionality of the software that is interfaced day in and day out can make or break your system. There are several questions you should consider when looking at the software:

• Is the application easy to navigate?
• Is it intuitive and you don’t need long training classes to be proficient?
• Visually, can you see all your cameras at once as needed?
• Does it have a web interface so you can access away from the office?
• Can you control your cameras Pan, Tilt, and Zoom (PTZ) from the software and remotely off premises?
• Does it have alerts to let you know when there is movement during the times there should not?
• Does it have an option you can see the video on your smart phone (this is good for small business solutions)?
• Is it easy to find and playback video?
• Does it have automatic camera detection and setup?
• Does it support all the latest security protocols and compression?
• Does it have advance detection like pattern or facial recognition?

There are many more questions to be asked but this is a good place to start.

Protection for your employees and patrons of your establishment or business should not be overlooked or taken lightly. Video Surveillance is an integral part of your overall security and risk assessment for the company. Whether you are a do-it-yourselfer or hire a professional security expert to layout and install your video surveillance solution, having a working knowledge of how it works will allow you to make better and more informed decisions around the options and solutions.

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