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Welcome to the Security Cameras Guide, where we work hard to bring you the best reviews on systems across all price and feature levels. This blog originally started as a newsletter hobby to inform friends in the real estate flipping business about the best camera systems to install. The current site has since morphed into a full time gig.
Please feel free to click on the top menu bar to drill down to the particular system you want to read about. Or, if you just want to know which systems offer the best value, then check out our main comparison table.
For years now, home- and business-owners have installed security cameras on their premises to ensure their properties remain as safe as possible. Over the years, these have evolved from clunky, expensive, slow-moving, highly-conspicuous models to today’s sleek, cost-effective, more subtle designs, enabling domestic and commercial buyers to rest assured that their investments are monitored at all times without going to great expense. Given the escalating threat of terrorism in the U.S.A., security is more important to people than ever – according to a report filed in 2011, the video surveillance market was estimated to see a huge boost in revenue: from $11.5 billion in 2008 to over $37.5 billion at the current time.
While cities are now home to more cameras than ever before, domestic and commercial customers are driving the growth, looking for the best security system to keep themselves, their loved ones, and their companies safe from any and all threats. Security cameras can prove vital in deterring crime or vandalism, and capture images with startling clarity – making it easier than ever to identify suspicious or guilty persons for later use. Whatever the reasons, trying to find the Best Security Camera System for your budget and needs can seem like a long, complicated process – but we’re here to help. The Security Cameras Guide is dedicated to helping you find all the information you need on home or business surveillance, including many of today’s top brands, such as First Alert, Motorola, and Lorex camera systems to name just a few.
We’ve scoured the wealth of advice and guidance available to buyers like yourself, but feel there simply isn’t enough clear, easy-to-understand information for people in need of commercial and Home Security Camera. Read on to learn more: by the time you’ve read the advice we have to offer, you’ll be ready to get out there and protect your property with the security camera systems you can afford, self-install, and – most importantly – trust.
Getting Started: Choosing & Installing your Cameras
The sheer range of options on today’s market is fairly overwhelming for any seasoned veteran of video surveillance, let alone novices. So, before you can get started, you need to understand the legality of installing cameras, whether on your own home or at your business premises. To help you, we’ve prepared a short guide to both areas – with as little legal jargon as possible.
Installing a video security camera on your home is a big task, and you need to make sure you aren’t breaking any regulations or infringing on anyone else’s privacy. Generally, recording someone without their consent or knowledge is illegal when in an area which encourages a reasonable expectation, and right, to privacy (this includes such obvious locations as bedrooms, changing rooms, bathrooms, and some public areas – you may need a sign to inform people that they are being monitored).
Laws regarding recording people in public spaces vary from one state to another, so you should make yourself familiar with these before you set out to install your cameras. However, in some states, it’s legal to record an individual without their prior consent if only video is utilized – picking up any audio is usually much more problematic (due to laws related to wire-tapping). This is why many domestic security systems allow just one camera to record audio at the same time.
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Small businesses may adhere to the same regulations applying to domestic installation of security cameras. In locations in which an individual has a right to expect certain levels of privacy – again, including bathrooms and changing rooms – recording video of said people without obvious signage is illegal. No business, whatever its sector, wants to be associated with intruding into customers’ personal privacy.
In general, however, as business sites are more public than residential areas, installing surveillance cameras is much easier, from a legal perspective. It may be illegal to record people’s conversations with one another without prior consent on your commercial premises, so be sure to check your state-regulations to avoid trouble; if you already have a video security system installed, be sure to check its legal status immediately – contact your attorney or other experts to confirm your rights.
Security Cameras in the Workplace: How does this Affect your Employees?
Most businesses today use video surveillance, whether it’s a shop in a mall or an office in a rural area: even if vandalism and theft is almost unheard of in your location, prevention is better than cure – cameras can help deter potential troublemakers and capture suspicious activity should the worst happen, no matter how unlikely.
Some employers, however, may use video cameras to record their staff when looking to assess activity inside (and outside) the premises. This is useful, of course, if anyone manages to gain access to the property without permission, or if illicit activity is taking place. In few cases, certain employers may choose to install cameras to record their workers, either to monitor suspected bad behavior (stealing company property, casual petty-vandalism) or to assess how much relevant work is actually performed during paid hours. Is this legal? Can your business incur fines or prosecution if you use this method of performance management?
