Need to watch your business 24/7? It's impossible for any one person to do the job, but a digital security system can show you what's happening in your office or store no matter where you are.
Although not every business requires surveillance cameras, the investment can pay off big time for anyone seeking additional security or monitoring. Cameras may deter crime, and if a stranger graffitis an office window or an employee steals cash from the register, for instance, a recording tells the tale and allows you to take action.
Surveillance systems are making strides in image quality and flexibility for the watchers on the back end. Internet protocol (IP) surveillance combines cameras with a digital video recorder that can feed information to the Web. Some let you peek live at a scene from your smartphone, tablet, or PC. You can replay videos, print images, and even e-mail them to the police to help pursue or prosecute a suspect.
Your company doesn't need to be a common target, such as a jewelry store or nightclub, to benefit. Smarter surveillance gear is dropping in price, offering analytics tools that examine patterns at your location. They might alert you the moment a fire exit is blocked, for example, or display data from a busy month to show exactly when customers flocked to your store.
Installations of digital surveillance equipment took a dip with the recession, but are picking back up again. Sales of cameras, recorders, and encoders are expected to reach $15 billion in 2014, according to research firm In-Stat. The firm expects to see the equipment appear more in healthcare facilities, on school campuses, and in stores trying to keep lines moving at the cash register.
What to Buy
If you want just a basic video setup to keep an eye on your office or shop, consumer gear from big brands such as D-Link, Linksys, Logitech, and Netgear is likely to do the trick for $50 to several hundred dollars. First, though, look for ease of use. A basic Webcam may be all you need. If you need to integrate the gear with business systems for access control, alarm monitoring, or point-of-sale systems, you'd best call a professional and prepare to spend thousands.
Although newer surveillance systems use ethernet instead of older coaxial cables, some products offer wireless communications--but that option isn't ideal if your site has a poor signal. Verizon, for one, touts a SerComm IP camera that sends real-time footage via its LTE 4G network.
If you're looking for a more complex system, the IP Camera Finder on news portal IPVideoMarket.info provides a search for dozens of specifications, including resolution, autofocus, and built-in analytics. You'll also find reviews at NetworkCameraReviews.com.
Not all consumer-grade cameras are strong enough to withstand wear and tear where you install them. In contrast, internal heaters and fans inside models from specialized vendors such as Axis prevent freezing and foggy lenses. Heavy-duty "captive" screws and sturdy metal housing prevent vandals, and software will detect (and send an alert) if the camera is jarred or covered up. Night-and-day cameras, including infrared ones, can keep constant watch.
Next page: Watching remotely with software for smartphones and PCs