By Eric Janssen
You’ve decided it’s time to add security cameras to your security system – but you’re not sure where to start. This guide offers the information you need to make an informed decision on a security camera system without feeling overwhelmed by all of the technicalities!
What is a security camera and why do I need one?
A security camera is a video camera that is mounted in a strategic spot so that it captures video that you can watch live. It also records video footage for playback at a later time.
There are many applications for cameras but the two most common are:
- capturing footage of thieves or trespassers
- checking in and monitoring your home or business
Overall, security cameras provide a deterrent to home, vehicle, or business break-ins.
Home and business owners are also finding many additional beneficial uses for security cameras, including:
- Receiving notifications when children get home from school and seeing that they’ve arrived safely
- Checking in and watching the house when away on vacation
- Check-in on a cottage or vacation property when they’re at home
- Seeing pets in the home when at work or livestock in the barn, without leaving the house
- Reviewing footage of someone in their driveway
- Observing anyone who has visited their front door while away
- Watching business cash registers
- And much more!
How do security cameras work?
Most modern security cameras use some type of ethernet or wireless network to transmit the footage or information from the camera(s) to the internet, where you can access it remotely. Video recordings are either saved in the cloud (online) or in a storage device. This is similar to the way your internet router or modem communicates with your computer or tablet.
What are the top considerations?
When purchasing a security camera for your home or business, there are two major elements to consider:
- The type of camera you want (hardware)
- How you want to store the video footage
The following is an overview of the various types of security camera systems and video storage options:
Determining what type and how many cameras you should install
If you’ve been researching security cameras, you’ll see that there are many types of security cameras available – including:
Indoor Security Cameras
Indoor security cameras are used when there are no severe weather, or temperature considerations and a lower profile (or less-obvious) camera is required. They can be unobtrusive yet still offer great footage inside a home or commercial space.
We recommend you consider this type of camera if you want to receive notifications when someone enters the building, or when you want to check-in on what’s happening in your home or office.
Outdoor Security Cameras
Outdoor security cameras are used to:
- Capture events outside
- View license plates or identify suspects
- Allow check-ins on outdoor spaces
We recommend you consider these when…
- You are having issues with vehicle break-ins
- You want to keep an eye on your pool
- You want to monitor exterior areas around a property or frequently visited areas
Wireless vs. Wired Security Cameras
Wireless security cameras are used when it is not feasible or possible to connect a camera through a wired network connection.
We recommend you consider these when there is no possible option to get a wired connection and there is a very strong wireless network present.
Wired security cameras are used when it is possible to connect a wire to the camera. A “hard-wired” connection is much stronger than a wireless one and is less susceptible to interference or signal loss.
We recommend you consider these whenever possible, but these installations are much easier to do on new construction projects.
Doorbell cameras are used…
- To receive notifications when there is activity outside your door
- When someone pushes the doorbell button
- When you need to talk to someone at the door and let them in
We recommend you consider these when…
- You have a door lock as part of your security system
- You’ve had packages stolen from your doorway or porch
- You need a simple camera at the front of your house and don’t intend to install additional cameras
Motion Capture or Detection
Motion capture or detection is quite common. This feature allows…
- Notifications to be sent when motion is detected on a camera
- Recording to start when motion is detected on a camera
We recommend you consider including these features on every camera to make it easier to find specific clips of recording after an issue or incident
Night Vision with Infrared
Since you want to ensure you capture video footage 24/7, JM Security Canada recommends that at the very least, all cameras are equipped with night-sensing IR technology. While this is the minimum recommendation, there are also cameras available that make night time images appear almost bright and sunny with full colour. The best option for night time recording is to have a well-lit area so that the cameras can stay in their day mode to capture great quality video at all times. Again, using the right camera in the right location will greatly affect the recording quality.
What about video footage quality?
While connectivity and video storage are key factors in choosing a type of security camera, another factor to consider is footage quality. Everyone has seen clips of grainy, almost non-viewable footage on the news. There are a number of factors that contribute to the quality of the video.
First of all, getting a good quality shot is reliant on good camera positioning. Capturing the right images from the right angle is key and will make a huge difference for even the lowest resolution cameras. There are many more details involved in getting the right shot, including lighting, types of cameras and the conditions in which the cameras are mounted. That is why it is so important that you have a home security expert conduct the installation of both your security cameras and other home monitoring equipment.
But what about video resolution? Camera quality is measured using a term called megapixels (Mpx). Many older cameras, and some that are still on the market, fall under the 1Mpx category. Sometimes, when a camera is zoomed all the way out, the shot looks clear, but if you try to zoom in, (to see a face for example) you’ve lost all of the clarity and the image becomes fuzzy. Increasing the megapixel count on your cameras allows you to get clear shots, even after you’ve zoomed in to get more details.
How do I decide what camera is right for me?
To determine what type of camera, how many you need and where they should be mounted to ensure the correct position and effective lighting – you should ensure you have a security expert’s guidance and professional installation.
