When acquiring equipment for a new business, commercial security cameras are one of the first components that come to mind. However, your security cameras are only part of the needed security infrastructure. Focusing on the entire commercial security camera system will result in both a higher level of security and a greater return on your security camera investment.
In this article, we explain the concept of commercial security camera systems, what goes into them, and why you need one. We start with the definition and components of the system. Then, we go through a real-life use case on building a commercial security camera system based on a restaurant floor plan.
To see how Solink can help you build a powerful commercial security camera system for your sites, sign up for a demo today.
The concept of a commercial security camera system encompasses the entire video security ecosystem. It includes not only your security cameras but also all the hardware and software components that help you maximize the value of your security cameras.
What are the components of a commercial security camera system?
There are four main components of a commercial security camera system:
- Commercial security cameras
- Data storage
- Cloud connectivity
- Video analytics
This list is very specific to the commercial security camera system components. These are the barebones requirements to secure your commercial enterprise. However, this can also be a part of your loss prevention system, which includes many of the other pieces of hardware you might expect to see, such as your POS, RFID tags and gates, and so on.
Commercial security cameras
Security cameras are the basis of the system. Most commercial sites require some form of video surveillance, as do offices, university and college campuses, and so on. However, if you stop at simply buying security cameras, then you are left with underutilized and incomplete security infrastructure.
Some cameras have data storage in them, but it is usually limited. Other cameras store directly to the cloud, which is great if you have the bandwidth and a good connection with zero downtime.
Most systems use either a DVR (digital video recorder) or NVR (network video recorder) system to function as your data storage device.
These systems can be customized to meet the specific video retention needs of your commercial. Whether you need 15, 30, 90, or more days of onsite video storage, Solink can accommodate your requirements.
Cloud-based video surveillance adds functionality to your commercial security camera system. It allows for remote backup, remote access to your cameras, and a lot of other benefits that greatly improve the efficiency of users.
For example, Solink automatically updates all of the software on our systems. In addition, Solink runs automated security camera health checks to tell you if your cameras have gone offline or are blocked in some way.
Video analytics platform
Video analytics is the automatic interpretation of video footage to find and identify any spatial or temporal events, preferably in real time. This is critical in a modern commercial camera system. Security cameras are a great source of data that can be utilized for more than just surveillance.
Collecting and storing but not putting into action that data can make every business decision more difficult. Here are just some of the ways Solink’s video analytics platform can help you.
- Match video clips to high-risk transactions (voids, cash refunds, high discounts, zero-dollar transactions, and no-sale till opens) by integrating security cameras with your POS. Solink doesn’t require a text inserter box to do this.
- Use motion search to see all activity in an area to quickly track down an event.
- Use Solink Video Alarms Monitoring Service to create time-based perimeter defenses, protecting your property when you aren’t there.
- Receive proactive alerts when specific transactions, items, or criteria are met with Threshold Notifications.
- Be notified when someone enters a restricted area.
- Audit your stores for regulatory and company policy compliance (e.g., make sure emergency exits are cleared and stores are clean).
- Modify your store layout based on customer heat maps to improve merchandising.
- Use footfall counting to unlock needed metrics including average guest value or conversion rates.
- Monitor events such as slip-and-falls.
- Provide a better customer experience.
To see how Solink can help you get the most out of your security cameras, request a demo today.
Why do you need a commercial security camera system?
Commercial security camera systems provide benefits to your enterprise. Here are just a few of the things you can expect to get out of your system.
Reduce inventory shrinkage
Well placed cameras and a strong video analytics platform give you the ability to scan a full day worth of video footage in minutes. This can help you find inventory shrinkage in all of its forms, from employee theft at the POS to shoplifting, organized retail crime (ORC), and inventory not showing up or leaving out the loading dock.
Remote video monitoring
Remote video monitoring offers significant value add. Being able to monitor all of your locations from the corporate head office, or even your home, means better control on the day-to-day operations of all your sites.
Some companies take remote video monitoring to the next level, often referred to as remote guarding. This is where you replace on-site security guards with your video surveillance system. This often improves the overall security level of your enterprise while dramatically reducing the costs.
