Creating a Surveillance Solution for Your Business

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When it comes to providing security for your business, perhaps you’re more used to hearing about cybersecurity. While a cybersecurity breach can have far-reaching and long-lasting effects, it’s not the only aspect of security that should raise concerns. My father runs his own business and I can’t tell you how many times someone backed into the railing leading up to the main entrance. Was it a client… could it have been the UPS driver? Finally, he put up concrete posts next to the rail, so now anyone who backs into those will probably be receiving more damage than they inflict. But what about all those people who backed into the guard rail? Sadly, since there was no external surveillance, no eyewitnesses, and no evidence, we’ll never know.

If you have a properly installed surveillance system, it can serve multiple functions, including helping your employees feel more safe, deterring common vandals who abscond with package deliveries, and make people think twice before they use your garbage, dumpster dive, permit their animals to use your lawn without cleaning up, and smoke in non-smoking zones. Just to be clear, this article only focuses on surveilling the exterior of your business. I’m not at all advocating setting up interior cameras like Big Brother, to spy—I mean keep an eye on what your employees are doing all day.

Surveillance Cameras and NVRs: An Overview

To properly set your business up with a surveillance system, you’ll need a combination of cameras, a network video recorder (NVR), and enterprise-level hard drives that can sustain 24/7 use. We’re going to kick things off by discussing various surveillance cameras.

Before delving further, be sure to read The Basics and Beyond the Basics surveillance video buying guides to get up to speed with terminology, camera form factors, and to get a general overview of surveillance technology. Surveillance systems are part and parcel with businesses, both small and large alike. We’re focusing on external surveillance, but surveillance systems run the gamut of everything you can think of.

Just like DVRs (Digital Video Recorders) before them, NVRs record and store video. We’ll focus on NVR-based surveillance systems in this piece, but if you have a legacy analog DVR system that still works, you can breathe new life into your analog system, thanks to cameras that send HD video over coaxial cable. Read more about “Going Analog in the Digital Age” in our guide here.

NVRs offer a tremendous amount of flexibility for the end user. Connectivity for NVRs is a lot less complex when compared to DVR systems, thanks to Power over Ethernet (PoE) technology that transmits power and data over one cable. NVRs typically offer a host of analytics, such as motion detection and line crossing.

Axis Communications 8-Channel NVR with PoE Switch

Camera Checklist: What Are Your Needs?

If your focus is the exterior of your business, the first thing you will need to consider is the form factor of the camera(s), and where you’ll be installing them. Will they be outside in the elements? Do you need ’round-the-clock, day and night surveillance? Do you need PT (pan and tilt) or PTZ (pan, tilt, and zoom) functionality? Will your camera need protection from vandals? There’s a lot to consider when putting together a surveillance system but, thankfully, there is a camera solution for almost every situation. For brevity, we’ll focus on dome, bullet, and turret cameras.

PTZ Camera

Dome, Bullet, and Turret Cameras

Dome cameras offer great flexibility. They can be flush-mounted in a ceiling or a wall, with only the camera’s bubble showing. Many dome cameras offer vandal resistance, which is usually described as an IK10 rating. A solid choice for a dome camera is the P3228-LVE 4K UHD Outdoor Network Dome Camera, from Axis Communications. It captures 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) resolution video at 30 fps, and is equipped with a 3.5-10mm varifocal lens with a 100-38° horizontal field of view, and built-in IR LEDs that deliver up to 100' of night vision. Additionally, the camera is IP66- and NEMA 4X-rated, making it safe to use outdoors in the elements. It is also IK10-rated for vandal resistance.

Axis Communications P32 Series P3228-LVE 4K UHD Outdoor Network Dome Camera with Night Vision

For those looking for a more affordable dome camera solution, the DE Series 3MP Outdoor PTZ Network Dome Camera, from Hikvision, will fill the bill. This camera captures 2048 x 1536 resolution video, and is equipped with a 2.8-12mm varifocal lens that delivers a 105-33.5° field of view. It also has PTZ functionality, with a 0 to 350° panning range, 5 to 90° tilting range, and 4x optical zoom. It accepts microSD cards up to 128GB. This camera is IP67-rated for outdoor use in the elements, and is IK10-rated for vandal resistance.

