An Introduction to CCTV Systems

CCTV systems are everywhere in commercial security — you’ve probably seen “CCTV Surveillance in Use” signs everywhere from your bank to the even local coffee shop. But what does CCTV mean, and how does it work?

CCTV security cameras

CCTV cameras are a staple in crime prevention because they help ward off criminals, monitor building premises, and record valuable footage of events. Whether you’re looking to reduce theft and loitering in your business or provide a safe haven for your residents, it is important to know the basics about video surveillance CCTV systems.

What Is CCTV?

CCTV cameras are used for security monitoring and surveillance in any type of facility. CCTV stands for Closed-Circuit Television, because CCTV systems transmit video footage over a single channel, essentially creating a closed circuit. This means CCTV footage is displayed on a limited number of personal monitors and screens, not publicly broadcasted.

How Does CCTV Work?

CCTV systems use cameras to capture video footage of a facility. This footage is sent to a recording device (a DVR or NVR), where it is stored for future reference. It is then sent from the cameras to a dedicated monitor, or even a smartphone or computer, which displays the footage in real time. CCTV security systems are connected with a coaxial cable, network cable, or wireless signal, depending on the system type.

How does CCTV work?

CCTV cameras are typically placed at business entrances and around the perimeter, as well as in strategic places inside the building. They guard merchandise, data, and the safety of employees and visitors by monitoring and recording everyone that comes near. CCTV surveillance cameras work to prevent crime around the clock, letting property managers and security staff instantly see and respond to security breaches in all areas of a property. Anyone who commits a crime on the property is taped, providing easy identification and legal evidence.

What Are the Benefits of CCTV Surveillance?

CCTV installation has been shown to effectively deter criminals from targeting your facility and the area around it. Many burglars know to look around for security cameras to see if they are being monitored — and seeing a high-quality surveillance system in place will convince many criminals to move on. Nobody wants to risk being caught committing a crime on video.

CCTV systems make it easy for property owners and managers to identify anyone who has committed a crime in their facility. Cameras also help to catch and prevent theft by employees, especially in retail and industrial settings. In large facilities such as warehouses, security cameras let staff view operations in multiple places at once, enforcing safety protocols and keeping track of progress.

Security cameras capture time-stamped evidence of everything that happens in and around a facility, including accidents, mistakes, and injuries. This is helpful in reducing liability for businesses and settling any disputes that might arise. With CCTV cameras, property managers gain insight and control over their facility and business operations.

IP vs. Analog CCTV Cameras

Two main categories of security cameras are IP cameras and analog CCTV cameras.

Analog CCTV Systems

Analog systems are the more traditional form of CCTV. These use coaxial cables to connect the camera and surveillance monitor or recording system. These systems tend to have a more difficult installation process, since they require more cabling than IP systems.

IP Systems

IP systems, otherwise known as network cameras, are technically not “CCTV” in the same way as hardwired analog systems — but for convenience they are often referred to as CCTV systems. IP-based systems run on digital IP and local area networks — they can run on a company’s existing network, or can be set up on their own if data and bandwidth speeds are a concern. Unlike analog systems, IP CCTV cameras generally use ethernet cables, such as a Cat5E.

Is an Analog or IP System Better?

Analog CCTV cameras offer high reliability thanks to their coax cables, but they generally shoot in much lower resolutions than their digital counterparts (though HD-over-Coax is a possibility). IP security cameras are capable of much higher resolution — up to 4k in many cases — and thus provide better image quality. They are also usually compatible with many more features than analog based systems, such as video verification, video analytics, and advanced processing for performance in low-light recording situations.

IP systems tend to feature easier CCTV camera installation and less cabling than analog systems. IP cameras can also be scaled almost infinitely, allowing for far more flexibility and more powerful systems than analog cameras have traditionally allowed. For instance, while the network may be closed, many even allow for remote monitoring with a smartphone app.

Remote monitoring on app

Though analog systems lack the diverse features and performance capabilities of digital systems, they offer simplicity and a lower price tag, making them a better choice for some businesses. However, as most businesses and manufacturers continue to transition to digital systems, IP-based systems are quickly becoming the more dominant form of surveillance.

CCTV Camera Types

There are various types of CCTV surveillance cameras, suitable for indoor and outdoor use in a range of building types and industries.

Bullet Cameras

Avigilon bullet CCTV camera

Bullet cameras offer a sleek design and a flexible range of areas they can be placed, including on walls. The shape of a bullet camera allows it to accommodate a large lens, giving it a longer range than many other cameras. This makes it ideal for monitoring over long distances. Bullet cameras’ good recording quality, motorized zoom capabilities, and infrared make them ideal for outdoor use and use in industries such as manufacturing, property management and farming.

