So you own a business and you just got broken into, again! The desire for security cameras has just gone from a want to a necessity in the time it took you to call the police, and they, (as nicely as possible) told you there is still NOTHING they can do for you.

At this point you are mad, scared or downright ready to throw in the towel. You probably feel like it is all up to you to prevent it from happening again. You are ABSOLUTELY correct! Unfortunately in this day and age crime is on the rise, and only security cameras can give you a 24/7 presence that criminals not only notice, but fear. security camera

After making the decision to bite the bullet and get a surveillance camera system for your business, I bet you’ve done a search on the internet hoping to find that one link that answers all your questions and tells you exactly what you need. Yeah, good luck on that! There is so much out there, and so many companies, good and bad, that can offer security cameras to you. It takes hours and hours to filter through it all and separate the need to know, from the not what you are looking for.

I have customers call in everyday overwhelmed with information and underwhelmed with the response they are getting from the companies they are calling. Well, have no fear! I can very simply narrow down the questions you have and help point you in the right direction.

Without further adieu – Here are the Top 10 Questions I am asked on a daily basis for what a business needs in reference to security cameras.

Question # 10. How far and wide of an area will the cameras see?
Answer – How far a camera will see is based off of truly one thing – how big your lens is, and in this case size really does matter! The larger the number the farther away you’ll be able to see. So for example – if you have a 3.6mm lens the area of sharpest focus is around 12′ away from the camera. But if you have a 50mm lens, then the focus moves to around 75′ away from the camera.

Now, how wide a camera will see is based off of two things – The image sensor and more importantly the lens. The two most common image sensors are 1/4″ and 1/3″. The larger the number the better. It will let more light into the picture and give you a slightly wider angle of view. The lens has a bigger impact on the angle of your cameras though. As in our example in #10, a 3.6mm lens will see about 80 degrees wide, if you put it in the corner of a room you’ll see pretty much the entire room. Now a 50mm lens will only be around 5 degrees wide. Think of it this way, if you zoom in with a camcorder you can see farther away but your scene gets narrower. It’s the same scenario for security cameras. A lot of people also want to know if there is a camera out there that can see perfectly clear at 5′ and at 200′ at the same time. No there is not. Pan-Tilt-Zoom Cameras (PTZ’s) can zoom in and refocus electronically, but it is still one focal distance at a time.

Question # 9. Do I need infrared?
Answer – If your camera is inside, it depends on whether or not you want to be able to see at night, and if you routinely leave any lights on after you close. Some facilities are like Fort Knox when it comes to outside security and you have to have Presidential clearance to get inside. The security cameras inside are only used to watch employees or processes, and after hours surveillance isn’t needed at all. In this case a regular hi-resolution color camera is perfect. No point in paying for something you don’t need.

For outdoor security cameras, infrared is great. Infrared LEDs can illuminate an area on its own with no other light source. So if you have a camera with LEDs, then even in a pitch black parking lot or alleyway you’ll still be able to see. It lights up people and objects like a Christmas tree. Most LEDs have a faint red glow to them, so yes people might be able to see them. I always think this is preferred because it would be much easier if you deterred people from messing with your property, as opposed to filing a police report, locating, and then prosecuting them after they’ve done something bad. Having lighting with your cameras is wonderful, but what happens if your power goes out? See # 8.

Question # 8. Do I need battery backup?
Answer – YES YOU DO!! You want an Uninterruptible Power Supply with around 1000VA or more of battery backup. You also want the ability to plug at least 2 things into the battery-backed outlets provided. Those two items are your DVR and your camera power supply. So if you have a power outage your cameras will still get juice and your DVR will still be recording. The higher the VA rating – the longer your unit will stay powered off the battery. Also make sure you get an automatic reset UPS. This means if the power is gone for long enough to completely exhaust the battery, and it dies too, you want the UPS to turn back on as soon as power is restored. Most UPS’s have non battery powered outlets as well, but still give you surge protection. This is very handy. You want to keep your monitor plugged into a surge protected outlet but you don’t want it draining your battery if the power goes out. Having a UPS is normally a requirement of a full DVR warranty, and besides, it’s just smart to have.

Question # 7. Do I need fixed lenses or varifocal?
Answer – I get this one a lot, and honestly it depends on the camera location and preference of the owner. Fixed lenses give you a very sharp picture, but no ability to adjust how the camera focuses. You can normally point the camera in a different direction, if your hand is on the camera, but what you see through the camera is what you get. Varifocal lenses give you the ability to manually adjust the zoom and focus on the camera to get the view you need.. So not only can you move it with your hand to aim it at a different area, but you can also change how wide and far it sees. This can be worth a lot if you are trying to cover wide areas far away, or you aren’t positive exactly what you need to focus on.

Question # 6. Do I need fixed cameras or PTZs?
Answer – Well to start with I’ll explain both just so we’re on the same page. Fixed cameras in this instance are cameras that don’t move. They may have a varifocal lens but they would still be manually adjusted. You’re hands would have to be on the camera to adjust their view or zoom. PTZ stands for Pan Tilt Zoom, and these cameras are electronically controlled cameras that have additional wiring requirements because you can actually adjust them remotely. The cameras require the same video and power, wire but they also need a twisted pair (Cat5 or Cat6) data wire run to them as well. Either through a keyboard/joystick controller, your DVR or remote software; these cameras can actually be controlled. You can adjust the direction the camera is pointing to, the tilt of the module itself as well as how the camera is zoomed and focused. These cameras can be a godsend or a waste of money depending on where they are mounted and how they are used.

For most PTZs you have preset locations you can save for each camera. Starting at 8 presets and then up to hundreds depending on what you are using to control it. Then you can have auto pans and tours and…I digress. If you haven’t noticed already PTZs are complicated. They are infinitely settable and difficult to configure for even the seasoned installer. So if this is your first foray into cameras I would stick with fixed until you are comfortable with your equipment.

PTZ cameras are great and awful for the same reason. They move. If you are sitting at your house and manipulating your PTZ camera through your central monitoring software (CMS) and you leave it looking at your dumpster, and then walk away…what happens when somebody comes screaming around a corner and plows right into your brand new $8000 lighted LED sign. So it’s a good idea to purchase a PTZ that can return automatically to it’s programmed home position after a preset dwell time. And before you ask – no you can’t turn the camera back after it has been recorded and see what you missed. Your DVR will only record what your camera is looking at. So you can miss things because your PTZ can’t be looking at everything all the time. On the flip side of that scenario, PTZs can be used to capture supremely important footage. Say you are sitting at your house again looking around your property. You are about to turn it off and go to bed when you see that same person screaming around the corner. You turn the camera and zoom in to get the plate before they drive away. The PTZ probably just paid for itself.