Hikvision DE Series 3MP Outdoor PTZ Network Dome Camera

Bullet cameras are cylindrically shaped, with their lens at the opposite end of their video and power connections. The LNB8111B 8MP Outdoor Network Bullet Camera, from Lorex by FLIR, captures 3840 x 2160-resolution video at up to 15 fps. It’s equipped with a 4mm fixed lens that delivers an 88° horizontal field of view. It also has night-vision range up to 90'. This camera is IP66-rated for outdoor use in the elements.

Lorex by FLIR LNB8111B 8MP Outdoor Network Bullet Camera with Night Vision

Another fine choice for a bullet camera is the O3VFBM 3MP Outdoor Network Bullet Camera, from Speco Technologies. This camera captures 2048 x 1536 resolution video at 30 fps. It’s equipped with a 2.7-12mm motorized varifocal lens with an 87-29° horizontal field of view, and IR LEDS that deliver night vision up to 190'. It accepts microSD cards up to 128GB. It is IP67-rated for outdoor use in the elements and comes with a junction box for cable management.

Speco Technologies O3VFBM 3MP Outdoor Network Bullet Camera with 2.7-12mm Lens & Night Vision

Turret cameras are like dome cameras, except they don’t have the protective bubble of dome cameras. The Pro Series N51BI23 5MP Outdoor Network Turret Camera from Dahua Technology captures 2592 x 1944 resolution video at 20 fps. Its 3.6mm fixed lens delivers a 78° horizontal field of view and is equipped with IR LEDs to deliver up to 98’ of night vision. Additionally, its built-in IVS (Intelligent Video System) analytic algorithms deliver intelligent functions to monitor a scene for tripwire violations, motion detection, and intrusion detection. This camera is IP67-rated for outdoor use in the elements.

Dahua Technology Pro Series N51BI23 5MP Outdoor Network Turret Camera with Night Vision & 3.6mm Lens

The last camera selection is the N243EW4 4MP Outdoor Network Turret Camera, from FLIR. This turret camera captures 2688 x 1520 resolution video at up to 25 fps. Its 2.8mm fixed lens delivers a 100° horizontal field of view, and IR LEDs enable low-light video recording from up to 90' away. The camera is IP66-rated for outdoor use in the elements.

These are some examples of the network cameras you can use in your NVR surveillance system. You certainly aren’t limited to them.

Hard Drives: How to Store Your Surveillance Footage

Now, let’s look at different hard drives and arrays that can be used for recording your reconnaissance. You’ll need something with a large storage capacity, a fast interface, a great amount of cache, speedy data-transfer rates, a low-error bit rate, and an intensive yearly workload rating that can sustain 24/7 use (8760 hours). At the SMB level, Seagate’s SkyHawk SATA III 3.5" Internal Surveillance Hard Drive is designed specifically for 24/7 surveillance and is available in capacities of 1TB, 2TB, 3TB, 4TB, 6TB, 8TB, and 10TB. These drives support up to 64 cameras and feature 300,000 load/unload cycles, a workload rating of 180TB per year, and an MTBF (mean time between failures) of 1 million hours. Aside from differences in capacity, sustained transfer rates vary from 180 MB/s to 210 MB/s, the cache varies between 64MB and 256MB, and non-recoverable read errors per bits read of 1 per 1014 or 1 per 1015. You may also want to select your drive based on how many bays are in the hard drive array you’ll be using. SkyHawk 1TB, 2TB, and 3TB drives are meant for use in 1-8 bay arrays, while the 4TB, 6TB, and 8TB are better suited for arrays with 8 or more bays. All in all, you can’t go wrong with any of these drives, although the greater your needs, the more you’ll benefit from a drive with a higher capacity, more cache, faster transfer rates, etc.

