Internet protocol (IP) cameras offer commercial buildings 24/7 organizational visibility (including remote multi-site, multi-device monitoring), improved image quality, video analytics capabilities, and better overall ROI compared to traditional CCTV options.
Though IP video is a powerful and flexible tool, precautions must be taken prior to installation to provide stability and proper functionality. Ensure video equipment is properly secured and supported with a strategic approach to network planning.
1. Determine Bandwidth Requirements and Availability
Bandwidth refers to the amount of data that can be transmitted across a network, and is an important consideration when planning an IP video system—especially if the video will be accessed remotely via the Internet or stored in the cloud. Inadequate bandwidth can severely limit the functionality of a video system, and may negatively impact other network applications by consuming the resources they need to communicate.
There are many factors that affect bandwidth utilization, including:
- Resolution: IP cameras are available in a wide range of resolutions, and the higher the megapixel count, the more bandwidth is required to transmit video. It is important to select the resolution required on a per-camera basis for every project.
- Frame Rate: Whether for viewing or recording, the number of images sent per second (frame rate) plays a major role in the amount of bandwidth a camera utilizes. Depending on the application, frame rates commonly range from a single image per second, to 30 or more, with 7-15 being very common for general surveillance.
- Compression: Since IP video is transmitted as data, compression is used to improve network performance. Many types are available, including MJPEG and h.264, and they can typically be adjusted to balance quality and efficiency.
- Camera Quantity: Don’t forget that the overall bandwidth required for a system can add up quickly when multiple cameras are installed. This is especially true when storing video in the cloud.
- Environmental: Cameras may need additional lighting or special features based on their surroundings (e.g. indoor versus outdoor use). Video “noise” present when light levels are low can result in increased bandwidth. Some cameras handle changing conditions much better than others.
Use planning tools to view a close approximation of video quality at mock network settings prior to installation. In doing so, you’ll know if more bandwidth is required to meet image quality standards. If needed, options, such as a secondary video network or broadband bonding, can deliver additional cost effective bandwidth.
2. Evaluate Storage Requirements
Similar to network bandwidth, storage requirements vary greatly depending on the amount of video data being sent by the camera(s), and the desired quality and retention time. Current IP video systems can store data in one or multiple locations, including on-camera storage, network video recorders (NVRs), network attached storage (NAS) and cloud services. Work with your installation vendor to determine the best storage strategy for your needs.
3. Secure Network Devices
IP video components are often overlooked when it comes to network security and management, but these devices must be treated like any other IT system to ensure reliability and protection of your network.
This starts with basic best practices, like changing all device logins from their default credentials to using different, strong passwords. Limiting user authority to only those cameras and functions required is helpful as well, and if your system supports it, joining a domain and installing IT management tools can further secure access to the video system.
Ensure that remote access and firewalls are configured for maximum security. Exposing systems to the Internet by opening firewall ports should be avoided, especially since there are a number of more secure methods of gaining access to video, including virtual private networks (VPNs) and secure hosted video platforms.
4. Strive for Reliability
Partnering with a qualified vendor is a critical step in building your network video strategy. Research and ask for recommendations when deciding what security company and IP cameras will be the best fit for your business.
Also important is proactive device monitoring and a strategy for applying software updates and patches that may be required after installation. Depending on your configuration, this may include individual IP cameras, managed switches, and network video recorders, among others. Keeping software up to date can add new functionality, resolve vulnerabilities, and ensure reliable operation.
Finally, consider a disaster recovery and backup plan to help shorten downtime when components fail.
Steve White is corporate Vice President of Business Development at Vector Security.
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