CCTV FAQ: A Buyers Guide - iC2

CCTV FAQ: A Buyers Guide

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Frequently Asked Questions when buying CCTV security systems

Like many areas of applied technology, specifying, installing and ongoing maintenance of security systems is highly specialised, and requires qualified expertise from those with many years of experience. Unfortunately, also like other areas, there are unscrupulous cowboy operators and well intentioned one-man bands that just do not have the depth of knowledge or resources to provide the level of service required.

Technology moves on (and drags us with it whether we like it or not!) and it can be hard to keep up. If you commissioned a security system 5 years ago, things have moved on significantly. Technical speak and the acronyms that characterise the security industry technology don’t help.

Trying to make the right decisions when the overarching considerations are to safeguard pupils and students, protect members of staff and public as well as property and valuables, often adds a measure of anxiety.

In short, trying to purchase new CCTV systems or upgrade an existing installation can be a bewildering proposition. In this Buyer’s Guide we aim to help you by giving you a good starting point with answers, pointers and guidance on some key questions.


FAQ1. What am I trying to do?

When buying CCTV systems, perhaps the biggest challenge is to understand what you need. The key to knowing what you need is an understanding of your operational requirements. The best way to understand operational requirements is to conduct a security risk assessment. This lets you establish what you are trying to achieve with the system.


FAQ2. What is a security risk assessment?

A security risk assessment enables you – and a supplier of security systems to understand your security requirements within the context of your premises or residence. It enables the overall level of security to be assessed and an understanding of where there are gaps between the level of security you need and the existing security measures in place. Depending on your specific needs, some of the things that may be covered include:

  • The presence, condition and potential for climbing boundary and perimeter security such as fences
  • Physical security of buildings and the ability to resist forced entry
  • The presence of valuables such as jewellery, antiques and art that may be targeted for theft
  • Requirements for personal protection and the potential for kidnap


FAQ3. What is IP CCTV?

IP CCTV may also be called HD digital CCTV, and the terms are often used interchangeably. IP CCTV uses high resolution cameras, networked using computerised technology. IP CCTV utilises network video recording to store images on high capacity computer-based systems which offer better flexibility, reliability and performance over Digital Video Recorders (DVRs)


FAQ4. Why should I consider IP?

IP CCTV is the latest technology and offers a feature-rich and comprehensive set of tools. These ‘tools’ are a range of image and data software processing techniques that offer superior viewing, identification and analysis. Centralised computerised systems and servers or Network Video Recorders (NVR’s) provide outstanding performance and support COI/DPA compliance and corporate governance.

Greater imaging power through higher resolution technology cameras means IP CCTV captures so much more information than previous generations of CCTV technology. This provides better quality playback and the ability to zoom in on long distance footage while maintaining image fidelity. Key capabilities include facial recognition of individuals, predicting the likely actions of individuals and video analytics for monitoring and reporting property boundary intrusion events.


FAQ5. Will I need to upgrade or install lighting?

CCTV image quality is closely related to lighting conditions; consequently, lighting is a major consideration of any installation. Despite the option of IR (Infra-Red) cameras that ‘see in the dark’, they only have a limited range and their operational effectiveness is restricted. To ensure the best performance of CCTV and the capture of high quality images, lighting conditions need to be optimised.


FAQ6. Does lighting need to be on permanently?

Lighting only needs to be on only if it acts as a deterrent in itself. Energy efficient LED lighting significantly reduces the cost of permanently illuminating dark areas. External lighting needs to avoid creating a nuisance to neighbouring properties. As an alternative to permanent lighting a CCTV monitored area, lights can be controlled by movement sensors. However, such a control system needs to respond quickly to catch fast action.


FAQ7. What is security system integration?

Integration offers the ability to interlink the outputs and control systems at a central monitoring station. This may be at an internal security station or at an external emergency service compliant monitoring station. CCTV supports the following systems by enabling visual verification of alarm activation or access activity:

  • Access control
    • Audio entry systems
    • Number keypad entry systems
    • Biometric fingerprint readers entry systems
    • Swipe cards/fobs (‘token’) entry systems
      • Includes ‘binary’ systems where two complementary fobs need to be presented, such as mother & baby tags for maternity units
  • Alarm systems
    • Intruder alarms
    • Fire alarms
  • Sound monitoring
  • PA systems to warn trespassers off before committing intrusion offences
  • Gates and barriers
  • ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) vehicle identification


FAQ8. What are the advantages of integrating security systems?