With a recent trend of increased violent crime, ensuring the safety of your people, places, and property is becoming a priority. An integrated and monitored commercial security camera system will help protect you from a lot more than violent events.
By auditing for company and regulatory compliance, you can make sure emergency exits are clear, wet floor signs are out to prevent slip-and-falls, and visitors aren’t entering restricted areas.
Here are just two of the ways your commercial security cameras can optimize the operations of your stores. First, heat maps of your stores help with merchandising by placing the best product in the right location to drive revenue. Second, making sure your employees are actively helping patrons can do the same. This leads to the the next reason you need a commercial security camera system.
Better staff training
Whether you are looking for improved onboarding or more effective ongoing training, your commercial surveillance system can help. Saving clips on the Solink platform can be used to do more than close investigations or provide law enforcement with needed evidence.
If you see employees doing something really great, or questionable, save the clip and use it as part of your onboarding process. When you find patterns of employee misconduct, showing the video during the meeting with the employee can make it more impactful.
Some events are just too high risk to search for after the fact. Setting up Solink Video Alarms means you will get alerts when motion is detected outside of normal business hours. Then, you can quickly see what is happening in real-time before deciding whether to dispatch emergency responders.
This improves your perimeter security while reducing the risk of fines due to false alarms. You can also receive alerts when someone enters a sensitive area of your property even during working hours with motion alerts. If your enterprise has valuable assets stored outdoors, such as a dealership or DIY center, then video alarms are more practical than standard panel alarms that only protect doors and windows.
Some transaction types have a higher risk of fraud. You can be notified when these transactions occur so you can view the related video immediately. You can also set up thresholds to be notified when a key metric is out of your comfort zone, for example average speed of service.
This is another reason video retention is a key component of commercial security camera systems. Storing video footage of specific events in the cloud forever can help improve your case management process. On the Solink platform, you can send footage of events directly to managers, insurance companies, law enforcement, or any email address you want.
For example, a bank can use Solink to capture evidence of an ATM attack. This can then be sent to the police to follow up on the crime and the insurance company to expedite payment to repair the wall around the ATM.
Saving events can help enhance many other aspects of your enterprise. For example, as mentioned above, video evidence of employee theft can be used as part of your loss prevention onboarding training. Conversely, you can capture footage of employees providing excellent customer service to praise them during your next staff meeting.
What are the main types of commercial security cameras?
There are many different types of commercial security cameras. Let’s break down all the specific definitions.
Here’s a helpful article from the Solink Help Center if you are unsure about what kind of security cameras you have.
Closed-circuit television (CCTV) is simply the opposite of broadcast TV. Whereas broadcast is aimed at sending video to many subscribers, CCTV transmits video to a small number of places. CCTV is sometimes synonymously used with video surveillance for this reason.
Commercial CCTV security cameras originally sent their video to the security office locally, but now they are usually connected to the cloud so their footage can be viewed remotely by more stakeholders, including managers, loss prevention specialists, insurance companies, and even emergency services dispatchers.
Analog cameras can sometimes be considered old technology when compared to newer IP cameras. For example, analog security cameras are usually capped to standard definition (SD) video quality. However, they tend to be reliable and have been the mainstay of video surveillance for decades. They normally require a coaxial cable connection to transmit video along with a power cord, but RF wireless analog cameras are also available.
While you should direct your procurement department to make future commercial security camera purchases digital, it doesn’t mean you need to replace current analog security cameras. Solink can work with most analog as well as Internet Protocol (IP) cameras, so there’s no need to upgrade your entire commercial security camera infrastructure to work with our platform.
Transport video interface (TVI) is a way of transmitting analog video over a coaxial cable. It is one of several technologies that can push analog cameras into high definition (HD).
In addition to higher definition recordings, TVI provides a longer wired transmission range.
Standard analog security cameras (sometimes called composite video baseband signal (CVBS)) have a maximum wired transmission range of 300 ft. However, some of the newer technologies, including TVI, increase the transmission range up to 900 ft.
Internet protocol cameras (IP cameras) are controlled using an IP network and transmit data digitally. By using the IP networking standards, some IP cameras can work without needing any local storage. However, regulations may require you to keep storage on premise regardless. Furthermore, Internet bandwidth is not always perfectly stable, so having a cloud with local storage solution is more reliable.
