New to Security or Video Surveillance? Here are some answers to the most commonly asked questions.
How do I go about choosing a CCTV supplier?
The right video surveillance system helps to make your business – and employees – safer from the threats of theft, accidents, and vandalism. By working with the best video surveillance companies, you can design a set up based on your needs – from a single video camera and monitor to more comprehensive closed circuit television (CCTV) systems.
Experience is one of the top traits you should look for in a video surveillance installer. To be able to balance considerations about wiring, lighting, and optics, the best video surveillance companies should have several years experience installing systems for companies like yours.
In addition, experience is a strong indicator of how reliable and stable the CCTV company will be in the long term. If you have problems down the line or want to upgrade your setup as your business expands, it’s important that the provider is around for years to come. Also, the best CCTV companies have the resources to handle specific issues that a smaller mom & pop vendor won’t be able to.
You also want a dealer that can provide a quality installation. The best video surveillance companies will visit your location to see exactly what kind of setup your site requires and make recommendations for the equipment and features that would be a good fit. When done with the installation, these companies will also provide training and documentation for you and your staff so you know exactly how everything should work.
Key characteristics of the best video surveillance companies:
- Familiar with businesses similar to yours
- Allow on-site visits to their facilities to see how they operate
- Provide full-on demonstrations of how certain equipment works
- Offer references that you can contact
- Install your system quickly, in the guaranteed timeframe
- Members in good standing with the Better Business Bureau
- Put all pricing and installation details in writing
Ultimately, the best video surveillance companies are those that treat your business like a partner, taking the time to understand your needs so they can offer a solution that you’ll be happy with.
Should I upgrade my old CCTV system?
By Robert Grossman,
R. Grossman and Associates
Do you ever tire of an appliance in your home? Maybe something newer on the market catches your fancy, has the features you’ve been missing or just looks better. Still, your old appliance is perfectly functional and could keep chugging along for years to come.
In your personal life, this problem is usually remedied more easily than it can be in your professional life. At home, there are lots of options – from garage sales, to relatives in need, to eBay. At work, there are budgets, return on investment and a responsibility to look after the company’s assets.
So how do we know it’s time to move on? How can we justify a decision to upgrade equipment that is perfectly functional but no longer state-of-the-art? Examining old and new equipment’s functionality, cost, features and aesthetics can be an eye-opener.
Consider Functionality First
The first thing to do is make sure your equipment really is perfectly functional. CCTV cameras are an excellent example. There may be an older camera that looks great but really doesn’t do what it’s supposed to. Look carefully: Does it provide a sharp, clear picture in all of the lighting conditions? Is it reliable?
Sometimes, an outdated camera is like an old pair of glasses: Everything looked great before, but when you put on new glasses, you are amazed by what you were missing. Cameras, monitors, card readers and other “forgotten” devices often make their inadequacies clear when compared with a newer model.
If you believe a switch would be nice but not necessary, consider getting a sample of a newer unit and swapping it temporarily just to see how big a difference it will make. Chances are you’ll be surprised.
Cost, Features, Look Make the Case
Sometimes, hidden costs make a big difference. Consider the change from analog VCRs to digital recording. For many, this falls into the “I’ll get to it someday” category, but a careful look at the situation might lead to a different conclusion.
Often the difference in frame rates compared to time-lapse recording is enough to justify the purchase. For those who have suffered a loss that wasn’t documented because the tape was worn or unchanged, this is an easy decision. Much of this equipment is so inexpensive that it no longer requires much of a financial case to justify the investment.
Often, a new product can provide more efficiency, making the purchase easier to justify. Casinos quickly discovered staggering savings could come from digital video systems’ ability to reconstruct an incident by searching across multiple camera inputs and piecing together different footage. The ability to instantly copy an incident for distribution to the proper authorities or E-mail an image or video clip for verification, adds tremendous value to a security department and provides real benefits for many security departments.
While a security product’s appearance may seem like poor justification for an upgrade, it is important to keep things in perspective. There are many lobbies, reception areas and other public spaces that regularly go through cosmetic facelifts but leave the old cameras in place. Consider the cost of decorative unitized camera/housing combinations as a part of the décor and budget accordingly. Could your marble-topped security desk benefit from flat-screen monitors rather than the huge, chunky boxes already there for years? Equipment today performs better and is sleek and attractive. Both of these benefits must be considerations to make the case.