In most states, privacy-related laws are a major issue: the majority of these are based around protecting consumers from unorthodox and intrusive surveillance (the type which may use personal information or attempt to breach confidentiality agreements), while some states have also created laws related to workplace privacy for employees, too. This can vary from one to another. In California (for example), businesses are prevented from installing one-way mirrors in restrooms, showers, and changing rooms – though it seems unlikely that any company would believe this was an acceptable idea, laws are created for a reason: allowing others to monitor employees or customers when they believe (quite rightly) they have total privacy is hugely immoral, and any business discovered to be doing so would likely face a huge public (and legal) backlash. Furthermore, in Connecticut, businesses are prevented from installing video cameras in areas designed for employee relaxation – restrooms, lounges, locker rooms etc.
On the other hand, if there are no specific laws related to filming employees performing certain activities in the workplace in your state, but you are discovered to have done so without their knowledge, a court will assess whether or not employees’ privacy has been violated by evaluating the conflicting interests – the workers’ reasonable, rightful expectation of privacy at certain times, and the employers’ need to perform surveillance (for whatever reasons). For example, an employee (even one suspected of stealing company equipment) has a right to expect privacy when using a restroom, or changing in the locker room – companies will rarely be able to prove they have enough need to monitor their staff in such personal situations.
Additional activities may also be out-of-bounds regarding video surveillance: companies might be unable to covertly record union meetings, for obvious reasons. While some courts have ruled against workers contesting monitoring of activities while away from work for medical reasons or an injury demanding compensation, these situations typically feature somewhat black-and-white abuse of an employee’s leave-related laws. Again, before you install video security systems in your workplace – whatever your reasons or justification – you should check the laws in your state: avoiding problems before they occur is always the best method, particularly in this age of complex, expensive litigation.
Internal and External Security: Further Considerations
While many of us may only be familiar with night vision video cameras from movies (particularly those involving things that go bump in the small hours), many homeowners and businesses install night vision surveillance equipment on their properties: these can prove essential for round-the-clock monitoring.
When choosing between black and white and color cameras with night vision in mind, you should consider the amount of light available in the area to be monitored – high-resolution color cameras will typically include an IR (infrared) filter, which offers night vision as standard; color cameras are a great option when enough light is available in the specific location in need of surveillance. Resolution might be less impressive than in black and white cameras, and color provides numerous benefits, such as being able to judge the color of a trespasser’s outfit, car, hair, etc.
Suitable for Indoor or Outdoor Use?
When choosing whether to set up cameras inside or outside your property (both for the home or business), you need to make sure you consider the weather: come rain or shine, your system is a key security fixture, and should be able to both deter intruders and record any unusual activity in high-enough quality that it can be used as evidence at a later date (if need be). Make sure cameras destined for use outside are fully-waterproof, have a decent range, and can withstand wind in stormier seasons. Provided these are placed high and out of obvious sight, your cameras should remain undetected. Installing cameras under overhands ensures they receive greater protection against environmental conditions, and, if you cannot find a waterproof camera, fit a rain hood and housing over it.
Cameras featuring motion detection may be the best choice for your home and/or business, provided they are not in spaces with large numbers of passing people, vehicles, or wildlife. These are programmed to only begin recording when picking up evidence of movement, which ensures video storage is used only when potential illegal activity is taking place, rather than picking up hours and hours of zero movement; these should be set at a moderate sensitivity level, to prevent small objects moving in a breeze – such as litter or leaves – setting off the camera, wherever possible.
However, cameras for indoor use need to be undetectable for maximum performance: if they’re clearly visible and arranged sporadically, leaving large gaps between monitored spaces, then experienced thieves or vandals may be able to sneak their way around them, negating their usefulness. Choose the smallest cameras you can find/afford, and place them strategically to offer a wide, unavoidable view of key areas.
System Connectivity Explained
You may feel confused when you discover cameras feature varying system connectivity types – what does this mean? The choice is fairly simple – wired, wireless, or IP-connected?
Wired cameras are ideal for both indoor and outdoor installation, and will typically offer top-quality image-capture. These are great for use in open spaces which might be too expansive for reliable wireless system-coverage (such as in rural areas), and because the wires remain visible, such systems can alert trespassers and intruders to your surveillance set-up, allowing them to exploit blind-spots and other avoidance techniques.