IP cameras can connect to a network in two main ways: WiFi or a power over Ethernet (PoE) cable. PoE cables provide both power and network access for transmission and reception. If WiFi is chosen, then the cameras will still need to be powered, either using a battery or being plugged in through an adapter.
WiFi cameras are considered less reliable as video feeds may be temporarily unavailable when the connection is spotty or because of interference.
Wireless commercial security cameras transmit the video feed wirelessly. They still require power. Although there are battery- or solar-powered commercial security cameras, they tend to only be used where electricity is impractical.
Both digital and analog commercial security cameras can be wireless. Wireless analog cameras connect to the network using an RF signal. Note that RF signals are less reliable than WiFi because cell phones and other nearby devices can interfere with the signal.
Wireless digital (IP) cameras connect to the network via WiFi. These signals are very robust to noise, so wireless digital cameras can be considered more reliable than analog ones. However, their range is limited.
Bullet cameras are some of the most common commercial security cameras on the market. They are small and get their name from their shape.
Their small size and easy installation make them particularly versatile. You can find them indoors and outdoors, and they are usually less noticeable than larger security cameras (e.g., the turret security cameras discussed next). However, their shape makes them less robust to vandalism than dome cameras (see below).
Turret security cameras have a ball-and-socket design. Within the “turret”, the ball-like camera can be positioned to look at different angles. This makes their installation and re-positioning flexible. However, once installed, you’ll need to physically reposition the camera to get a new field of view.
Dome cameras are cameras covered with a dome. This obscures the direction they are facing, which can make employees and customers less sure what is or is not in the camera’s field of view. Their shape and the dome protection make them more resistant to vandalism.
However, as with many of the other cameras on this list, it has a fixed viewing angle that cannot be changed remotely.
PTZ stands for pan, tilt, zoom, and that’s basically what they can do. PTZ security cameras can be controlled remotely to pan across a larger area or zoom in on something in particular.
This added functionality usually comes with a higher price tag. However, you might be able to offset the added cost per camera by using fewer cameras in total.
Remember, though, PTZ cameras are only recording what the lens is facing. Additionally, the PTZ feature is mechanical, so there is a chance that it might malfunction.
360 degree cameras (fisheye cameras)
Fisheye cameras can be considered the next step in the evolution of commercial security cameras. PTZ cameras improve on the base turret cameras by allowing the user to change the viewing angle remotely. Fisheye cameras go even further by giving the user a complete 360° by 180° view all of the time. This makes them great options for monitoring large open areas, such as a school cafeteria or gymnasium.
360 degree cameras get their nickname of fisheye cameras due to the distorted image shown.
However, using modern gaming technology, Solink stretches out this view to give you an immersive look at what is happening at your site.
Here’s the 360 camera at work within Solink:
Commercial security camera comparisons
Commercial security camera systems are complex. There are a lot of decisions to be made on the components. Here’s a list of common comparison points.
WiFi vs. Ethernet
The first thing to remember when comparing WiFi vs. Ethernet is that this only means a camera is wireless vs. wired for data transmission. WiFi cameras still require energy to work, and that energy usually comes from being plugged into a socket.
However, PoE (power over Ethernet) provides energy and transmission in a single Cat 5 Ethernet cable. That means that WiFi and PoE security cameras both usually still have one wired connection, the only exception being battery WiFi cameras.
While WiFi is generally considered robust to noise, it is never going to be as fast, robust, or secure as Ethernet. Furthermore, WiFi has a limited range. After about 50 ft, the signal becomes too weak for reliable video transmission. In addition, depending on the number and types of obstacles between the router and cameras, the effective range can be much shorter. In comparison, Ethernet cables, used for IP cameras, can reliably be used at distances over 300 ft.
DVR vs. NVR
DVR and NVR systems are complex, and whichever you choose, it is likely the main backbone of your commercial security camera system. For that reason, we dedicate a whole article to DVR vs. NVR systems.
DVR and NVR find their distinction in how they receive video data. DVRs receive raw data captured from analog cameras. The signal is processed on the DVR before being recorded.
Conversely, a video signal is processed by the camera before being sent to an NVR.
