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Got Cameras?

Matthew Nattenberg Comments
Posted in Articles, Archive
Obvious reasons for investing in a video-surveillance system include rising crime rates, legal-liability issues and homeland security. While these are all valid, they aren’t the most important motivation for making an investment in security. What is? Competition.

If you don’t offer the security features your customers expect, they will take their business elsewhere. In this age, you’re probably no longer the only game in town. Chances are there’s a brand-new facility in the area or an existing one that has completed a fancy retrofit. In either case, they’ve likely got state-of-the-art security with all the bells and whistles—and they let your potential customers know it.

Most people want to store their valuables at a clean, secure facility. You can tell customers all about your door alarms, electronic gate access and onsite manager, but having a video-surveillance system with a highly visible display in your front office shows them you’re serious about security. While the primary function of the surveillance system is to deter and (when necessary) catch thieves, its secondary function it to capture new business. So let’s consider the components of a quality camera setup.

Video Cameras

Always choose brand-name cameras with day/night capabilities and a resolution of at least 480 lines. This will provide you with a clear, crisp image on your monitor, even when light is minimal. In addition, use an auto-iris varifocal lens. This type of lens automatically adjusts for different lighting conditions, and the varifocal feature enables you to focus on exactly what you want to see in an image.

Digital Video Recorders (DVRs)

There are two types of security-related DVRs: PC-based and proprietary. Both can be configured to allow remote video monitoring, which offers tremendous advantages, including off-site video storage and the ability to monitor activities in multiple locations from a distance.

A PC-based DVR is similar to a personal computer. It receives video input through a video-capture card and records the images to a hard disk. PC-based systems are priced comparably to proprietary DVRs but have been shown to be less reliable and user-friendly.

Proprietary DVRs are self-contained units dedicated to providing video surveillance and recording. Most of their functions, such as the compression and encoding of video, are performed by exclusive processors incorporated for each specific process. This type of system uses embedded operating systems, which ensure high reliability, “noise” reduction and superior image quality.


A video-surveillance system (or any security system, for that matter) is only as good as its installation. Any wiring exposed to the elements should be installed in an approved raceway, i.e., conduit, PVC or wire mold. Any splices in the wiring should be soldered and taped, and those splices should be kept to a minimum. Additionally, all wiring should be UL-listed and properly shielded, which protects it from voltage spikes. Of course, only use a licensed security contractor with verifiable references.

It can be daunting to choose a surveillance system that properly meets your security and budget needs. Hiring a competent and knowledgeable contractor can streamline the process, assuring you the very best combination of quality and affordability. Remember, bad equipment and professional installation is no better than quality equipment and bad installation.


Your customers won’t likely notice the kind of cameras you’re using, but they’ll certainly notice the quality of your video display. A plasma or LCD monitor will leave a positive impression. Alternately, a poor-quality display is likely to make them lose confidence in your site. While there’s nothing wrong with saving money, be aware of the potential pitfalls of doing things on the cheap—it can end up costing you more in the long run. As they say in the restaurant industry, “Make it nice, or make it twice.”

A high-quality, professionally installed video-surveillance system will create a good impression with your current and future customers. Indeed, it’s better save your money than to install a system that performs poorly. By investing in a superior system up front, you’ll win new business, face fewer reliability issues, and enjoy a system that provides years of trouble-free use.

Matthew Nattenberg is the owner of Pacific Rim Security in the San Francisco Bay area. Nattenberg has been a licensed security and alarm contractor for more than 14 years. For more information, call 925.962.1699; visit

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