The key advantage is verification of fire and intruder alarm activation. Sensors on alarm systems may go off in response to things other than fire or intrusion; pets and bad weather are just two common causes of false activation.

Verification of alarm activation with visual information from CCTV systems eliminates false activations and helps emergency service response to be correctly prioritised. CCTV provides greater safety for security personnel because IP systems enable real-time camera images to be viewed on mobile devices, so first responders are equipped with live, real-time video and able to understand exactly what to expect when investigating.


FAQ9. What are the compliance implications of CCTV systems and data?

As a result of its ability to identify individuals, CCTV images and operations are governed by DPA compliance. Those occupying specified roles in managing systems and data such as data controllers are legally responsible for ensuring privacy and preventing operational misuse. There is also a formal requirement to maintain specified documentation and this varies with the size of the organisation or business and the type of systems in place.


FAQ10. How much does a CCTV system cost?

There is the capability to meet a wide range of budgets. For example, CCTV cameras range in price from about £100 to around £6,000. The governing principle is to understand what you want to achieve with the system and then obtain quotes for one that brings together the right components that make it fit for the purpose you intend.

Value rather than lowest cost is the foremost objective of many buyers. Maintenance and support, as well as hardware, software and installation costs should all be factored in when trying to determine the supplier that offers the best value.

IP CCTV supports a Lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) through remote monitoring of camera operation and reduced maintenance. HD cameras with up to 30 megapixel resolution, and remote control of zoom and direction of view, enable system consolidation by reducing the number of cameras required.


FAQ11. Do I need a local supplier?

Not necessarily. While a small local supplier may offer friendly service, its size often limits its expertise and capability. At the other end of the scale, large companies may have a broad capability, but inflexibility and less than impressive service can be a source of customer frustration and dissatisfaction. These are the reasons why many buyers choose mid-market suppliers.

Good medium sized companies should have nationwide reach, and remote systems monitoring and maintenance technologies mean excellent services can be provided over an internet connection. The best will have a consultative approach and wrap their services and solutions with a partner offer. Remember, in general, every customer is valuable to a mid-sized CCTV security specialist service provider.


FAQ12. How do I ensure I choose a good supplier?

The supplier you select should demonstrate an all-around set of credentials including qualified expertise and time served experience. This should be supported by a track record of delivering quality solutions, including case studies, testimonials and access to referral sites with fully integrated systems.

Industry credentials such as NSI Gold accreditation mean the supplier has achieved the highest recognised standard of the national body inspecting firms providing security systems across the UK. This level holds the greatest perceived value across industry and by the police, fire and rescue services and insurers.

All work needs to be carried out in full compliance with all applicable Health & Safety requirements, protecting installation engineers, your personnel, visitors and members of the public.

Automated barriers and gates for access control make Health & Safety an important consideration. There is a risk of physical injury if they are not correctly installed and maintained. Consequently any supplier should demonstrate the ability to meet the requirement for compliance with certain parts of a number of legislative instruments as well as relevant notices from the HSE.


Help to get the right CCTV solution from iC2

iC2 is a leading mid-market security systems provider and was established in 2001. The business is owned and managed by a team with a collective experience of over 100 years in the electronic security business. iC2 holds CCTV and security accreditations with NSI and BSI.

We speak to people like you every day that have questions and require CCTV guidance. We identify their needs and help them make important decisions about purchasing CCTV and integrated security systems.

A prestigious client list including luxury international boutique brands, top flight sporting venues, retail developments and educational and social environments demonstrates how solutions are deployed to meet a variety of requirements.

From deterring theft of high value luxury goods, to sports fan and public safety and child protection, solutions are deployed to meet a range legitimate purposes for which they are appropriate and fit for purpose.


References and further reading

Q&A guide: CCTV code of practice and Data Protection Act compliance

iC2 CCTV and Security Specialists (UK) Ltd


Appropriate response: A guide to security system integration, monitoring and verification

iC2 CCTV and Security Specialists (UK) Ltd


5 ways to get locked up with electric gates

iC2 CCTV and Security Specialists (UK) Ltd

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