Local storage vs. cloud storage
The choice of local storage vs. cloud storage is often answered with “both.” In that case, you’d have local storage with cloud backup storage. This represents an especially secure security system, with data unlikely to be lost in any circumstance.
Local storage can generally be broken down into using an NVR/DVR appliance or built-in camera storage. An alternative is network attached storage (NAS).
Cloud-based storage requires a continuous, reliable Internet connection. This is not always feasible. However, the benefit of having data in the cloud is that you can access your video anywhere. Indeed, Solink offers a cloud-first security solution that utilizes a hand-off, fully warrantied NAS appliance.
To see how Solink can help keep you connected to all of your locations remotely, sign up for a demo today.
SD vs. HD vs. 4K
Standard definition (SD), high definition (HD), and 4K refer to the resolution at which your commercial security cameras record footage. Classical analog cameras record in SD, although there are some HD analog security cameras on the market.
Conversely, IP cameras have at least HD and sometimes even 4K resolution.
Resolution at its core is how many pixels are recorded in an image. Here’s a summary of the different resolutions:
- SD usually refers to resolutions below 720×480 pixels
- HD usually refers to 1280 x 720 or 1920 x 1080 pixels.
- 4K refers to 3840 x 2160 to 4096 x 2160 pixels.
Pixels are little color dots, and more of them mean the dots are closer together and therefore you can see more details. This might lead you to believe that higher resolution is always better. However, there are several other considerations that should be included in your decision-making process.
Bandwidth is basically the speed of your Internet connection. Higher video resolution requires more bandwidth to transmit. Here’s a chart showing the recommended bandwidth levels for different video resolutions:
|Video resolution||Average bandwidth use for simultaneous viewing (at 10 fps) *|
|720 x 480||0.75 Mbps per camera|
|1280 x 720||1.5 Mbps per camera|
|1920 x 1080||2 Mbps per camera|
|3840 x 2160||8 Mbps per camera|
|4096 x 2160||10 Mbps per camera|
If you have multiple cameras streaming to the cloud, the amount of bandwidth required for 4K adds up quickly. This is the main reason that Solink simultaneously records multiple resolution streams at once and stores the data locally.
That way you can see the SD stream instantly, and then the HD one with a short buffering delay. Furthermore, you don’t need to send all of your security camera feeds to the cloud at once.
However, you still have access to all of your video remotely, and Solink can easily accommodate higher resolutions.
The dual feed removes the standard quality-for-function tradeoff as you get both fast-loading SD and high-quality HD.
Field of view
A camera’s field of view is the angle width (and height) that it is recording. Commercial security cameras have a wide range of fields of view. They can be as low as 40° for zoomed-in smaller cameras and go up to 360° by 180° for a fisheye security camera.
The FOV/resolution combination of your cameras dictates the final quality of the video. With the same resolution, a lower field of view will show more details than a larger angle. For this reason, 360 cameras usually have a much higher resolution than other types of security cameras.
Plug-in cameras vs. battery-powered cameras
Battery-powered security cameras absolutely exist. However, their use cases are generally reserved for areas without local electricity connections. In areas where a security camera can be plugged in and/or where continuous 24/7 video recording is required, charging the battery regularly would cause more trouble than any time saved installing a power cord (or PoE connection).
Battery-powered security cameras that only function when triggered, for example by a motion sensor, can last several months on a single charge depending on the level of motion happening in their field of view, so in remote locations with lower security needs they could be useful.
However, Solink recommends against battery-powered security cameras for most scenarios.
IP camera vs. analog cameras
IP security cameras send digital video over Ethernet or WiFi connections, whereas analog cameras send analog video over a coaxial cable. This is the major difference between them, but there are more.
Analog security cameras tend to be SD or HD (e.g., TVI security cameras), whereas IP security cameras are at least HD and are also available in very high resolution (4K or higher).
Solink can provide VSaaS solutions to companies using both analog and IP security cameras. IP security cameras can provide richer data, but analog cameras are not yet completely obsolete. Working with your existing commercial security camera system infrastructure is a major benefit of Solink as it lowers your startup costs.
To see how little Solink’s startup costs can be, sign up for a demo today.
Power over Ethernet (PoE)
PoE eliminates the need for separate power and data cabling. This is a major benefit of IP security cameras over analog ones.
