Adam Darack is the IT administrator for the town of Edgartown. He will be writing regularly about the technological issues facing Island business owners. Got a question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Dear Geek.”
I’m thinking about surveillance cameras for my business. Where do I begin? Seems like there are a lot of options out there. I don’t want to spy on people but I would like to be able to keep an eye on things if I’m not at work and have the ability to review recorded video if needed.
Video Help Sought (VHS)
Thanks for writing in. Your namesake brings back some memories. Glad you won the battle against Betamax. Not as impressive a showing against DVDs, but you will forever hold a place in our hearts.
Cameras are one of the really hot segments in technology, and as a business tool, can provide serious bang for the buck in terms of security, loss prevention, and peace of mind if you’re away from your business.
There are two main categories of cameras you can choose from: analog and IP (Internet Protocol). In my experience, analog cameras were great until IP cameras came around. IP cameras can offer HD quality, more recording options, and easy remote viewing. There are many brands out there, but I’ve had the most experience with Axis. There are certainly less expensive cameras that function similarly, but might lack the quality or built-in features. I’d be hesitant to recommend analog cameras based on my experiences, but there are good ones out there. Writing these articles, I try to pass on any hindsight from my own installations, so that’s the basis of my recommendations.
IP cameras record onto a Network Video Recorder (NVR). The simplest NVR would be your computer running software that saves video from the cameras. They can record from cameras on your local network and/or the internet. Two inexpensive programs that do this are iSpy and Blue Iris. I actually use both depending on the location and need, but mostly because I like both but haven’t committed to either. Axis Camera Station is an alternative program made by the Axis camera company and is a great product, but the price can add up. All of the programs allow you to record, view saved recordings, export to a flash drive, etc. There are also some useful features like having the software text or email you a snapshot if motion is detected. My advice is to Google each program to see how they look and feel, then make your own choice based upon that. Few things are as valuable as doing your own research, but at least I’ve given you a bit of a head start.
Probably the coolest and most used function of cameras is the ability to view them on your mobile devices. Whether you have an iPhone or Android, you can install an app and watch your camera feeds through them. I usually recommend an app called IP Cam Viewer, but there are other good ones as well. IP Cam Viewer is free but if you want to use it for six or more cameras, it costs around $5.
Hope you enjoy the advice and thanks for reviving old memories, VHS. I’ll think of you and smile next time I stumble across a VCR.