What should I know prior to purchasing a video surveillance system for my business?


Video Surveillance systems are becoming an integral part of protecting a business, schools, employees, customers, students, and general peace of mind. However, there are very few workplaces that have the personnel or knowledge to make an educated decision on what type of system to purchase. To make the decision-making process a bit easier, I have included some basic information that you should answer to educate yourself prior to choosing a solution or solution provider.

Know what you want to accomplish.

Some questions that you can ask yourself to help you identify what you are attempting to accomplish when selecting a surveillance solution are:

  1. What are my existing pain points?
  2. What types of cameras are there and how will they support my unique environment?
  3. Where is the video surveillance data stored? How do I access the system?
  4. How many cameras are necessary to support the size of my facility?

Goals of a surveillance system can typically be broken into 3 groups: observation activities, threat deterrent, and process automation. These answers should act as a checklist to validate that the result meets the needs that you identified prior to researching any technology or vendors. Examples of some of each are listed below:

Observation Goals

  • Reduction of loss in public areas.
  • Reduction of loss from employees.
  • Identify visitors and vehicles.
  • Monitor public and workplace safety.
  • Monitor entrances and perimeter.
  • Improve productivity.
  • Enhance training.
  • Track cash transactions
  • Ensure quality control.

Threat Deterrent Reduce crime.

  • Reduce vandalism.
  • Protect the perimeter.
  • Increase the perception of public safety.

Automate Process

  • Integrate with access control.
  • Integrate with retail transaction monitoring.
  • Integrate with license plate recognition.
  • Integrate with other analytics.

Know your existing environment.

Knowing your existing environment will allow you to better understand what physical needs you may have and what supporting infrastructure you may currently have in place.

Will I require the system to view multiple sites?

Multiple sites may mean that you may need multiple Network Video Recorders (NVR)s for an on-premises solution. This type of solution will require a safe place to store the equipment and proper power at each location. If this is an issue, a cloud-based deployment may be a better option for multiple sites based on your infrastructure.

Will my current infrastructure support a quality video surveillance system?

Most modern IP video surveillance cameras require a Power over Ethernet (PoE) Switch. This allows the cameras to obtain both power and network via the same cable. The switch that is utilized must have adequate power capacity and enough ports available to support the cameras and whatever else may be connected.

Cabling must also be considered when deploying a surveillance system. It is recommended to use Cat6 cabling or better supporting the solution. If either the switch or the cabling falls below these minimums, it could lead to a solution that does not work or may add a substantial cost correcting the infrastructure.

What do I want to see?

This may seem obvious, but it is important to understand what it is that you want to keep an eye on. The typical answer is everything. That is rarely financially possible and rarely necessary. This is where those observation goals are necessary. The observation goals are going to dictate camera location and what type of cameras should be specified.

Most businesses choose to view doors, parking lots, common areas and high traffic areas, but it varies from business to business. The needs of a factory are typically much different than the needs of an office space.

Included in what do I want to see is, “when do I want to see it.” If the environment is light half the time and dark the other half, this is a key component determining the type of camera that should be selected for that location.

How long do I need to retain my footage?

This question is often based on the goals that you have outlined for your solution and in some cases by industry regulations. Some businesses may need to retain footage for a year, while others only need to retain it for a week. It is important to know this upfront so that the proper storage can be planned and budgeted.

What is my preferred method of accessing my video surveillance system?

This is becoming less and less of a concern as most surveillance system providers offer numerous ways to access the cameras and footage. Most providers allow you access to your footage from just about anywhere for the server to your cell phone. However, interfaces vary in usability so if you believe that you will be accessing your footage from your cell phone the majority of the time, you should consider choosing a solution with the mobile interface.

What integrations are required?

Many video surveillance systems will integrate with other building systems such as a fire alarm, security, retail and access control systems. It is important to know if you would like to integrate with these types of systems or if it is better to have them separate. If integration is required, it is important to work with both solution providers to validate that integration will result in the expected results.

Who will support my video surveillance system?

Most businesses do not have a dedicated security team, and the IT department does not have the expertise in deploying and maintaining a video surveillance system. For this reason, it is important to choose a system and a provider that best matches your business objectives, business hours and the level of expertise that you feel comfortable. Let there be no mistake, answering these questions will not certify you to engineer and deploy a video surveillance solution. However, by answering these questions, it will provide you the basic information which will assist you in picking the proper solution and solution provider.

Next steps?

Having a professional to speak to about these types of questions can greatly reduce the headaches when implementing a video surveillance solution. Usherwood has an experienced team that can assist you with your purchasing decisions and make sure you are provided with a unique solution to fit your business needs. We provide video surveillance solutions through our partners at Verkada, Milestone, and Axis. Having the ability to choose who we partner with this allows us to narrow down who we think can provide our clients with the best quality solutions that are right for their business. If you would like to learn more about video surveillance, please contact Usherwood at 800.724.2119.