Seagate 10TB SkyHawk SATA III 3.5" Internal Surveillance Hard Drive

If you prefer WD, its Purple 5400 rpm SATA III 3.5" Internal Surveillance Hard Drive is available with OEM packaging in capacities of 500GB, 1TB, 2TB, 3TB, 4TB, 6TB, 8TB, and 10TB. These drives also support up to 64 cameras, 300,000 load/unload cycles, a workload rating of 180TB per year, and non-recoverable read errors per bits read of <1 per 1014. As with the SkyHawk drives, you’ll notice similar differences—sustained transfer rates from 110 MB/s to 210 MB/s and a cache of 64MB, 128MB, or 256MB. Additionally, the models from 500GB to 3TB are best used in bays with up to 8 drives, while models 4TB and greater support 8 bays or more.

WD 6TB Purple 5400 rpm SATA III 3.5" Internal Surveillance Hard Drive

Do you have a favorite enterprise-level hard drive that you’d like to use, but isn’t listed above? There’s a good chance it may also be well-suited for this purpose. Take the WD Red Pro 7200 rpm SATA III 3.5" Internal NAS HDD, WD Gold 7200 rpm SATA III 3.5" Internal Datacenter HDD, HGST 8TB Ultrastar He8 3.5" Helium Platform Enterprise Hard Drive, or HGST Ultrastar 7200 rpm SATA III 3.5" Internal Enterprise Drive. While some of these may be overkill for surveillance, they all feature the cache, capacity, data transfer rates, load/unload cycles, and MTBF ratings to excel in a surveillance environment.

HGST 10TB Ultrastar 7200 rpm SATA III 3.5" Internal Enterprise Drive

NVRs and Hard Drive Arrays

Now that we’ve tackled cameras and hard drives, the final piece of the puzzle is the hard drive array, which is where your drives will interface with any footage being recorded. Some cameras do offer SD card recording, although this is limited, and if something were to go wrong, you’d need to go outside and retrieve the card. You’ll want an NVR, or network video recorder, which is the successor to the DVR. NVRs store and record video and support a certain number of cameras.

If your needs are small, the QNAP VS-2204 PRO+, VS-2208 PRO+, and VS-2212 PRO+ record from 4, 8, and 12 cameras, respectively, at resolutions up to 1080p at 200 fps and have two drive bays. Should your storage needs be a bit larger, the QNAP VS-4108U-RP-PRO+, VS-4112U-RP-PRO+ and VS-4116U-RP-PRO+ respectively record from 8, 12, and 16 cameras at 1080p/200 fps, have four drive bays, redundant power supplies, and a rackmount form factor.

QNAP VS-2204 PRO+ VioStor 4-Channel 1080p NVR

Should you need to cover a wider area and require more than 16 cameras, don’t despair, because there are options. For those who prefer a 2 RU form factor, QNAP’s VS-8124U-RP Pro+, VS-8132U-RP Pro+, VS-8140U-RP Pro+, and VS-8148U-RP Pro+ record 24, 32, 40, and 48 cameras. Also worth checking out are the Synology NVR1218 12-Channel 1080p NVR and Hikvision 16-Channel 12MP Plug-and-Play NVR.

Synology NVR1218 12-Channel 1080p NVR (No HDD)

Do you already have a NAS and want to use that? QNAP and Synology also make several NAS arrays that support multiple IP cameras and usually include one free camera license, with more available for purchase, so it’s worth checking to see if your NAS can also serve as an NVR. Or, if you’d rather buy an NVR that’s already pre-populated, B&H sells the Promise Technology Vess A2230 36TB 6-Bay NVR, Axis Communications 8-Channel NVR with PoE Switch, and Hikvision 16-Channel 12MP Plug-and-Play NVR, which is available with up to 12TB of storage.

Hikvision 16-Channel 12MP Plug-and-Play NVR with 12TB HDD

So, there you have it. Whether you’re a surveillance newbie or a seasoned veteran who is looking to expand, this article should send you well on your way. Or, if you have a surveillance setup you live and die by, please feel free to share any comments below.

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