Just about any surveillance system is better than no system at all, but before you make an online purchase or grab something off the shelf at the local consumer electronics store, think seriously about the potential for disappointment.

If you’re in the market for a surveillance system, here are five things to consider before buying:

#1: You Might Underestimate The Challenge.

“Certain businesses with one or two employees and a really small footprint might do okay with a basic surveillance system,” says Mike Markham, Commenco’s Director of Technology Solutions. “But even those situations can leave business owners wanting more, and we end up getting called in to help after their basic system falls short.”

Knowing how to select, set up, place and position your cameras isn’t as simple as you may think. Different cameras have different technical specifications and image resolution and field of view are only part of what goes into smart shopping and set up.

techs-installing-surveillance-cameras-1

“Choosing cameras that can’t capture everything you need is a common mistake,” says Markham. “Or you might just struggle to configure the system to do the job.”

Even if you make it through set up and figure out how to effectively position your cameras in the right locations, Markham says you could still discover that you have the wrong system for what you’re trying to do.

“For example, maybe the system you’ve purchased records 24/7 but your business sees only limited activity during the day. You wind up dealing with a mountain of data or paying for additional storage service when the right kind of motion detection technology could have easily done the trick. Motion detection is a good solution for many businesses.”

unusual motion surveillance cameras kansas city


#2: You’re Missing Out On Smarter Software.

You may be short-changing your surveillance solution if you snatch up a low-end system with limited software capabilities. Business surveillance systems that can analyze imagery and identify threats are quickly becoming standard. Markham says surveillance software analytics are now as important as the cameras themselves.

“It’s about peace of mind, knowing you have a system that can pinpoint certain threats and notify you instantly. There’s so much more value in that than just having cameras hooked up that you can keep an eye on.”

surveillance software

“Basic systems are typically reactive. That means when security is breached, you may not know it at the time and you’ll have to go back after the fact and review a bunch of video to find the evidence. More advanced systems are proactive and can deliver timely alerts so you can stay on top of what’s happening as it happens. Business owners strongly prefer that.”

When it comes to security threats, do you want to be proactive or reactive? Markham says the software in a basic system may not give you a choice.

#3: Your Video May Not Be Ready For Court.

The reliability of your surveillance video footage is critical. When an incident leads to criminal charges, a good defense attorney is likely to attack the integrity of video evidence.

“Photos and videos can easily be manipulated these days,” says Markham. “A basic surveillance system will record video that may not hold up under the intense scrutiny involved in a court case.”

Professional surveillance systems take legal sensitivities into account and are equipped to fortify video integrity. Markham says they ensure recordings are reliable and well-preserved.

monitoring surveillance video feeds for court

“Pro systems validate the integrity of your video on a fundamental level. Many will encrypt and watermark every single image so that a court knows there’s been no tampering. Imagine going through all of the trouble of setting up a surveillance system that actually records a crime only to have the video not help you in court.”

#4: You Have Limited Ability To Control Access To Footage.

It’s not something most businesses think about upfront, but controlling user access can make a huge difference in how employees use your surveillance system. Basic systems typically don’t offer much flexibility and depending on your operations, that can be a problem.

“Businesses with even a few employees really like to have a plan for who has access to surveillance information,” says Markham. “You may want specific employees to have access to surveillance in their area of operation but not the entire building. Or you may want to limit access to sensitive or private areas.”

Markham says there are all kinds of scenarios where the need to control access to surveillance footage comes into play, so the ability to configure your preferences is really valuable. You won’t find that feature in basic systems.

#5: You’ll Likely Find Little Room For Expansion.

A few surveillance cameras may be enough to cover a small business at the time of purchase, but what if the business grows or even just remodels its space? Don’t expect to simply tack on additional cameras because low-end surveillance systems aren’t built for expansion. Markham says expansion can become a priority before you know it.

“Expansion means everything from the number of cameras to the amount of data storage you need. Low-end systems typically use cloud-based storage that requires monthly fees and an internet connection. Advanced systems are capable of accommodating a large number of additional cameras and include a network video recorder on-site that you can access without the internet.”

There’s a growing interest in the ability to retrieve video on-site without having to download it from the cloud and Markham says quick access is proving to be a valuable benefit.

“If I’m a business owner and there’s an incident, I want to be able to immediately pull that video from my recorder and hand it over to the authorities. I don’t want to wait.”

Markham says professional systems also allow a business to store greater amounts of video longer. Consumer camera recordings can be erased in just a few days, depending on storage subscription levels.

Invest, Don’t Just Purchase.

A surveillance system is an investment in protecting your people and your business assets. Walking into an electronics store that has multiple consumer systems on display can be tempting, but finding out the hard way that your business needs professional planning, hardware and software can be painful. Markham says you might be surprised to find that going with the pros can be more affordable than you thought, and good advice can really make a difference.

“If you assume bringing in professionals is going to bust your budget, keep in mind that it doesn’t have to. And spending a little more is probably worth getting it done right. I rarely hear regrets from business owners about getting into professional surveillance systems, but I do hear regrets about not getting into them sooner.”

Do you need advice about purchasing, installing and maintaining a surveillance system for your business? Please contact Commenco >>