IP security cameras are on average more expensive than analog ones. However, IP cameras are easier and cheaper to install since they only need an Ethernet cable, whereas analog cameras require a power supply cable and a coaxial cable for the signal.
These features combined mean that, when buying a new commercial security camera system, purchasing IP security cameras is generally comparable to or even cheaper than buying an analog security camera system. Opting for IP security cameras can also future proof your system for upcoming improvements.
What should you consider before purchasing a commercial security camera system?
There are many decisions that need to be made when building or expanding your commercial security camera system. Let’s look at some of the major ones.
Installation and camera sourcing
Many video surveillance as a service (VSaaS) companies will force their customers to purchase a whole new set of security cameras to integrate with their data analytics platform. This is not the case with Solink. We want to have a low startup cost and no-term contracts.
We want customers to stick with us because we exceed your expectations and not because you’ve been forced into a long contract with a massive sunk cost buying proprietary cameras. IPVM calls the alternative, practiced by Verkada, Meraki, and Rhombus, as “Hostage as a Service.”
While we can help you procure any type of security camera at a great price and have them installed, we are also compatible with your existing cameras. Furthermore, you are free to source your own cameras, as well as do any installation yourself, use a trusted local installer, or take advantage of our all-in-one service option.
That freedom guarantees savings.
Type of camera
First, you need to decide between analog and IP security cameras. For new purchases, IP cameras are the better option. Next, you’ll need to consider the different types of security cameras and their coverage. Finally, some cameras are only recommended for indoor installation, while others can be placed indoors or outdoors.
If you have a freezer, car wash, or other indoor environment that has harsh conditions, you may need security cameras designed with outdoor placement in mind.
There’s a great example coming up that shows you where to place each camera and why a little bit later in this article. This camera placement use case is for a quick serve restaurant (QSR), but the principles are the same for other retail locations.
Type of storage
Analog cameras use a DVR, IP cameras use an NVR, and there are hybrid solutions as well. Furthermore, these solutions are on premises, whereas cloud video storage is also an option. The recorder is usually the most expensive part of the system.
Generally, bandwidth will become an issue if you stream footage directly to the cloud, but having a cloud backup of your data is an added level of protection. Cloud video surveillance is quickly becoming the standard because it brings so much value.
Remember, cloud access to Solink’s platform and real-time remote video monitoring are possible regardless of where your video is stored.
Amount of storage
Do you want 30, 60, or 90 days of video retention? Do you need 4K or is HD sufficient? These questions will help you decide on the size of NAS appliance you need for local video storage. Solink can provide solutions no matter the answer.
The video analytics platform provided by Solink is loaded with features, and more features are coming out with each automatic update. Here are the latest features of the Solink platform.
Why do you need video analytics as part of a commercial security system?
Commercial security cameras can be a big investment. They also provide some of the richest data you can find. Simply put, if you aren’t using a video analytics platform to search, sort, and see that data, then you aren’t getting the most out of your investment—and you aren’t getting all the information you need to make the best possible decisions.
While loss prevention, reduced shrinkage, and improved security for your people, places, and property are obvious benefits, there are less obvious ones too. You’ve probably built your commercial security camera system around these core needs, but some of the biggest cost reductions are from reduced liability.
Monitoring your premise with remote video surveillance allows you to make sure that company policies and regulatory requirements are being met. Here are just two examples:
- Your company policy states that all wet spots need to be mopped up and a wet floor sign be placed. The weather report says rain across the northeast. Solink shows you all the cameras facing front doors at all your locations so you can confirm that wet floor signs are being used. This reduces your liability under potential slip-and-falls. In fact, Veterans of America-Michigan uses Solink to do just that.
- The labor shortage is making it harder to hire and retain employees. Reduced hours means that some locations are cutting corners. Stockrooms are not being kept as clean as they should be, which has led to some emergency exits being blocked by merchandise. You’ve received some Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fines recently and are looking for an efficient way to monitor all of your locations. Solink shows you a folder with all cameras pointing at the emergency exits of your locations so you can scroll through hundreds of sites in minutes every day to confirm those doors are being kept clear.
To see how Solink reduces costs across your business, sign up for a demo today.