Wireless cameras feature easy set-up, and are generally affordable enough for most budgets. Luckily, these are invulnerable to signal interference from additional nearby devices (such as phones), and are best for areas covered by the signal; however, this signal requires line-of-sight between the transmitter and receiver – any branches, trees, or other environmental obstructions passing between the two may affect the cameras’ performance. You should undertake a thorough assessment of the areas you need to be monitored and the surrounding location: be sure there are no risks of signal-disruption. Of course, wireless systems also offer a more discreet form of surveillance: with no obvious wires or cables exposed, cameras may better remain undetected.
Internet Protocol network cameras are designed to provide system-connection via a router – this set-up means each camera is recognized as a single device controlled by the unit. Most of these systems allow you to control each camera remotely, using your smartphone, computer, or tablet, over an internet connection. These are set up to record directly onto a video recorder or onto the computer (systems will come complete with software to enable this). This offers simple, easy monitoring of locations, providing you with the power to dip in and out of your surveillance whenever you want to, wherever you are; this may prove most beneficial if you set up a camera to monitor the behavior of someone in your home (such as a cleaner, construction worker, or guest) when you’re unable to be there.
The choice may not be easy to make at first, but the more you familiarize yourself with the benefits and drawbacks of each, the better you’ll be able to make a firm decision.
At The Security Cameras Guide, we’re passionate about providing our readers with all the essential information you need, whether you need to install a new system at your workplace or you’ve decided to upgrade your home security. With more and more of us so concerned with domestic and commercial crime today, security cameras will continue to evolve, offering consumers a wide range of options regardless of need, location, and budget. We aim to be here for you every step of the way, from your first minute of research to your final installation.
Trust us to help you secure the people and property that matter most.
When planning to install security cameras to maximize your family’s safety, you should give real consideration to placement. One key question to ask yourself is where are the most vulnerable areas of your home – where will your best security camera system set-up spots be?
Placing your security cameras in the wrong places can leave your property, and your family, exposed – without effective coverage, you may not deter intruders as you plan to, and provide them with enough leeway to break in without being recorded. To help you make the most of your video surveillance system, let’s take a look at the five best places to install your cameras.
At the Front Door
This is an obvious place, but you should never underestimate its importance: a high number of intruders come into properties via the most blatant way. Install your camera as high as you can to reduce the chances of a burglar disabling it – ideally, at second or third floor level, or perhaps even on the eves. Your property has just the one floor? Simple – fit your camera in a mesh-wire box to protect it from attack.
At the Back Door
Again, burglars will always try to enter your home via the easiest, less-intrusive method – if they try the back door and find it provides cleaner access than the front, they’ll use it without a second thought. Place a camera high, and, again, keep it protected if it’s within easy-reach.
Over your Windows
While intruders may avoid smashing windows at the front of your house to enter (particularly if they’re large and on the street), they will most likely try to gain access through an off-street pane. Placing cameras with a clear, unobstructed view of all ‘hidden’ windows is key: if intruders spot them, and cannot disable them, they may be put off; if they still smash-and-enter regardless, then your camera will record them in the act for future prosecution.
At your Rear or Side Gates
If intruders see you have gates to your back- or side-yard providing easy access, they may just feel like they’ve won the lottery: a quick scramble over, and they’re in. A well-placed camera can demonstrate that you’re ready for them, and force them to try another point of entry, or deter them altogether. Keep the camera’s view clear, and make sure the entire gate – and additional fencing – is well within range.
At your Basement Entrance
As most basements have outside doors or hatches for external access (or even just windows big enough to accommodate an uninvited guest), you should make sure you have cameras set up with a full view of these spots.
By following these tips, you’ll ensure your property has as few weak spots as possible – keeping yourself and your family safe and secure. The Security Cameras Guide has more fantastic articles coming for you, so make sure you trust us to provide all the information you need, when you need it.
When you decide to invest in home surveillance technology, you might be tempted to just buy the first cameras you can find, set them up wherever space allows, and expect them to fortify your home from the moment you switch them on. Instead, you need to invest more time into planning and preparation. At The Security Cameras Guide, we’re passionate about providing you with all the help you need to get the most out of your domestic security cameras, no matter how much you’re looking to spend or what your expectations are.
Here, we present tips on choosing the best security camera systems for your needs.
Pay Attention to Vulnerable Spots
As you’ve no doubt heard before, placement is key when installing security cameras. Depending on the budget you have available, you may have almost free reign: if you purchase a wide selection, then you’ll be able to place them wherever you feel most suitable for comprehensive monitoring; however, if you’re on a tighter budget, then you’ll need to consider where the most valuable spot will be to capture any and all suspicious activity.