Leaving Well-Enough Alone
There are sometimes reasons not to upgrade or trade up, despite all the justification for the latest and greatest. One that comes to mind is software or firmware upgrades for microprocessor-based equipment. If the product you own works well and does not experience any problems, don’t rush to change it simply because an update is available. Software upgrades have been known to damage one feature in the process of fixing another. Often, the feature that is fixed is one you don’t use, while the broken one was critical to your operation.
Another reason to leave well enough alone is product complexity. If the folks who run your system are set in their ways and took a long time to get there, measure the effects of change against the benefits of the update. If adding capabilities to your system means the operators will stop using the system, the benefits evaporate quickly.
What should I know about CCTV cameras?
A video surveillance system is a great way to protect your employees and your business. Choosing the components that make up a great system can be a challenge, though – cameras, digital video recorders, and display systems all have important points to consider. Here’s a look at how to choose business security cameras and camera components.
Business security camera basics
The most basic distinction to make when choosing business security cameras is whether you want color or black and white, but these days it’s a pretty easy decision. The advantages of black and white cameras used to be twofold:
they were cheaper, and they worked better in low light situations.
Now, prices for color security cameras have dropped so there’s little advantage there. And, many color cameras can switch to a black and white mode in low light conditions. You’ll almost certainly want color security cameras for your business.
The other basic aspect of choosing business security cameras is deciding on a format. Format refers to the size of the image processor in the camera – it can range from 1/4″ to 1″ or larger. While larger format cameras may perform slightly better in certain situations, the expense isn’t worth it for most security applications. 1/4″ and 1/3″ are the most common formats for most surveillance cameras.
Unlike with home video cameras, lenses are generally sold separately from business security cameras. The lens determines how wide an image is created and how much light is let in, so there are some important tradeoffs to consider.
You also need to decide what type of lens your business security cameras requires:
- Fixed focal length lenses offer only one set field of view: to change the resulting image, you need to switch lenses. They are the least expensive.
- Variable focal length lenses and zoom lenses offer greater flexibility, allowing you to adjust your image’s field of view when you set the CCTV surveillance equipment up.
- Motorized zoom lenses give you the ability to control your cameras remotely, zooming in for detail when you spot suspicious activity. However, they’re only useful if someone will be watching and operating the cameras at all times. They’re also the most expensive.
Fortunately, lenses are usually interchangeable between different cameras, so you can buy multiple types of lenses and experiment to find the best results. Just make sure the lenses you purchase match the format of your cameras: 1/4″ lenses work best with 1/4″ cameras.
An important accessory to think about when buying business security cameras is the housing or enclosure. Indoors, housings are used to provide security or concealment, while outdoor cameras need protection from the elements, as well.
The right kind of housing will vary with your application, and the security camera business you choose to work with should be able to help you choose the right one for your surveillance needs.
How do I prevent false alarms?
There are (at least) eight ways to prevent false alarms.
1. Know your Codes. Unfortunately, this is one of the most common reasons for a false alarm!
2. Keep pets in a designated area or install “Pet Friendly” motion sensor. We all love our furry friends, but they can also be the source of false alarms. Cats like to climb onto things and large dogs can be seen as a threat to older sensors. Pet friendly sensors are great for big dogs up to around 80 pounds and for cats as long as they can’t get within a three foot high and six-foot distance of the sensor.
3. Secure ALL Windows and Doors. It is amazing how many homes we have visited where the system relies entirely on motion sensors. Motion sensors are the most common cause of Intrusion Alarms. Having the windows and doors secured has a two-fold advantage. First it protects your perimeter. You have a barricade between you and the potential thief. Second it gives validity to the alarm. If your system indicates that you have a motion sensor going off and there is no sign of a perimeter break, a furry friend may have set your system off. However, if there is an indication of a window opening and then a motion sensor going off, there is a high likelihood that an intruder has entered the residence.
4. Alert house guests. If you are away and having services at your home rendered in your absence, such as house sitting or dog walking, ensure that you show these people how to properly use the system. This will prevent false alarms from improper use while you are away.
5. Replace your batteries! With the majority of the new systems having some form of wireless communication involved it is important to ensure that the sensors have their batteries changed. A low battery can create a false alarm. Ensure that your backup battery is also functioning correctly. Our new Lyric system from Honeywell actually features a two-way communication with the wireless sensors so that it gives real time battery status!