At JM Security, we conduct an in-home assessment of your needs, your property and your home security expectations and comfort level. Then, we develop a custom plan – whether it is a basic security system, an interactive (remote access) solution, or a full home automation package. At all levels, our home monitoring systems can include recommended cameras and hardware from our range of trusted brands (see our recommended cameras below). This hardware is paired with the most effective monitoring systems, chosen from our selected home security partners. Once the configuration of the system is agreed upon, our team of professional installers mount your cameras, connect your system and provide initial instructions and then 24/7 continuous support.
What happens with the video recordings?
Hopefully you’ll never need your recordings. But when you do, it is important that you can access them easily. If an event occurs and you need to see what happened, it is imperative that you’re able to access that footage, export it, and use it as required.
When working with a home security company, after reviewing your requirements, a recommendation will be made in terms of video footage storage timelines. All of the systems we provide have the ability to remove the video, based on the time frame, date and other filters you request. Going through footage is easy with indicators that show when motion has occurred, multiple camera playback at the same time, and even highlighted clips based on the different objects detected such as cars, people or animals. With this, you are able to gather evidence for the authorities quickly and efficiently. If the storage devices reach their full video storage capacity, they will start recording over the oldest recordings so you always have the most recent video available on hand.
Video recordings stored in the “cloud” or online
Cloud-based security cameras are typically used when there are only one or two cameras on the premises. This is a good option if you want to minimize equipment in your home or business, and if you are just looking for cameras to check in and capture short clips of recorded video. Since this type of camera requires internet connectivity, if your internet goes down, your cameras will not record and you cannot access images from your cameras. It’s also important to note that these cameras need to use some of your bandwidth to upload the video footage to the cloud, so they do not allow for constant recording – just short clips when motion is detected or something triggers the camera. These security cameras can be set up to record based on triggers such as: motion detection, doors unlocking, sensors being tripped in a security system, or the security system being in alarm mode.
Video recordings stored in a physical device (NVR)
Other security cameras send their information to a local storage device that plugs into your router. When video is being stored on a physical device, it is referred to as a video recorder or NVR (network video recorder). This type of system doesn’t rely on your internet, so it can record constantly, 24 hours a day if desired.
An NVR is recommended for systems with multiple cameras so that you’re not using large amounts of bandwidth from your internet service. When paired with a battery backup, your system will always be on guard. With an NVR, you can customize a system with as much storage as is needed – from 2-3 days, to months of storage.
One last version is a hybrid of the recorder and cloud-based cameras. These cameras offer the great smart features and integration to your smart home automation, but also have on-site recording that will capture footage 24/7 even if the internet is not working!
It’s important to ensure that all of your home security components have a 24-hour backup battery in case of power outages, since many devices require continual power and Wi-Fi connection.
Security camera brands that JM Security Canada recommends
There are so many camera brands on the market at the moment and most are very similar in features, quality and performance. After extensive research, at JM Security Canada, we recommend one of the following three brands based on our customers’ needs:
Alarm.com, Provision-ISR and Avigilon.
- Alarm.com cameras are part of a smart home and security ecosystem. This brand offers a range of integrated products that offer many features including: motion clips recorded when a door opens, or the security system is disarmed or even when the doorbell is rung, and more.
- Provision-ISR is our standard brand for residential as well as most commercial applications. With Provision cameras, we are able to offer great video quality at a great price. This brand has a wide assortment of cameras and recorder options that allow us to customize solutions based on every situation.
- Avigilon is our high end, top of the line brand that is typically used for banks, hospitals and institutions. These security cameras are built exceptionally well and offer amazing images. This system is great for scaling in large applications and offers a clean user interface.
What if you decide to expand your system?
Since you may want to start small and build from there, it is important to determine if your security camera system can be expanded in future. Most NVR’s (network video recorders) come with a limit on the number of camera channels, which in turn limits the total number of cameras that can be linked to the system. However, server-based video recorders allow a virtually unlimited number of cameras as part of one system.
It is always good to have the option to add a camera if your needs change or you just need a bit more coverage. It is also possible to link camera systems from different locations together on one program or on one app. This is a great option if you have a cottage with cameras as well as at your house – or maybe two separate business locations. We believe it’s important to recommend systems that ensure you always have options and the flexibility to grow your systems as needs arise.
Need more information about home security systems or security cameras?
We hope this article gave you some insight into security cameras and some of the types and features you might want to consider.
When you are ready to discuss your security camera or full home monitoring needs and you’re in the Chatham, Sarnia or Windsor area, you can speak with one of JM Security’s representatives about your security options by contacting us here.
Check out our Learning Hub for more information:
If you are just getting started with home monitoring and want more general information, you can check out his article – How Do Security Systems Really Work?
Alternately, if you’re considering an integrated “Smart Home” system, you can check out our article, A Comprehensive Guide to Smart Home Automation.
For more resources like this one, visit our Learning Hub.
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