Some self-storage owners opt for a hands-off approach and hire a central-monitoring station to monitor facility cameras. This service ranges from reactive, when motion is detected during certain hours, up to live viewing of the camera footage 24 hours per day. Understandably, the price for monitoring will vary with the level of service required. As enticing as this type of service may be, it simply doesn't fit into most budgets. That means owners or managers should take steps to be more involved by using the features built into their modern digital-surveillance systems.
For example, many storage facilities without an office make use of technology, such as a kiosk, to help run their operation. That same principle can be used with contemporary video systems. Digital video recorders (DVRs) are all-in-one devices that can become your operational command center by using the following integrated features:
- Remote access. Most of today's DVRs can be accessed remotely via the Internet either through proprietary software installed on a computer or a Web browser such as Internet Explorer. Once connected, users have the ability to view their facility’s live cameras, review recorded video and make configuration changes. This allows owners or managers to jump on their computers from anywhere to instantly view what’s going on at their facilities.
- Portable devices. Premium DVRs also permit users to view their cameras via a smartphone or even a tablet device. This allows busy owners who are on the go and not tied to their computers to quickly log in and check on the office staff or facility status.
- DVD and USB recording. In the "old days," video would constantly record onto a VHS tape, which made searching, archiving and providing evidence to investigative authorities difficult. DVRs now record onto a digital hard drive, just like your computer, which allows for increased storage and instant searches. In addition, providing specific recorded events for the police or an insurance company is as easy as burning a copy of it using the integrated DVD burner or an external USB drive. The original copy of the incident is preserved on your DVR.
- Alarm inputs/outputs. This is where system integration really gets exciting. Imagine adding a connection from your perimeter-beam or office-alarm system that will immediately start a corresponding camera to record when triggered. Or how about connecting a siren or strobe light that activates when motion is detected by a given camera? Both of these scenarios are now possible.
- E-mail notifications. Expanding on the alarm inputs/outputs is the ability of the DVR to e-mail you when an event occurs. For instance, if you want to be notified every time a particular camera detects motion during the hours your office is closed, you can set up the system to send a notification e-mail as well as video snapshots taken seconds before, during and after the event.
- Central monitoring software (CMS). If an owner has several facilities, or if a district manager is responsible for more than one facility, it can be cumbersome to log in to multiple facility DVRs. Advanced DVRs offer CMS software that enables a single login for multiple facilities. Owners can even mix and match cameras from various sites onto a single screen, enabling them to view offices from each of their facilities.
- Audio microphone. Watching video is the essence of a typical surveillance system, but there’s no reason to limit it to just video. Now you can improve customer service by placing microphones in the rental office and listening to how your managers interact with tenants. The audio is recorded in conjunction with a selected camera for a true audiovisual playback the owner can watch later or experience remotely in real time.