6. Watch for stray objects near motion sensors. Objects that are in front of motion sensors can accidentally set your system off.
7. Stay in touch with Mother Nature. Wind storms and other types of natural events can cause false alarms. (IE branch through a window) Keep an eye on your system during these events. This is where Total Connect is a great tool to keep an eye on things just as if you never left the house. See in real time the status of your system and if you have Total Connect cameras you can even look in through the app to see how things are going.
8. Report suspect damaged or malfunctioning hardware. We partner with companies like Honeywell because they back their products for two years! If something isn’t working right, we can look after that for you!
Are cameras surveillance solutions or security solutions?
We want to stress that cameras are a surveillance solution, they are not a security solution! A security system working in conjunction will properly installed door locks and deadbolts and some common sense can protect you from becoming a victim on an opportunistic criminal. We have seen many examples where an intruder walked into somebody’s home and started looking through the house for quick items to grab and go, even while the family sleeps. How did they get in? In almost every case, a door was left open by someone coming home late at night or someone not paying attention to the status of their locks!
A great complement to a security system is a properly designed camera system. We commonly hear about people buying off the shelf camera systems and being shocked at what they see. One of two things usually happens:
1) the picture is “good enough”…..is it really? Can you tell if it is a male or female? Can you tell what they are wearing? Can you see identifiable clothing or tattoos? In most cases the answer to those questions is no. How can the authorities investigate that crime when the best evidence available for them to use in the prosecution of the criminal is of poor quality?
2)Why is it so grainy? This is simple. Like anything else out there, the quality of the cameras will dictate the level of information that you get to work with. Most of these out of the box systems use a general wide angle lens which is great if the thief is close to it, but if they are far away the pixel concentration is compromised. The magic is in the pixels. Just because your camera says it is 4K doesn’t necessarily mean it is a great camera. A good quality 2MP camera can outshine a cheap 4K camera and in some cases deliver even better results.
How is this possible? The key to having usable footage is to have an adequate concentration of pixels where you want to see. Did you know that you need about 45 pixels per foot to be able to see a license plate properly? That it takes at least 85 pixels per foot to be able to get face identification? Even a 4k system will struggle with that level of detail at around 30 to 40 ft away from the camera. The pixels are too spread out because of the type of lens that is installed.
How are we different? We don’t use the off the shelf systems and we REFUSE to install them. We know that they don’t work so why would we take your hard earned money knowing that the solution isn’t up to the task. That is why we choose our cameras based on where there are going and also how much detail is required. A residential system will not require the detail of a mission critical surveillance system on a hazardous materials site. We literally have thousands of cameras to chose from. Our knowledge guides our choice for your application. Remember what we said before about cookie cutters?
Contact us today for a free site consult!
How much does a security system cost?
A system costs vary depending on how many areas need to be protected. It is important that all of the perimeter access points get protected. Doors, overhead garage doors and windows are all very common access points and as such should be protected. In many instances we are seeing competitors relying on just motion sensors and avoiding putting contacts on windows in order show a lower price. This is not an effective way of protecting your home. There are two problems with this approach: 1) You are leaving yourself vulnerable to a window entry and 2) Setting yourself up for having false alarms.
Why does my system false and what does that cost me?
If your system is not properly maintained or improperly designed, it can become more of a headache than a convenience. This is why we take system design so seriously. A properly designed system should have the ability to verify the intrusion. This takes a “layering” of sensors. Is this the cheapest way? NO. Is it the most effective way of protecting your life’s largest investment? YES.
Let me explain: In the previous question I talk about window contacts being ignored by competitive system designers. If an intrusion is made to a home that has no window contacts and is relying on a motion sensor in that room, the system will only show a motion alert even if the window was the entry point. Was it a spider walking across the sensor? Is the sensor pointed towards a window and a reflection has set it off? You can’t tell nor can the monitoring station. If police are dispatched to check this out, you could now be facing a false alarm fine! Now with our design, if the window is the entry point the system will alert to the window entry and then if the motion sensor is tripped, it adds a secondary alert. Can you see the difference? When an intrusion can be validated there is a significant reduction to the likelihood of a false alarm. When you start looking at the costs of a false alarm, that cheaper system suddenly gets a whole lot more expensive.
What does a false alarm cost me?
