Once you plug in, then comes the hard part: configuration. Unless you are pretty tech savvy, then ask a pro. U-Spy will do it for you remotely, so check with our IT department at (773) 529-2779. There is a lot to know here including: port forwarding the router, creating a dynamic IP forwarding service (unless you already have a static IP, which most people will not) and configuring the router. You may also need to change the port (the path on your router - kind of like a channel) setting for the DVR if there is a conflict. Again, there is a lot to know (much more than just plugging into a router) so sometimes it may be worth having a professional do it.
If you are considering purchasing surveillance cameras or recorders, the following information will help guide you in making your decision. Some commonly asked questions are: What is an IP camera and is it worth the extra money? What is a Megapixel or High Definition (HD) Camera? What is the difference between HD and High Resolution? What is the difference between IP Megapixel and HD Camera systems? Are Analog Cameras able to be HD?
An IP camera (also known as a Network Camera) digitizes the video signal using a specialized encoder that contains an onboard web server. This allows the IP camera to act as a network device, thus allowing captured video images to betransmitted through a local network and also viewed through a web browser that can be accessed in the local network or over the Internet. IP cameras have the capability of transmitting High Definition signals ranging from 1.3 Megapixels to 10 or more Megapixels. This HD quality video is not to be confused with High Resolution which simply means a quality of 420 TVL to 720 TVL.
An HD Camera is somewhat a hybrid camera. It uses the original RG59 or RG6 cable wire but delivers HD quality video. There is not as much a choice when it comes to HD Cameras as currently there is only a 2.0 Megapixel choice, nothing more and nothing less. An advantage for these cameras is that you do not need to add a router as the HD DVR recorder does all the work that a router would on an IP Camera setup.
High Definition versus High Resolution Explained
An IP Camera does not necessarily mean High Definition (HD). An IP camera can be either Megapixel or VGA resolution. VGA resolution has been the standard for many years and equates to a camera that has a maximum resolution of 640 x 480. This isnít bad, but this is the most you will ever get out of a VGA camera. Manufacturers will use words like "High Resolution" when marketing VGA quality cameras. High Resolution refers to the Lines of Resolution (LOR) aka TV Lines (TVL). Some consider anything over 420 LOR to be high resolution, but it has nothing to do with HD. When you have a VGA recording from a camera and you want to see close up or enlarge the image, the image will immediately start to deteriorate or become pixilated. You will have to ensure that whatever your desired target, the camera has it in range and the focus will be as you see it.
Donít ever expect to be able to zoom in using VGA cameras because you will be disappointed. In other words, zooming in is a waste of time and effort here. Most cameras attached to DVRs with BNC connectors are VGA quality. Unless you purchased an HD recorder and camera setup (only possible in the last couple of years) you have VGA. If you do have HD, then you paid big money for both the recorder and the camera. HD Video Recorders will still use the standard BNC connectors, but the cost of a 4 channel DVR will be over $1000 without a hard drive. So if you paid less than that, your DVR is VGA resolution and you canít change this.
HD cameras and DVRs have some advantages over IP Megapixel systems. For one, you can keep and use the original RG59 or RG6 wires if you are upgrading from Analog to HD Cameras. These coaxial wires are the standard wires used to install your typical Cable TV or CCTV cameras. So, there is a wiring advantage in that you do not have to change wires to CAT5 which is usually required for IP cameras. I say 'usually' since there are some products out there that allow you to run IP cameras over cable wires, but these converters add to the overall costs. Wire quality comes into play for all types of cameras. You may not get the best results from the cameras if you are using sub-par wiring. Your older wire was probably better than some of the new wire used; however, time is a factor. Metal can deteriorate over time, so when using old wire, be sure to test it for resistance before relying on it. If the wire is faulty, replace it.
HD Cameras, Recorders or DVRs are expensive. The good news is that, for the most part, an HD recorder and camera can be mixed and matched from various manufacturers without concern of compatibility. This is not true with IP cameras. HD cameras come in the range of 1.3 Megapixels through 2 Megapixels.
IP cameras come in many different options. Your common options include 1.3, 2, 3, 4, 5, and higherMegapixels. HD cameras do not require that cameras run over a network, as does an IP camera. The jury is still out as to which solution is best. But if you are looking for anything over 2.0 Megapixel, then IP is the way to go.
IP Megapixel Cameras are suitable in really demanding situations where you need to be able to identify persons or objects in a scene. These cameras will provide higher resolution images with more details than a non-megapixel network camera.
There are many manufacturers of IP cameras and there are many grades or resolution choices. If the camera does not state the word Megapixel, or if the camera says .03 Megapixels, then the camera is VGA quality. This is not a bad thing, but you should know what you are buying. Donít get fooled by the slick marketers who label a camera 1/3 or .03 Megapixel. This is not a true HD camera, so expect similar resolution to your average analog camera. Most of the cheaper IP cameras marketed today are the VGA quality. If you are paying less than $100 or so for an IP camera, it is likely VGA quality.
A true Megapixel camera will typically be 1.3, 2.0, 3.0, 5.0,or larger. A 1.3 Megapixel camera offers about 4 times the resolution of the VGA camera. What this means is that you can zoom in or expand the camera image 4 times before you start to see that deterioration or pixilation that we mentioned. This is good news if you are covering a large room or parking lot or anywhere that you may need to see more detail in your picture. So the higher you go in the Megapixel number, the more you can expand or zoom into the image.
There are a few IP cameras on the market that are wireless too. These are convenient when using 1 to 3 cameras (any more than 3 risk wireless signals riding over each other creating interference); however,wireless cameras can have issues. Fortunately, most manufacturers are using an encrypted digital signal that at least gets over the security issue of the typical wireless camera. The digital signal also allows you to get better reception so the chances of outside interference are minimized.