What should you consider when choosing a commercial security camera?
The following are some of the main features to consider when choosing your security cameras:
- Resolution: The resolution of a camera indicates how much detail will be recorded. If you are filming in close range on a small area, then low resolution shouldn’t be a concern. However, higher resolutions are usually recommended for modern video surveillance.
- Frame rate: The frame rate is the number of frames per second that your camera records. Having a low frame rate (e.g., 5) will severely diminish your ability to track people across your facilities. In addition, depending on the industry in which you operate, you may be required to record with a minimum frame rate. Traditionally, commercial video surveillance systems record at 10 frames per second, as it is a good balance between lower storage needs and good quality.
- Camera type: Different cameras are best suited for different environments. A bullet or turret camera can record a smaller area than a 360 degree security camera. That makes them best for monitoring a hallway or entrance, while fisheye security cameras are better suited for monitoring an open area, such as a dining hall or a department store section.
- Indoor/outdoor: Generally speaking, all security cameras can work indoors, but not all are appropriate for outdoor surveillance needs. If you need both indoor and outdoor video surveillance, then you should make sure that any cameras placed outdoors (as well as in harsh environments such as freezers) can function in your local climate.
- Lighting: Some cameras are designed to operate in the dark. If this is important for you, then consider buying cameras with IR capabilities. Note that, generally speaking, cameras with more IR lights are better at recording at night, but they also tend to be more expensive.
- Audio: Not all commercial security cameras record audio. If this is something you might need, for example to monitor employee conversations with guests, then be sure to choose cameras that also record audio.
Where should you place your security cameras?
Placing the cameras on your property is a key step in building a strong commercial security system. There are many issues you need to keep in mind when doing this in a restaurant. Here is a complete commercial security camera floor plan for a quick service restaurant (QSR) that takes all of these issues into consideration.
Take a look at the commercial security camera floor plan below. Note that, if you click on it, you can see a much higher resolution version.
This plan is for demonstration purposes only, and all sites have unique security requirements.
The following table summarizes the camera type, location, and reason for the coverage. The full reasoning behind this commercial security camera floor plan can be found here.
|1||Turret or bullet||Drive thru||Monitor drive thru speed of service|
|2||Turret or bullet||Walkway/parking lot||Monitor slip-and-falls and traffic|
|3||Turret or bullet||Walkway/parking lot||Monitor slip-and-falls and traffic|
|4||Turret or bullet||Patio||Protect patrons|
|5||Turret or bullet||Backdoor/garbage||Perimeter defense|
|6||Turret or bullet||Drive thru||Monitor drive thru speed of service|
|8||Dome||Dining area||Protect patrons|
|9||Dome||Dining area||Protect patrons|
|10||Dome||Takeout counter||Monitor delivery services|
|11||Dome||POS||Monitor transactions and cash activity|
|12||Dome||Cook line||Monitor food safety|
|13||360||Food prep area||Monitor food safety|
|17||Dome||Storage room||Inventory surveillance|
|18||Dome||Office entrance/backdoor||Safe security and perimeter defense|
While a single reason for the placement of each camera is listed in the table, the truth is that all of these cameras are performing multiple functions. Please view the complete report to see just how much value beyond security that your surveillance cameras could be providing. Notice that turret or bullet cameras are used outdoors because they are designed to endure harsh environments.
Indoors, a combination of dome and 360 degree cameras are used. The domes provide a similar field of view to turrets or bullets, but the direction the camera is facing is hidden, which adds a bit more security value. In addition, they are protected from vandals, for example an employee who may want to hide theft or an angry customer. The 360 degree cameras are placed in the most open areas to monitor the whole lobby and kitchen.
Solink completes your commercial security camera system
To get the most out of your security cameras, you need to connect them to a complete video surveillance ecosystem. That includes Solink’s video analytics.
To find out how Solink gets the most out of your surveillance system, sign up for a demo today.
Timothy Ware is Solink’s Content Manager. He brings over ten years of writing and editing experience to the job. When he isn’t writing about security, loss prevention, and asset protection, he’s enjoying his newest board game. His work has appeared on many B2B SaaS websites including Baremetrics, Security Today, TeamPassword, Cova, and SignTime.