In the City of Kamloops, you can see the costs associated to a false alarm:
EXCESS ALARM FEES INVOLVING HOLD-UP ALARM OR PANIC ALARM
|First False Alarm in calendar year (Hold-up Alarm or Panic Alarm)||$300|
|Second False Alarm in calendar year (Hold-up Alarm or Panic Alarm)||$500|
|Third and all subsequent False Alarms in calendar year (Holdup Alarm or Panic Alarm)||$1,000|
EXCESS ALARM FEES INVOLVING INTRUSION ALARM
|First False Alarm in calendar year (Intrusion Alarm)||No Charge|
|Second False Alarm in calendar year (Intrusion Alarm)||$200|
|Third and all subsequent False Alarms in calendar year (Intrusion Alarm)||$400|
Your first false alarm is your warning. Your second? It will cost you $200! Your Third? $400! After that? No response!!!!
I see so many different prices for hardware and monthly costs. How do you compare?
Great question!! Number one: We are locally owned and operated! If you reside in our local service area, you save costly travel expenses that a lot of the large security companies surprise you with when you need them. Need a replacement back up battery for your system and want someone to put it in? A replacement battery typically sells for around $35.00 (depending on size) and a service call to do this will usually cost around $35.00. We have a case of a customer who was going to be charged $200 for travel time (EACH WAY – techs were dispatched from Vancouver) and an hour of labor. That same battery would have cost the customer almost $600! Local makes a HUGE DIFFERENCE!! NUMBER 2: We partner with manufacturers who make the best, not the cheapest. Cheap systems will ALWAYS cost you more in the long run through higher numbers of service calls or through false alarms. Remember, your level of security is only as good as the system that has been designed to protect you. If your system only protects your doors and ignores the windows …here is to hoping that the intruder decides to use your doors to get in.
Do you offer wireless systems?
Absolutely!!! Not only do we offer wireless solutions, we offer SECURE wireless systems that are reliable!! There ate many manufacturers out there advertising wireless system for as little as $300 installed. You get what you pay for. Remember that wireless systems still require power and the sensors have batteries inside. Those cheaper systems do NOT give you battery status. What if you have a dead battery and the system doesn’t tell you? How effective is that system now? We all hear about wireless “hackers” who try to break into home and business computer systems. There are people out there who do the same to security systems. Our systems are designed to detect these threats and alert you to them. Our wireless sensors alert the main control panel to low batteries so that you can deal with it before an intrusion is made. Our latest sensors even report signal strength as well as battery strength. Now that is Peace of Mind!!
Why do your camera systems cost more than what I can find in the store?
A store bought system has many disadvantages. They are marketed as a low cost alternative to professional camera systems and are designed in the same manner. LOW COST. Your image quality has everything to do with the quality of the lenses and the size of that lens. Most of those systems use very poor quality lenses and are designed for seeing events up close. What if you need to see further? You need a better lens that is suited to that application. As security professionals we have very powerful system design tools that enable us to find the right camera for the job. Like I said before, security is NOT A COOKIE CUTTER! There are other considerations to consider as well. How up to date is the operating system? Is it glitchy? In many cases these over the counter systems have an operating system that has not been updated in years! When it comes to security and surveillance you get what you pay for!
Do you offer prewiring services?
We certainly do! If you have been reading these questions you will notice that we take a serious approach to you and your family’s security. When we perform a prewire, all perimeter points are wired. We do not skip windows to keep your cost down! To illustrate why look at this scenario: You have a home with 10 windows and 8 doors. All of the doors are wired and the windows were skipped. You realize that you want to protect those windows and figure you can go wireless. Yes you can. However, that will actually increase your cost of completion SIGNIFICANTLY. Don’t shortcut your family’s security. Experience has taught us that it is ALWAYS better to invest in protecting all of your perimeter entry points. (This can literally save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars in additional hardware cost!!!)
What do you mean by properly monitored?
There are a lot of companies that offer monitoring but only a few even talk about ULC Certification for the monitoring station. A ULC monitored alarm system will provide the home owner with a security certificate so that you can save that money on your homeowners insurance. Not only that, a ULC certified monitoring station has more up to date equipment, higher levels of standards for the employees who are watching your system, have requirements for redundant systems to ensure that your home alarm is always being watched even when service interruptions may be taking place. Back up systems are in place to ensure your Peace of Mind.
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Absolutley not. Here’s why picking a reliable, secure lock is important in today’s technology age.
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