By Ali Mahmoud
Whether you operate a retail shop that is large or small, you may need a video surveillance system to help you keep an eye on your business. Once you determine that this approach is right for you, selecting a video surveillance system that is reliable, easy to use and will stand the test of time is the goal. Here are some pointers to keep in mind.
There are many surveillance camera choices out there, including analog, IP, high-definition and megapixel. You will want to make sure that whichever system you choose will support low-cost analog cameras today, but let you put in one or two high-definition cameras in the future. Hybrid video recorders allow you to use both analog and IP surveillance cameras. Analog cameras deliver acceptable video quality in most situations, but having a hybrid recorder allows you to deploy high-definition cameras strategically in areas where you might need more detailed video quality, such as over the cash register or in other sensitive areas.
Look for purpose-built systems
You will also want to select a purpose-built video surveillance system, not something that was pulled together using an off-the-shelf PC and some software. PCs running Windows can be slow, require numerous updates and may be vulnerable to viruses, spyware and malware. You might also encounter time synchronization problems, so if you are using your surveillance video as evidence in a court proceeding or hoping to confirm that your store opened on schedule in the morning, you could be out of luck. Video surveillance systems running on Linux operating systems typically have none of these problems.
Keep it user friendly
Another important factor to consider is ease of use. If the user software interface is complex and it takes too long to find, review and copy video clips to external media, chances are your video surveillance system will just sit there. If, on the other hand, you can log in, pull up video from a specific camera, and then easily review footage from 8 a.m. to make sure your store opened on time, all in a minute or less, you will be more likely to take advantage of the technology’s capacity to positively impact your business.
Save time with remote access
You will want your video surveillance to provide remote access to your video over the Internet, so you can keep an eye on your business wherever you are. With remote access, you can review live or archived video from your store, at home or on vacation. Be aware that video files can consume a fair bit of bandwidth, so make sure the system you are considering handles video compression and transmission wisely. If your system requires you to download a 15-minute clip in its entirety before you can review it, you are going to lose interest in a hurry. Insist on a system that streams video or delivers thumbnails to speed remote viewing.
Plan for the future
Finally, you may want to link point-of-sale (POS) transactions with corresponding video in the future to boost loss prevention efforts. Considering a system that allows you to grow and fully leverage your investment when you are ready is always smart business.
Ali Mahmoud is a product manager with March Networks, a provider of IP video surveillance solutions to some of the world’s largest retail organizations. For more information, visit marchnetworks.com.