The Ultimate Guide to Security Camera Installation

Discover how to design, build, and install commercial grade security camera systems to increase employee safety and reduce crime.

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Are you looking to install a new security camera system to protect your business or commercial property? Would you like to see your entire property at a glance from your smartphone and even stop crime before it happens?

Welcome to the world of video surveillance and security camera solutions.

Security camera CCTV systems come in a variety of different image resolutions, integration capabilities and use cases. Some security cameras are used indoors while others are used outdoors, some pan, tilt and zoom for broader coverage while others are built to read license plates coming into a parking lot. All businesses need a security camera system.

Why? Because having video evidence of any crime happening on your property can not only help catch the perpetrator but it can also show where the building’s security system is vulnerable and you can make the necessary changes so that it doesn’t happen again.

Basic Components of a CCTV System

  • Security Cameras
  • Cabling / Wiring
  • Network Video Record Recorder (NVR)
  • Storage (Hard Drives)
CCTV systems are complex. A functioning CCTV system, offering full property coverage around the clock, requires a network of compatible security cameras, ample storage, proper cabling and even power. Thankfully, surveillance doesn’t have to be difficult. Keep reading to see the equipment and components you’ll need to get your IP surveillance system up and running.

Security Cameras

The first (and most obvious, for sure) component of a CCTV system are the security cameras. Which security cameras are right for your system depends on your individual needs and budget; are you placing them indoors or outdoors? Is 1080P a large enough resolution? Will they be able to see and record video efficiently in low-lighting? Are they placed with adequate field of view, or will a PTZ (Pan Tilt Zoom) camera be necessary? These are all important questions to be considered when choosing security cameras for your CCTV system.

Cabling / Wiring

For most commercial CCTV systems, structured cabling run throughout the walls, connecting your security cameras to the server or NVR, will be a vital component. While more and more wireless security cameras are becoming popular, especially for home use, wired security cameras still reign supreme for more permanent and demanding security use.

When using IP cameras – as most CCTV systems do these days – you will most likely be looking at Cat5E or Cat6 cables, which can transfer the large amount of data required by digital video and high resolutions at very fast speeds, and often over long distances. This is an upgrade from the coax cabling that usually powers analog security cameras; coax cables are reliable, but not compatible with IP cameras. In many cases, Cat5e and Cat6 cables will also power the security cameras, eliminating the need for further wiring. This is called Power-Over-Ethernet and requires a PoE switch when the security cameras are not connected to an NVR. Wireless security cameras may need less wiring in the walls but will still require cables to power the security camera separately, usually via 110VAC power.

Network Video Recorder (NVR)

The Network Video Recorder, also known as the NVR, is another essential element to any IP camera system. Connected to the same IP network, the NVR can be installed virtually anywhere in your building or home. The NVR allows you to record and store video on a hard drive, snap images and transmit them to your computer or remote device for live and recorded viewing. Network Video Recorders usually have multiple channels for inputting security camera feeds, and are an all-in-one place for combining feeds and keeping a comprehensive eye on your surveillance feeds.

NVR’s differ mainly from DVR’s in that they record video from IP cameras, while DVR’s mainly record analog-based video to a digital format.

Storage (Hard Drives)

An NVR makes it easy to record video surveillance footage, but you will need connected hard drives on which to store this footage. Choosing the right amount of storage can seem like a confusing gamble, but it doesn’t have to be; it’s simply a matter of calculating the length of video you need to store, by the bitrate and resolution your camera shoots at. When recording 4k security camera video, this can end up being a large number requiring terabytes of footage. For lesser archival needs, you can usually get away with much less.

Types of Security Cameras

  • Bullet Cameras
  • Dome Cameras
  • Turret Cameras
  • PTZ (Pan Tilt Zoom)
  • Cameras Fisheye
  • Cameras Multiple
  • Sensor Cameras
  • Doorbell Cameras
  • Wireless Security Cameras

No matter your surveillance system configuration, the type of security camera you choose will have a tremendous impact, and there are many types of security cameras out there. Each of these cameras has its own strengths and weaknesses, its own benefits and downsides, so it’s imperative you make an informed choice. Remember, you’re encouraged to mix-and-match camera types when installing the security camera system that’s right for you.