Dome Cameras

Axis dome CCTV camera

Dome cameras are generally used indoors and mounted on ceilings. This allows them to survey large areas at a wide angle. Dome CCTV cameras are great for retail establishments, restaurants, hotels, and casinos, as they can completely monitor a large room. They are also well-suited to environments that get dirty easily, such as kitchens and warehouses. Dome cameras offer smaller, more discreet hardware than other camera types.

PTZ Cameras

Axis ptz camera

PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) cameras are shaped like dome cameras, but they allow users to remotely move the camera using an app, joystick, or computer program. This is ideal for panning certain areas and focusing in when the camera detects movement. With the ability to move and “look” around a room, PTZ cameras provide 360-degree coverage, and can do the job of several static cameras. PTZ cameras are great for protecting valuable objects, such as in retail settings.

Box Cameras

Bosch box CCTV camera

Box cameras are bulkier than many other camera types, which can be good for deterring crime by giving people an obvious sign they are being recorded. Box cameras are a modular option that let users configure the system for a range of different uses. This allows box cameras to be specifically equipped for outdoor use in rough weather.

Thermal Cameras

Thermal imaging surveillance

Thermal imaging cameras use heat mapping technology to detect people and objects. These are ideal for obtaining accurate security footage in environments with challenging lighting. Thermal CCTV cameras can also detect heat loss, gas leaks, and other repair issues in a facility. Thermal cameras are ideal for use in industrial buildings, defense, traffic monitoring, research and development facilities, and more.

License Plate Reader Cameras

License plate reader camera

License Plate Reader (LPR) cameras have high-resolution sensors that allow them to accurately capture license plate numbers day and night. Most security cameras cannot consistently capture license plates in every weather and lighting condition, let alone when vehicles are moving. LPRs are great for tolling, hotel overstay management, parking lots, and keeping track of who enters and exits any facility or community.

CCTV Video Storage

CCTV video storage can happen in a few different ways. Footage may be stored in a DVR or an NVR, or it can be stored in the cloud.


In a CCTV security camera system, an onsite recording device is used to store footage captured by security cameras. In analog CCTV systems, this is a DVR (Digital Video Recorder) — IP systems use an NVR (Network Video Recorder). In analog systems, a DVR recorder converts all video footage to digital format, compresses the file, and stores it on a CCTV hard drive. The DVR can be hooked up to a monitor to show video footage, or it can connect to a router and internet modem to broadcast the footage using an internal network.

NVR CCTV systems connect to IP cameras, and use a software program to automatically record video in a digital format. This allows NVRs to instantly transmit data over a computer network. This makes it easy to use NVRs for remote viewing of security footage in real time on a smartphone or web browser. NVRs are typically newer and more advanced systems that offer higher video quality and more flexible features.

To learn more about NVR vs DVR, click here.

Cloud Storage

DVR cloud compatibility

More modern CCTV camera systems allow users to store security footage in the cloud, allowing property owners and managers to access live and recorded footage from a mobile device or web browser. This is a good alternative to memory cards, because it offers better storage of large video files, as well as more convenience in today’s internet-based world. CCTV cloud storage allows users to get instant security alerts, making it easy to view and respond to security footage in real time, even when users are offsite. Many cloud-based CCTV camera systems offer a limited amount of free cloud storage, as well as monthly, annual, or lifetime subscription.

CCTV Security System Cost

CCTV monitoring typically costs around $150 per camera per month — about $1,800 annually. Certain CCTV security systems cost more than others, depending on several factors: systems with more wires are more expensive to install, since they can require expensive trenching, running cables through walls, and post-installation repairs. Higher resolution CCTV systems, License Plate Readers, and cameras with other special features typically cost $50 to $300 more. Cloud-based systems also come with cloud storage fees. It is important for facility owners and managers to make an informed decision about their security investment.

Are Video Cameras or Guards More Cost-Effective?

Surveillance cameras work best in combination with guards, but if there is a choice between the two, surveillance cameras are more cost-effective. In 2019, the median annual cost of hiring just one security guard was $29,680. At $1,800 a year, a CCTV system costs 94% less than hiring a security guard, and provides 24/7 surveillance.

CCTV System Integration

CCTV system integration

CCTV security recording systems are commonly integrated with new and existing security, including access control and alarm systems. When paired with remote door release technology, security cameras let you see who is at the door before deciding whether to let them in, which can be done with the press of a button. With intercom and camera technology, security staff can easily talk down to intruders, visitors, or employees, enabling convenient facility-wide communication.

CCTV systems with integrated alarms allow security staff to effectively view and respond to intrusions, clearly recording all security events to keep business owners and staff in the know. Integrating your CCTV camera system gives you comprehensive security, protecting your facility, merchandise, and data from all angles. Using a VMS (Video Management Software) for CCTV systems is a good way to this, or convenient platforms such as are available for streamlining your building security.

With the wide variety of CCTV cameras on the market, and new advances in technology being made all the time, there is a lot to learn about CCTV security cameras. For more information, or to get a free quote, contact Safe and Sound today.

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