Bells and Whistles
IP Cameras usually have a very elaborate GUI (General User Interface) that allows many different options and capabilities. Some of the options that may interest the average user include flexibility of image quality, email alerts when motion is detected, color and picture quality control, local or remote access of the camera without an NVR, and much more. IP cameras usually include free software. Some manufacturers offer a basic software for free with a higher grade or professional software for an additional cost. GeoVision (one of my favorites) for instance, offers their professional grade recording software for free with an IP camera purchase. Their products are very good yet pretty affordable. The lower cost IP cameras also provide software, but from my experience, it can be pretty buggy and unreliable.
When recording with an IP camera, the DVR (Digital Video Recorder) is now called an NVR (Network Video Recorder) because the recorder is not connected to the network. IP Cameras are not connected directly to the NVR, which is a big advantage. This means that you can have an IP camera in Chicago and record it in New York. This also offers a level of security by keeping your recorder off site which will prevent the theft or vandalism of the recorder. Letís say a burglar comes into your office with the intent of removing your DVR recorder. He thinks the recorder is on site but it is actually sitting in your home. He can always bring down the network or in some way try to stop the recording but it may be too late. He is already on camera and recorded.
With IP cameras, there are some concerns with compatibility issues. If you stay with one manufacturer such as Geovision, there will be no issues. But letís say you want to add a Vivotek IP camera to your Geovision Hybrid DVR. You will need to purchase an IP camera license from Geovision to allow it to work. Some NVRs work with many different manufacturers and do not require a license. Be sure to get the information ahead of time before assuming that all IP cameras will work with any recorder. HD cameras and HD recorders allow you to mix and match manufacturers. We have not seen any compatibility issues with these. So at least that makes them a bit easier to manage within the compatibility area.
You may want to update a few key cameras to HD or Megapixel quality while keeping the rest. Typically, you donít want to scrap the entire camera system because most of the cameras are good enough, or the cost of replacing all the cameras to Megapixel is too high. But you may want a couple of HD resolution cameras in key locations. Here comes Geovision, as well as some other manufacturers, to the rescue. You can connect up to 16 Analog cameras plus up to 16 IP cameras to a Geovision Hybrid DVR. By the way, all Geovision DVRs that you purchased in the past couple years are by default Hybrid. You may need to update your software for the system to accept IP cameras, but the actual software is free. One of the nice things about Geovision is that they are always updating and improving their software.
Limitations and Features
Geovision DVRs are PC based. This means that the system is expandable and updatable. If you want to add hard drives, RAM, a new motherboard or processor, then you simply need to update the component. What if you wanted to add a couple of Megapixel cameras to the DVR and you determine that your hard drive space is limited. It recorded for 2 months on the 16 analog cameras but the new Megapixel cameras are using the storage much more quickly. Add a hard drive and your problem is solved. Keep in mind that when we build a Geovision DVR, there are several factors to consider. If you plan on simply using Analog cameras, it will be less costly to build the DVR. However, if you want to add 16 IP Megapixel cameras, the story will be different. We will anticipate the heavier processing needs and use an i7 processor and plenty of RAM.
Hard Drive Space = How Long You Will Store
Something to realize is that your still camera at home is probably around 4 to 14 Megapixels. Even cell phone cameras are in this range these days. The quality is good and you can blow up your still shots and still get decent clarity without pixilation. However, you end up using more memory card space when you have a higher Megapixel camera. The same situation occurs when you use Megapixel or HD cameras. When choosing a Megapixel camera, be aware that you will require more storage space to compensate for the bigger file size. Quadrupling the quality may mean filling your hard drive 4 times faster. If you want to keep the 4 weeks of video you desire, this means having larger or additional hard drives.
Another factor to consider with IP Megapixel cameras is your network. When we install several IP cameras in a home or business, we consider how much bandwidth this will add to your network. The more IP cameras you have in a network, the more bandwidth you will have. Some basic routers are not equipped to handle this traffic and will start to choke or stall causing your network to crash. To prevent this problem, we will often create a new security network for the IP cameras. This keeps the camera traffic off the network so your Internet and the LAN stays responsive. We then simply connect the IP camera network to your LAN network to allow you to view your cameras remotely when so desired. The router we use will be a business class router that is built to handle large traffic so it will remain stable.
The IP Megapixel cameras start at anywhere from $150 and up depending on the manufacturer, quality and the quality of the software provided. HD cameras start at about $300. HD Cameras require you have an HD DVR Recorder with pricing at about $750 for a 4 Channel recorder. IP cameras can use a PC based computer using Windows XP or Windows 7 PC based DVRs to record and store data or they can use a variety of Standalone NVRs or Hybrid DVRs. There are also standalone DVRs that will record IP cameras. Most IP Cameras come with free basic or advanced recording software to install on a PC. Geovision offers their full blown software with any IP camera purchase. Other manufacturers provide you with very basic software that may reflect that free price when you start using. In other words, not good! The software is a vital part of the IP camera, so be sure to use something proven.
Pros and Cons
The pros of Megapixel cameras are obvious. They provide much higher quality, more detail and the ability to zoom in after recording without distortion. The downside is that you will need to add a network or add extra devices to your existing network. You will also need to run CAT5 for the IP cameras versus using RG59 for the HD or Analog cameras. RG59 is actually a bit pricier figuring the additional power wire, but if you already have the cable run, then the HD cameras will be most definitely be cheaper to install.
The jury is still out as to which is the best, but I still prefer the flexibility of a good IP Megapixel camera system like Geovision over the HD camera solution. The IP cameras are more flexible and offer a lot more variety at this point than the HD cameras.
This information was provided by Perry Myers, President of U-Spy Enterprises, Inc. DBA Pro Video Security - August 2012
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