Myths and Truths about CCTV Systems- Part 1

Topic: Surveillance Digital Video Recorders




Myth: All surveillance Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) are the same.

There are hundreds of DVRs offered through legitimate companies. Then, there are hundreds of web sites, dozens of auction sites, and plenty of email and fax blasters selling DVRs. Also, there are thousands of illegitimate, unlicensed people who install DVRs. These include electricians, locksmiths, IT technicians, audio and phone system installers, etc. Or you can always “do it yourself” and buy a DVR from Costco, Radio Shack, Micro Center and dozens of other retailers. Choosing where to buy a surveillance DVR is only half the challenge.

Whichever DVR you buy will be proprietary and most will include a third-party seller. Because they are a third-party seller, they usually will have minimal product knowledge regarding software, product updates and most importantly, how to repair the system. If you are having issues, you will be left to call a help desk in India or China for technical support, or mail the unit at your expense halfway around the world with hopes to get it back. Additionally, there are some installers who have no intention of seeing their clients again; therefore, they buy the cheapest DVR that is on sale that week at the local supplier.

The other half of the challenge gets even more interesting. Most DVRs are designed by engineers for engineers to use. The learning curve disappoints and frustrates many. The quality of recorded images on many DVRs is often unusable. There are many different video formats that affect frames per second (fps), live reviewing, and recorded and remote transmission protocols. There is Wavelet, H.264, Mpeg 3, and 4 and a variety of Hybrids. There are different resolutions and video storage capacities. Remote connectivity features vary and there is email and other notification features to consider.

There are two types of DVRs for most applications; PC based and Standalone (VCR replacements). For the best value and the least risk of falling into an “alligator pit,” find a real company with a real service department (one with a very long referral list, whose clients you get to choose from) and do your due diligence. They will recommend a PC based DVR, if they intend to do the right thing in the long-term. If at all possible, find a company that actually manufactures and updates their own DVR software as new features become available. The trouble is, not all PC based systems are designed with the end-user in mind, and end-users find it difficult to manage the added functionality over the standalone VCR replacement. On the other hand, the latter is less functional and even less user-friendly.

Is the surveillance DVR you are buying serviceable on site? If so, by whom? If all you have is the installer’s word, good luck. Does the equipment come with a warranty and for how long is it? Beware, talk is cheap. The length, depth and legitimacy of the warranties coverage will matter, especially the part that is real!

You should not pay for service in advance (service contracts), nor should you pay for remote client software licensing, which should be included with the purchase. Do some serious homework because if you don’t, the chances are you will be very unhappy with your purchase. While investing $600-$6,000 in the security of your business/home, make sure you choose the right company. It is only then when you can trust that you will be guided to the DVR that’s best for you.

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