7 Golden Rules of installing security CCTV

After seeing many poor quality CCTV installations I would like to take this opportunity to save you a lot of time and money by sharing with you a few of my golden rules for a successful CCTV installation.

Rule 1: DVR’s – Digital video recorders

This is the heart and soul of your system.
Ensure that you understand what benefits you will receive from the equipment you are going to purchase.
What are your expectations?

  • Offsite control centre monitoring.
  • On site recording of events.
  • Virtual guarding patrols.
  • Remote viewing
  • Smart phone access
  • Would you like to connect the DVR to your LAN for other members of your staff to see images? If so ensure you have this facility.

Choose the correct DVR and do not base your decision on price but on quality and functionality.

Remote monitoring software

Ensure that you find out what is the back up service the supplier offers in the event of lightning damage or a warranty claim. Bear in mind that most of these units are manufactured in the East and do not have proper support or service exchange units.

HDD. (Hard Disk Drives.)

Every DVR records onto an HDD choose the correct size drive for your application. I am able to offer you some rule of thumb applications for 100FPS frame per second recorders, if you purchase a DVR that over 16 channels records at 400 FPS (real Time you will need to quadruple the estimate Real time recording is at 25fps (frames per second)

4 Channel DVRs: min of 500 GB HDD
8 Channel DVRs: min of 1 TB HDD (terabit hard drive)
16 Channel DVR: min of 2 TB HDD (terabit hard drive)


Another decision to make, is where do you want to see the images? Usually a computer SVGA screen is placed at the DVR.
Sometimes small spot screens are placed near intercom handsets so that video is added to the intercom audio and you may require large screen functionality or linking into your DSTV network.

Rule 2: Choose good quality cameras

When using analog cameras try and choose good quality cameras whereby you use a minimum of 480 TV lines and if possible for your application use cameras of high resolution above 600 TV lines. Analog cameras are much more cost effective than IP cameras which are fully digital and have a higher resolution which would allow you to zoom in on an image without loosing the pixel clarity.

All analog cameras that are connected to a DVR produce a digital image after passing through the DVR, I am sure you can now understand why it is so important to have good quality images entering the DVR.

Cameras have LUX ratings and thus indicate to you how much light is required to see an image clearly. You are able to get Infrared and low light cameras which are naturally of a newer generation and can function with less light.

Infra red or day night cameras are very popular as even in pitch black you are able to see the images; however you need to know what range you require on your Infrared.

Try to use Anti Vandal dome cameras and avoid the use of bullet style cameras, which can easily be push into another direction by criminals.

It is important to choose the correct field of view. Do you want to see facial features or just the general area, as cameras do not have the ability to change like the human eye does. Use vary focal cameras so you are able to zoom into the correct picture.
Even if you do have good lighting around your perimeter and in the offices infra red cameras are essential for when the power is off.

Rule 3: Cabling
  • Plan your cabling so it is easy to replace after a few years, ensure that all cable is in conduit and truncking
  • You have three main types of cable you can use.
  • Cat5E, this cable is able to offer up to 300 meters runs very successfully without image quality loss. A baluns will be required to convert the signals and you will require battery back up packs at the junction boxes.
  • Power Axel or RG59 co-axil cable is used for short runs of up to 200 meters and for cabling from the Baluns to the actual cameras.
  • Fiber optic cable, this is the most resilient cable when lightning damage is a possibility but will cost more than the other types of cabling
  • Under no circumstances allow under ground joins of any kind of cable unless in resin based join kits.
  • Cable joins must be done in secure housings above the ground so as not to get moisture or be tampered with.
  • All trenches must be a Minimum of 300 mm deep but 500 mm is recommended.
  • On some installations it is possible to Minimize the cable and use larger vary focal lenses to allow the camera to zoom into the required field of view.
Rule 4: Back up power

Most installations now days ignore this fundamental point with the result that when a power failure occurs or the mains are switched off by criminals there are no available images or recording during this time.

  • Ensure you have a back up plan for power on your DVR and if you are using power packs on the site for them as well.
  • UPS and longer-term inverters or generators are essential to ensure at least 12 hours back up preferably 24 hours.
  • Lock your DVR into a secure housing or better yet a SAFE
  • Choose night vision or infrared cameras that can operate in the pitch dark.
  • Power packs should be using at least 18 AH batteries and not the usual small 7 AH back up battery as a minimum.
Rule 5: Lightning protection

Lightning protection is another area where often due to cost it is being neglected.

  • South Africa has one of the highest and strongest lightning intensity areas in the world.
  • It is very expensive to replace this equipment and after 1 or 2 lightning strikes insurance companies are not replacing the equipment.
  • The downtime spent waiting to repair cameras and DVR’s is excessive as they often come from the East.
  • Ensure your main electrical distribution board has got lightning protection on it.
  • Telephone and network cables can be more susceptible to lightning that even the 220Volt mains ensure you have Ethernet lightning protectors.
  • Have a surge protector on the 220Volt socket outlet to your DVR and or power packs.
  • Place a lightning protector at the camera as well as at the DVR video input.
  • Ensure your building and electrical system is properly earthed.
Rule 6: Maintenance

All too often after installing a system like an electric fence or CCTV system we forget about it and slowly it stops working.

  • I recommend the use of a professional company and the use of an on site maintenance plan.
  • You need to test your DVR is recording.
  • Confirm your back ups are working.
  • Confirm you have sufficient hard disk space.
  • Confirm the cameras are functioning.
  • Confirm that the camera is still holding the correct field of view
  • Have the lenses cleaned

Plan your maintenance so as to avoid unnecessary surprises and malfunctions.

Rule 7: Dial up connections

With band width coming down in cost and better coverage more and more people are starting to use the facilities of the DVR’s which will include remote access and viewing of your images. The DVR is now a very powerful business tool and can confirm events and occurrences as well as confirm time and attendance of staff.

In order to benefit we need to understand a few points in order to link to the internet to get these benefits.

  • You will require a modem to connect.
  • You need to be aware of the DATA services available to you.
  • ADSL lines
  • GSM (cellular) and 3G data
  • 8ta
  • Vodacom
  • Neotel
  • iBurst
  • MTN, etc…
When you choose your modem it may be a…
  • Single line modem
  • Dual sim card modem, offering sim card redundancy and back up.
  • Full dual system modem able to deal with ADSL as primary with 3G as a back up.

Be careful as CCTV can use a lot of data and out of bundle rates are very expensive. So dependent on how often you plan to view your cameras it may be a good idea to get uncapped data bundles.

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