Bullet Cameras

Depending on the size, these can be anywhere from a rifle bullet or a lipstick tube to a bread loaf, but the basic gist is the same in every case. They’re linear security cameras that mount to your wall or ceiling with a tri-axis mount (so don’t worry about orienting them while you’re screwing them into the wall) and focus on a specific part of your premises. Given their tubular design, they have room for night-vision and IR features, and they have better range and zoom capabilities than the flatter dome security cameras.

Since they’re so obviously recognizable as a security camera, they’re a great deterrent as well, and they’re easy to mount just about anywhere. With the typical weatherproof hoods, they’re quite durable, but they don’t always come with the full IP certification of other models.

On the other hand, they’re more susceptible to damage than other models and they make tempting nests for wildlife, so make sure you choose a good spot to install bullet cameras on your premises.

Dome Cameras

The small, black orb of a dome camera offers a better field of view than its bullet counterpart. It’s also more subtle, more durable types of security cameras on the market. If you’re looking for a less assertive security camera system, the humble dome has its advantages. All the security with none of the appearance of vigilance.

Turret Cameras

Also called “eyeball” cameras, the turret camera has a ball-and-socket joint to let you precisely redirect the field of view without remounting the security camera every time. They’re great for warehouses. Some of these may resemble dome cameras, but there’s a simple trick to distinguish them – if the lens and the IR LEDs are in front of the glass on the housing rather than contained behind it, you’ve got a turret camera instead of a dome.

Since the glass housing doesn’t get in the way, they aren’t quite as vandal-proof as dome cameras, but they make up for it in capabilities. As well as being great for re-positioning on the fly, they are better for low-light and infrared since the glass housing doesn’t impede the lens. With some, it’s hard to tell at a glance where they’ve been aimed, so they can give a panoptic impression as a deterrent, regardless of their true field of view. Installing a video surveillance system with a few of these is a great option for a number of different configurations.

PTZ (Pan Tilt Zoom) Cameras

What PTZ cameras lack in hardiness, they make up for in versatility. They are one of the most adaptive types of security cameras and the ultimate IP camera, these “pan-tilt-zoom” cameras can be re-aimed remotely. They can track a person or a car across a range, or be programmed to cycle through different orientations to give you a much more comprehensive field of view with a single piece of hardware. They can also zoom and focus in on faces or license plates in real time. They’re exceptionally useful as NVR cameras, since they can respond to user inputs even from off-site network connections.

Fisheye Cameras

With a central focus and a condensed periphery, a fisheye lens security camera gives you a concentrated look at a wide field of view. It’s great for a parking lot or a warehouse, where the finer details aren’t as important as the overall picture. These are self-contained and, since the lens is doing the heavy lifting, they aren’t as susceptible to mechanical failure as their multi-lens counterparts. What you lose in resolution, especially at the edges of your field of view, you make up for in reliability.

Multiple Sensor Cameras

If you’re looking for the field of view of a fisheye lens but don’t want the distortion, you probably want to install a multisensor camera. This type of panoramic camera uses multiple discrete sensors and picture channels to capture up to a 360-degree field of view and uses image-processing software to stitch the channels together into a contiguous video feed.

Multiple sensor security cameras are better for low-light or infrared (you can even target several cameras to the same spot and capture overlapping video feeds on different frequencies) and they’re better for high resolution over fisheye lenses. Additionally, in case of damage or blockage to any single sensor, a multi-sensor security camera will keep broadcasting where a fisheye or other single sensor camera would fail.

Doorbell Cameras

Simply put, security doorbells are just small security cameras – wired or wireless – that include a door buzzer and a 2-way intercom in the frame. Combining the benefits of a security camera and an intercom gives you a wide range of powerful features to secure your home or business.

One of the most important features of doorbell cameras is that they can interface with your smartphone through an app, allowing you to see and react to events at your door whether you’re home or not. The best security doorbells connect to Z-wave devices like lights and door locks, allowing you to lock and unlock your front door remotely.