Typically, placing them over your front door is a great help, particularly if your camera offers a wide view of your yard and nearby windows. If your funds can stretch, you may also want to position cameras over your rear doors/windows, and any gates or fences allowing access.
Consider Additional Dummy Cameras
In some cases, the mere presence of cameras may be enough to deter criminals or vandals from your property – but how are they to know if all of them actually work? Dummy cameras make a great addition to your genuine, fully-functioning units – set them up in close proximity to the ‘real’ models, or in areas which demand little coverage but are highly visible.
Add Hidden Cameras Indoors
If an intruder actually manages to enter your home, then hidden security cameras can capture them on clear, high-quality video in the act: whether they’re just looking to vandalize your property or steal as much as they can, having hard evidence will prove vital for prosecution. A wide range of hidden cameras is available from today’s top manufacturers, offering everything from dome designs for ceiling-installation to small, subtle units intruders may never notice (such as pen cameras).
Buy Security Cameras with Remote Monitoring
Some of today’s advanced security camera systems offer remote monitoring so you can check on your property wherever you are. Using special software and an internet connection, these models are designed for maximum convenience, allowing you to gain peace of mind at all times – just whip out your iPhone or Android device and check the feed. This function is ideal if you’re away from home for the day, or on vacation.
The Security Cameras Guide takes great care to research the latest and greatest security cameras produced today, covering all budgets and needs. No matter what your unique requirements, we aim to give you all the information and advice you need – but if you want to know more, just get in touch!
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Rapid advancements in technology have changed the way that modern security cameras operate. Never before have consumers had access to the sophisticated cameras and monitoring networks that are available today. A dizzying array of advanced as well as basic systems can accommodate any budget. One device that is creating a buzz in the surveillance world is the IP security camera. Here is an overview.
What is an IP Security Camera?
IP stands for “internet protocol”. Do not confuse an IP camera with a camera’s IP Code rating. This is related to how well a security camera stands up to the elements. Basically, is the camera weatherproofed or not, and will it perform in extreme conditions. Here we are concerned with IP security cameras, meaning internet protocol devices.
An IP security camera is a digital device, whereas CCTV surveillance camera systems are analog. IP systems first hit the market in 1996, when they were introduced by Axis Communications. They are also commonly referred to as “webcams” by many users. Their IP video servers are connected to an IP network using an Ethernet connection/Cat-5 system.
The video and images that are coming from the cameras can be viewed directly using a web browser. This is because the IP video servers, as well as the cameras themselves have web servers already built inside.
There are centralized and decentralized IP cameras on the market. A centralized system needs a network video recorder (NVR) to enable video, alarm and recording tasks. These functions can be achieved without a NVR should you purchase a decentralized IP security camera package. These decentralized systems can record directly to virtually any storage media including a PC or SD card.
What are the Advantages of Purchasing an IP Security Camera?
IP cameras are very flexible, and far more portable than some other security cameras as they can be used anywhere there is a wireless network. They can be accessed remotely, and monitored from any PC, laptop, smartphone or other remote device. An IP security camera can be ordered to zoom in and out, pan or tilt the angle of the unit from a remote device. They also can be used to transmit two-way audio signals.
What are the Disadvantages of Purchasing an IP Security Camera?
There are some weaknesses with IP surveillance systems. One drawback is the higher initial cost of an IP security camera. Another potential danger is that IP systems can be more vulnerable to hackers. They often use a public internet server to transfer data, as opposed to a safer private IP LAN. An IP network also has far higher bandwidth requirements compared to other surveillance and monitoring systems.
Who Uses an IP Security Camera?
IP cameras come with a variety of names, some related to what their intended purpose is. An excellent example would be the “nanny cams” which have exploded in popularity in recent years. These allow parents, child care workers and others to keep watch over the little ones from virtually anywhere.
Business owners often prefer to purchase an IP surveillance system for their offices, restaurants, warehouses and so on. This allows them to keep an eye on the office, inventory and staff from their home, car or hotel room.
An increasing number of homeowners are investing in security camera systems to provide 24-hour protection for the people, and the property, that matters most to them. Surveillance technology has come a long way in the last decade. The best security cameras for home use have come way down in price. Even apartment dwellers and those with condos are seeing the benefits of installing a small network of security cameras.
