Video surveillance offers several benefits to the everyday small business owner. Not only does it protect against outside break-ins and burglaries, but it also plays a critical role in sustaining your business and making it a safer place to work. The purchase of a few reliable surveillance cameras for your business security can yield a high return on investment.
"I think every business with a physical location should have security cameras, because robberies are always possible, even if the business owner is very careful about locking up," said Gabe Turner, director of content for Security.org. "If a robbery does happen, any business owner would want to know as soon as possible so they can contact the police."
Below, we'll explain this security camera benefit alongside others while discussing how these cameras work and how to find the right one for you.
How security cameras work
Security cameras record video footage of activity inside your company buildings and around the premises. In many cases, 24/7 video recording through a technology called continuous video recording (CVR) is available.
Additionally, many security cameras have built-in motion sensors that activate your security system at the slightest sense of activity. This function works whether the activity detected is beneficial or harmful for your business, but some cameras offer smart detection to distinguish between threatening and nonthreatening movement. You can also program security cameras to send you alerts when they sense motion.
Most security cameras suitable for business use fall into one of two categories: wired or wireless.
Wired security cameras
Wired security cameras are physically connected to onsite video storage devices such as network video recorders (NVRs) or digital video recorders (DVRs). Often, the cables that connect your cameras to your storage devices also power your cameras. Additionally, many wired security cameras offer Ethernet cable connectivity, which enables you to view footage remotely.
Wireless security cameras
Wireless security cameras forgo most cables and instead transmit recorded video to the cloud. With this wireless technology, you can view your security camera footage at any time from a mobile app or desktop computer. You may still need to power your cameras through traditional electric cables, but some models use rechargeable batteries that require no cables.
Many wireless options offer notable security camera benefits that wired cameras don't. For example, some can determine whether the collected footage is of a package delivery rather than a true cause for alarm. Others can even distinguish between the people who shouldn't be on your premises and harmless visitors to which other cameras might needlessly alert you. Most wireless security cameras can also integrate with smart home systems such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home.
How to choose the best video camera for your business
When searching for the best security cameras for small business, you want to find affordable cameras that suit your business's needs. You should ask yourself a few questions to determine the best security camera or surveillance system for your small business:
- What's my business's budget?
- Do we want an outdoor security camera, an indoor security camera or both?
- What's this camera's video quality? Is it a high-definition camera with high resolution?
- Does this camera include features like two-way audio or facial recognition? Do we need advanced features like these?
- Does this security system have a mobile app? Can I view footage on my mobile device if I receive an alert about a potential break-in?
- How much file storage does this camera or security system have?
- Does a motion sensor activate the camera, or does it always record?
- Are the cameras wireless?
- Can the camera or surveillance system connect to my business's Wi-Fi network?
The answers to these questions will help you decide what you need in a security camera and which systems meet those needs. Many business owners think their business is immune to financially crippling robberies and security breaches until it happens to them. Even minor theft can cause financial strain or hardship, so good security cameras are important.
During the purchasing process, you'll also want to consider the best place to position any cameras. What's the best viewing angle of your store or office? Will your camera have a large field of view? Is the system wireless, or do you need to account for wires?
You can get more bang for your buck if you use a few cameras with large fields of view rather than many individual cameras in different places with limited viewing angles. You may also want cameras with large storage capacities. A large storage capacity means you can let the cameras record for a long time without clearing the memory or saving the files somewhere.
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The best security cameras for small business
Some of the best small business video surveillance systems are Protection1, Blink, Arlo and Alibi. TRENDnet and SecurityMan are also popular options. These brands all offer features relevant to small businesses that need quality video surveillance. Their pricing is also fair for small businesses, which isn't the case for all security camera providers.
In addition to those popular video surveillance systems, here are a couple other great options that we researched.
Lorex offers a wide selection of security cameras that are well liked by small businesses. The company offers weatherproof security cameras and an assortment of security camera setups, including audio-enabled cameras. A small business can get an affordable solution from Lorex with a few cameras, while a larger business might spend hundreds of dollars for a deluxe option.
