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Choosing and Planning Your Self-Storage Video-Surveillance System

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By Randy Fountain

Security features are often what sets one self-storage facility apart from another, and video surveillance is an important part of any security solution. Choosing a quality system, planning the placement of your cameras, and understanding the features of your equipment are all important elements of this powerful crime deterrent and sales tool.

Changing Products

For a long time, video surveillance existed as minor variations on a common theme. Cameras were analog, and resolution was measured in TV lines (TVL). Standard broadcast television (before signals went digital) was 480TVL. I saw some standard analog cameras get up into the 750TVL range, but that’s as good as they got. There was no zooming in to get a clear image. There simply wasn’t enough data being captured by the camera.

Things have changed in recent years. High-definition (HD) analog and fully digital Internet-protocol (IP) cameras have become a more affordable solution.

HD cameras are packing more data into an analog signal transmission over standard co-axial cable. These cameras are a great option for an existing self-storage facility looking to update its video surveillance without having to completely pull new wire. The cameras use different compression and transmission protocols with a compatible digital video recorder to convert the signal into viewable images.

Fully digital or IP cameras have revolutionized the way video surveillance can be deployed. Each camera becomes its own individually addressed network device and, with the use of switches, you no longer need run a single continuous cable from the recorder to each and every camera.

The main obstacles to overcome in a fully digital surveillance landscape are the Ethernet signal distance limitations and bandwidth constraints. Bandwidth is the largest obstacle to digital video feed. Megapixel video chews up a lot of bandwidth. Standard “10/100” megabits per second networks simply can’t keep up with the amount of data that needs to be transmitted.

Gigabit networks are much better at transmitting all the data, but there still needs to be load balancing and an awareness of distance limitations. Gigabit switches will need to be employed throughout to act as signal repeaters/boosters. Because all this data transmission is digital and network-based, it’s also possible for the savvy professional to employ wireless data transmission to loop in remote or hard-to-reach locations.

Exterior cameras are ideal for watching driveways between buildings.The System

There are three main questions that will help you determine the type of surveillance system you need:

1. What are you trying to view? Your answer to this question allows your surveillance professional to determine the specific camera and lens equipment you’ll need. Are you looking down long hallways with a narrow field of view and long distances? Are you looking out over wide open fields of parked vehicles with a wide field of view and long distances? Or are you watching driveways between buildings, with a wide view but relatively short distances?

2. What kind of coverage do you want? This will help your surveillance professional determine how many cameras you’ll need. Are you looking to cover every hall, corner and blind spot? Or do you need a more basic level of coverage, with emphasis on the office, points of access and high-traffic areas?

3. What’s your budget? This is the question every security professional hates the most. Many people start with a budget and allow it to dictate the type of equipment they use. This nearly always lead to an inadequate system that will underperform.

In security, you get what you pay for. Every decision-maker may have an idea of what he wants and is willing to pay. Unfortunately, these two things are almost never the same. If you’re truly looking to secure your facility with functional video surveillance, let budget be your last consideration. You’ll be much happier with the system you get, especially when there’s an incident and you have high-quality recorded footage.

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