The majority of families need a combination of indoor and outdoor cameras to provide them with adequate coverage. However, while many features on the cameras are the same, there are a few key differences that you need to be aware of when you purchase a home surveillance package. The Security Cameras Guide has put together some pointers to keep in mind when you are deciding on the network that will suit your situation the best.
Indoor Security Cameras for Your Home
There are some basic, cosmetic considerations you will need to consider before you purchase your cameras. Indoor security cameras are usually available in black or white, although it may be possible to order units in customized colors. The most common forms, or shapes of security cameras are dome, and bullet-shaped devices.
Dome-shaped cameras tend to be less conspicuous, and some have smoked over enclosures to make them even more discreet. With well-considered and proper positioning, it is unlikely they will be noticed. Bullet cameras are easier to spot. This may be an advantage if you mount the cameras in a conspicuous place outdoors. They will serve as a deterrent to potential thieves and vandals.
You will also need to decide which, if any, of your indoor cameras will be equipped with night vision. Also, how high a resolution do you feel you need your video images to be captured in? Some cameras may only need to be set in motion-detector mode most of the time. Thus it is a waste of money to invest in high-resolution cameras that will not be recording video. Always think carefully, and spend wisely.
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Outdoor Security Camera Considerations
As with indoor cameras, you will need to decide what quality of image you need to capture, and if you want security cameras that are capable of night-vision. Bullet cameras are commonly used to keep an eye on outdoor areas and entrances to your home and outbuildings. There should be cameras mounted that cover all driveways and approach paths to the home. If your property backs on a park or wooded area you may want to monitor those spots as well.
An important factor you will need to consider when selecting your outdoor security cameras is weatherproofing. There is a ratings system in place that will tell you what conditions you can expect your outdoor camera to perform in. This is known as the IP Code. It enables you to distinguish between a camera that is water-resistant, compared to one that is 100% waterproof. Outdoor security cameras that will be entirely exposed to the elements will need to be completely weatherproofed. The most rugged outdoor cameras will have a metal housing that cannot be tampered with, or damaged by vandals.
Everyone has questions before they invest in security cameras to protect the people and possessions that they hold dear. We are used to fielding questions from homeowners that want to make sure that they are getting the biggest security bang for their buck. Here are some answers to questions that may have before you decide on the surveillance system that is right for you.
What is CCTV?
CCTV stands for Closed Circuit Television. Basically, a CCTV system can be one or many hundreds of security cameras that are hooked up as a closed system. This allows only a limited number of viewers access to the images being captured. The video feed may be viewed (and/or recorded) on a monitor located on site, or remotely from your smartphone, ipad or other portable device.
How Much Will a Home Security Camera Package Cost Me?
A “nanny cam” or single webcam will cost you less than $100 to get up and running. If you are looking to keep electronic eyes watching over a business or large estate, you could easily invest many thousands of dollars on an advanced surveillance system with professional monitoring.
Fortunately, there is a home security camera system out there to fit any budget and space. Perhaps the most important step involved in investing in a a home surveillance package is to think carefully about what your needs are. Do you need indoor and outdoor cameras installed? Would a wireless package work best for you? Would motion detectors be sufficient in some parts of your property?
Don’t be tempted to splurge on a super high-end security system that is more than you really need. You can always upgrade your system should you desire. Additional cameras can be added to virtually any pre-existing home protection package. Spend wisely, and decide the features that will keep your property, and the people who call it home, safe.
Can I Install the System by Myself?
Many home security camera systems can be installed in less than a day. If you have purchased a wireless package, you will only need to get the cameras and monitoring unit powered up and you’ll be ready to go. These “plug and play” options are increasingly popular with consumers.
If your surveillance system needs cables for the video feed, you will need to run these from the DVR/monitoring site to each camera. A drill, ladder, and the help of a friend should be enough to get your cameras mounted and your system operational.
Are There Wireless Systems Available?
Yes, wireless systems are available that use the internet or a LAN network to connect your cameras to a monitor, or remote device such as a smartphone or laptop. You will still usually need to run a power cord to each home security camera. While rare, there are 100% freestanding cameras that are battery-powered.
Can I Start Basic and Upgrade my System in the Future?
Absolutely. You are unlikely to have any compatibility issues if you keep your cameras, hardware and software from one manufacturer. However, it is becoming more common for different company’s camera components to be added to an existing system. Check before you buy!