Amazon offers smart security cameras for businesses that want wireless options. These cameras provide solid footage and tend to be very affordable. The Amazon Cloud Cam comes in at around $100. This smart security camera works with Alexa and is built for indoor use. It provides two-way audio, night vision, and notifications when it notices activity. It's a quality option for a small business in search of an affordable smart security camera.
Benefits of video cameras for businesses
There are a few obvious reasons why it makes sense to purchase business security cameras and add them to your business operations. If you're hesitant to invest more money into your security measures, consider these security camera benefits before making a decision.
1. Security cameras deter employee theft.
It might be hard to imagine that your own employees would actually steal from your business, but it happens more than you might think. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, approximately 75% of employees steal from their employer companies. One way to catch them in the act and reclaim your assets is with a surveillance camera. When employees know they're under video surveillance, they'll think twice before taking such a risk.
Good image quality is critical in a security camera, as blurry images make it difficult to pinpoint which employees are doing what. You want a camera that captures quality footage to adequately protect your business.
2. Surveillance cameras help with workflow monitoring.
Are your employees actually working their full shifts, or are they spending their time doing something else? Employee monitoring is not just for recording theft. With the right surveillance cameras, you can find out what your employees are doing, and if any measures are necessary to boost efficiency. This is especially helpful for retail store owners to find out if they're over- or understaffed. Just two minutes of video can tell you a lot about your company's operational model.
Of course, there are other ways to keep tabs on your staff, as employee monitoring software continues to improve. There's plenty of software available to monitor what your employees are working on if you need to.
3. A security camera system may help you avoid frivolous lawsuits.
The last thing you need is a lawsuit brought by a disgruntled employee who faked a slip-and-fall injury to sue your business. Security cameras are excellent deterrents against these types of crimes. Physical fights between employees or harassment claims can also spawn lawsuits; installed cameras will be integral in protecting your business.
4. Security cameras create a safer workplace.
Protecting your employees is just as important as protecting your business. Security cameras should be mounted at entrances and exits and in parking lots to create a safer environment for your employees. Not only will they feel more at ease walking to their cars after dark, but this security tactic also prevents vehicle break-ins, vandalism, and other criminal activity around your office or store.
5. A surveillance system may reduce your insurance costs.
This is an easy way to save money on your business insurance. Many insurance providers offer discounted rates when you buy surveillance cameras for your store or office. A dependable indoor or outdoor surveillance system assures your insurance provider that you're taking the necessary steps to protect your business from theft, which makes their job easier and your business less of a liability on their end.
As you can see, security cameras can do much more for your business than catch criminals in the act. You can safeguard your assets, better serve your employees, and improve the day-to-day operations of your business with a surveillance camera that's built to help in more ways than one.
Cons of business security cameras
Despite the many benefits of business security cameras, there are also some reasons you might not want to use them.
"Without a good reason [to buy one], I recommend against cameras," said business consultant Anthony Babbitt. "Cameras are an expense and can undermine employee relationships. Also, they only record in small businesses which cannot afford to have someone watch them 24/7, so you still need a method to detect whatever you were trying to prevent with the cameras."
As Babbitt said, employees might feel like you don't trust them if you install a massive surveillance operation to track their movements. Some people disagree with Babbitt's opinion, though, believing that businesses should have security cameras if only for peace of mind, and Babbitt himself isn't firmly on one side or the other. He said that businesses with good reason to mount a security camera should certainly consider making the purchase.
Another potential hassle is tracking the footage and then figuring out what to do with it. If you only have a five-person team, which employee is going to spend an hour or two skimming security footage for red flags? It's unlikely that many of your employees will want to sign up for that.
Again, these potential drawbacks don't necessarily mean you shouldn't implement a business surveillance system, but you should consider them before making the investment. Of course, it doesn't have to be a huge investment. Some security cameras are available for under $100. You might want a more detailed system, which will cost more, but the one-time purchase of a business surveillance system shouldn't break your business financially.
If you're on the fence about getting a video surveillance system, consider the pros and cons. Is the cost of installing cameras to monitor employees, customers, and other people in or around your store a strong investment to deter theft, or an unnecessary expense? Whether or not you need a security surveillance system depends on the unique needs of your business.
Max Freedman contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.