Security cameras can be a business owner's best friend. They allow you to keep an eye on your premises when you can't be there and help you know exactly what's happening. With the advent of today's digital security camera systems, which record directly to Digital Video Recorders (DVRs), they capture higher quality images and no longer require you to swap tapes in VCRs. Some recording systems even show you surveillance camera video from the Web or from other PCs in your office. But as you can imagine, a good security camera system isn't cheap. To compute your return on investment, you need to understand the three primary uses of surveillance camera systems:
- Crime deterrent – Whether it's the break-and-enter robber, or the cashier who might want to swipe a $20 from the change drawer, just the presence of a security camera can keep people more honest.
- Crime investigation – How often does your memory fail you in remembering details? Many businesses have CCTV security camera systems to obtain actual footage of a crime and a time stamp, making your case more prosecutable in court
- Business tool – Increasingly, the surveillance camera isn't being used solely against criminals. Retailers watch how shoppers move through their stores; new software can even count customers by analyzing video. Your security cameras can be a business profit driver, too.
So let's talk technology to get you started. There are basically five types of security cameras:
Traditional fixed security camera
The less expensive option. These security cameras are "fixed" on one area and can be fitted with different lenses for a wide angle of view, an up-close-and-personal shot, or anything in between. Newer surveillance camera models record in full color and in higher resolution. Many security cam models are available, including day/night outdoor security cameras that can automatically adjust to the amount of light available. Some security cameras are known as bullet cameras, owing to their shape and low profile.
Dome security camera
A favorite, because the domes 1) can protect the security camera equipment from vandalism and 2) don't let your perpetrators know exactly which way the security camera is pointed. The basic dome surveillance camera is fixed and hidden inside a smoke-colored dome. Look up to the ceiling in any Wal-Mart, and you'll understand how popular this security cam can be.
Pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) security cameras
Typically housed inside domes, the surveillance camera can rotate about inside. Most PTZ security cameras are used as secondary security cameras and are controlled by your security staff, enabling them to move the security cam and zoom in on incidents of interest, but they can be set on a "patrol" to automatically follow a set path. Expect more cost for PTZ security cameras, plus the additional cost of the control systems and personnel to operate the security cam.
Infrared security cameras
These security cameras are for specialty applications, such as watching an area in complete darkness. They use infrared-emitting LEDs to illuminate the scene (the light is invisible to the naked eye), and are often rated for viewing to a particular environment. They're not typical at most businesses, but your needs may not be typical.
Network security cameras
Network security cameras function like computers on your business IP network, moving video around just like email. These security cameras reflect a very fast growing market now that many companies are fully wired for Internet access across their premises, and are steadily replacing the traditional security cameras that are connected using coaxial cable or specialty wiring.
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- Many businesses use security cameras as a crime deterrent, but with the advent of smaller cameras, these devices may not be as noticeable as they once were. Put up signs to let potential criminals know: "These premises protected by security cameras."
- While some smaller, off-the-shelf security camera systems can be self-installed, you'll probably want to contact a security cam systems dealer to properly set up the security camera equipment. They can work with you to determine proper surveillance camera placement and field of view, how long you want to store the video, and will provide the installation expertise to make it a tidy, quick job.
- Today's digital surveillance camera systems can allow you to log in and check on your premises when you're on the couch with your laptop or PDA. Though these security cam systems tend to add more in cost, they're a great option for business owners who want to be in control 24/7.
- When choosing the recording system for your surveillance camera, think about how long you really need to keep the video. It's a good idea to keep video for at least a week (sometimes you don't notice something is missing for a while), and as digital media prices have dropped, it's become cheaper to keep the video on file for longer periods – up to a point, of course.