Four Considerations for Surveillance Systems

05/01/2012 |

By Jordan Ferrantelli

Evaluate network, storage, housing, and signage options

Make sure your new or replacement surveillance system can stand up to network connectivity, weather, and liability.

Building owners need to understand how to properly assess a security system. If all facets of security system integration are not accounted for and properly coordinated, it can lead to multiple complications, potential change orders, and unnecessary liability.

Protect yourself by considering these areas when evaluating a new or replacement security system.

1) Network Connectivity
Decide whether your surveillance system will be analog or Internet Protocol (IP). While there are pitfalls and advantages to both, there are more coordination elements with IP. If an IP system is not properly integrated, there is a greater likelihood that problems could occur.

IP cameras can use transmission through a computer network, usually a shared building network. When using a shared computer network, the backbone connectivity should be evaluated for current and future anticipated use.

If the backbone is not adequate to handle the number of cameras desired, the recorded images will appear choppy and inconsistent or cause degradation in other non-security services, such as Voice Over IP (VOIP) telephone systems. A network should be built or modified with surveillance bandwidth capacity in mind.

2) Storage Options
Another factor is the length of time desired to retain the recorded video. The standard for video retention is 30 days, although it may be desirable to retain video for longer periods of time to ward off lawsuits.

For example, it may be advisable to retain video from escalator areas for the statute of limitations period for injury cases. The statute of limitations period for injury cases is typically two years, but varies in each state. While this may seem like a long time, someone hoping you haven’t kept the video footage may be waiting to come forth with a lawsuit at the last minute.

However, the longer video is retained, the more expensive storage is because additional hard drives are required.

3) The Right Housing
Proper housing selection will greatly increase the life of the camera. When considering a camera’s housing, review factors such as location, environment, and reachability. Choose a compatible housing for those conditions.

If the camera is installed outside, it should have a weatherized enclosure so moisture cannot get into the housing and affect the camera. If the environment is exceptionally dirty, special dust-proof enclosures are required as a normal weatherized housing may not suffice.

Lastly, if the camera is easily accessible by the public, the enclosure should be tamper proof, using screws that are not readily accessible at a local hardware store. The housing should also be impact-resistant if it is located in an area that is susceptible to abuse.

4) Letter of the Law
Proper signage for a surveillance camera system is critical and any verbiage should be reviewed with legal counsel. Without proper signage indicating the use of the camera system, the owner may be exposed to unnecessary liability.

If cameras are not actively monitored by a person and are used for investigatory purposes only, the signage should not indicate “surveillance in progress.” Otherwise, it sends the wrong message by creating the appearance that the video feed is being watched.

The overuse of cameras can also be a foundation for unnecessary liability. Excessive camera use can create a false sense of security for building patrons so owners should be mindful of surveillance practices. Unbiased experts with no ties to manufacturers, integrators, or suppliers can assist you with making informed decisions.

Leveraging your knowledge of security system installation can avoid potential complications and budget waste. An informed building owner is an empowered building owner.


Jordan Ferrantelli, CSC, has participated in a variety of high-risk assessments and high-profile security system designs for clients throughout the U.S. and globally. Reach him at or (847) 953-7785.


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