Wireless Security Cameras

Wireless security cameras leverage your home or businesses WiFi connection to create a surveillance network. These are great to use to monitor small to medium sized rooms and buildings because they tend to get image distortion when zooming in to objects that are far away. Some of the advantages of wireless security cameras over wired security cameras are easy remote access, easier installation and less wiring. We go more in depth on wireless security cameras here.

Security Camera Installation

A security camera system is an important part of any business’s security plan. Security camera installation doesn’t have to be a confusing process, but there are a few things you need to keep in mind. In some cases, you may even be able to do it yourself for a very basic CCTV surveillance system. But most of the time, it will pay to have it professionally installed. Whichever route you take, here are a few things you need to know and some tips to help you along.

Some common questions we get about security camera installation:

Where do you install security cameras?
CCTV security cameras need to be installed in the right locations to capture the important goings-on of your home or business. The first places you should install them should be covering the front door and the back door, and then first floor windows, where trouble is most likely to occur. After that, you can look at placing them at the four corners of the building to create an image of the entire perimeter.

Be sure to pay attention to the field of view, as well, and avoid placing in locations that create blind spots. You want to be able to see everything happening on your property.

And, if the security camera installation is being done outdoors, be sure they are waterproof and weather-resistant, withstanding moisture, high heat and freezing temperatures.

It also pays to pay attention to lighting; while you may not have control over the ambient lighting around the building, placing cameras in consistently, well-lit areas ensures a brighter, clearer image. You may also want to look at cameras with infrared, which detects body heat and allows the camera to function like night vision.

For more information on where to install security cameras, check out this article.

How can I hide my outdoor security cameras?
Often, the mere presence of security cameras can scare away less-motivated intruders. But keeping them hidden and out of sight can keep them from being tampered with or damaged by the more determined burglars. If intruders cannot see any security cameras, they may also be less careful about covering their faces and their tracks.

Your location and potential threats will determine whether hidden or visible cameras are right for you. If you’re concerned about your cameras being disabled, you may want to hide them. A combination of both can often be a good plan, too.

How do I protect my security camera wires?
Something that must be considered when installing CCTV cameras is how they will be powered, and how wiring will be run throughout the building. In many cases, you’ll be able to install cameras and wiring simply by running the wires through a drop tile ceiling and into the wall. Other jobs will necessitate the use of conduit – piping for running the wiring and protecting it – and in some cases, tearing out part of the wall to lay wiring inside. For these larger jobs, professional security installation is usually the right choice.

Can you use an outdoor security camera indoors?
Outdoor security cameras are more than durable for indoor use. With certain security cameras, like large bullet cameras, are simply too bulky to be installed comfortably indoors.
Vise versa, the majority of indoor security cameras do not have the durability or weather proofing to withstand the rain, wind and snow of the outdoors.

Click the link to learn more about indoor security cameras vs. outdoor security cameras.

Which is better DVR or NVR?
If you don’t want to do an entire renovation, you have existing coaxial wiring and analog cameras then your best bet would be to use a DVR. The problem with analog cameras is that they typically have lower resolution than new IP cameras. If your starting from scratch, then your best choice would be to do your security camera installation with an NVR. This will allow you to install higher resolution IP cameras and access the video feed remotely.

Check out these articles to learn more about NVRs and DVRs.

Do you need a hard drive for security cameras?
Recording the footage from your security cameras requires hard drives or cloud based storage. If you have an analog security camera system, then the digital video recorder (DVR) that the security cameras are connected to has a hard drive inside of it. If your dealing with recorded video storage on an IP camera system, then your network video recorder (NVR) can use hard drives for on-site recording and cloud-based recording in the event of hard drive malfunction.

Check out this article to learn more about hard drives for security cameras.

Do security cameras work in the dark?
Not all security cameras work in the dark. Security cameras that have low-light capabilities have a shutter that allows more light to enter the camera’s sensor. The more light that is allowed to enter the camera the brighter the image will be. However, even these low light capable cameras have digital noise that make the dark image look fuzzy. To combat this fuzzy image some security cameras come equipped with 2D and 3D digital noise reduction. Some security cameras now come with infrared light that is invisible to the human eye but can be picked up by a security camera’s sensor.