When should I choose a wireless video surveillance system?

 In Video Surveillance

We always get phone calls from new customers wanting a wireless surveillance system. At first thought wireless surveillance sounds like a great idea. Mount the cameras, install the DVR/NVR and off you go. There are however some limitations to wireless video surveillance systems, that we will cover here.

What is a Wireless Video Surveillance System?

A wireless video surveillance system, most of the time, is sold at warehouse stores or the internet as a a boxed camera set. We have examined some set-backs of packaged surveillance systems in our post here. When purchased, you will receive a box that contains some cameras, a recording device and oftentimes the wiring for the cameras as well.  The cameras themselves, even if they are wireless, can still provide high resolution video. The difference that the NVR/DVR has to a standard, non wireless device is the antenna it is fitted with to allow the wireless transmitions to take place.

Not truly Wireless

The wireless features of the cameras are the selling feature for most of our customers. Finding out that these cameras are not truly wireless usually makes everyone think twice about the cameras. The rather big and obvious issue for those cameras is the need for power. Like an electronic device, the cameras will need power wiring run to them. The cameras are delivered with a power adapter that hooks into an existing outlet close to the camera. Issues then arise when running the wire, as we have to go from the plugin, through the wall, to the camera. As such, the video cameras take away plugin space, and it will never look very pretty, regardless of who does the installation.

Another question that you have to ask yourself: “How likely and easy is it for someone to accidentally or deliberately unplug the camera from the outlet?”. If there is easy access to the power means of the camera, the likelihood of someone unplugging the camera is much larger as well.

Wired video surveillance cameras combat the issue by being, so called, home run. All wiring is run straight to the NVR/DVR. The wiring will be hidden in walls and ceilings. Most NVRs that we sell provide power to camera straight through the one wire, eliminating the need for two wires. This will keep your plug ins free and your walls untouched, while getting a better picture.

Have you ever had to reset your wireless router?

Today, most people with a wireless router, will have to answer yes to this question. Wireless technologies are great, but they can also drop a signal from time to time. A dropped signal means a lost camera feed. When installing a wireless system, the recommendation is to have 80% signal strength at the camera, to eliminate exactly those speed and reliability issues. Unfortunately having a signal strength of 80% means having a wireless access point mounted almost beside the camera, or at least in the same room. While this might sound lucrative, of being able to have a wireless access point in every room, it needs to have a wire run to it.

The wireless network that the cameras are hooked to should always be segregated from every other wireless traffic to ensure the maximum security and reliability. Cameras have such a high data throughput that they will disable a wireless network if there is too much traffic on it.Needless to say there are multiple design factors involved for a wireless system. These will oftentimes end up costing more than a wired installation.

Wireless Security

As we mention in our post about security leaks within security systems (Click here to read), wireless systems are no different. Wireless frequencies have the issue that they can be intercepted by anyone walking within their range. This makes them much more vulnerable than a wired network. Many hackers are able to gain access to a wireless network within a few minutes. This is a fairly minimal time effort in order to break into your business or home. Passwords and encryption standards are getting stronger day by day, but aren’t strong enough yet.

Packaged System Limitations

When we create a wireless network infrastructure, design is key. Whether there are walls, electronic devices, or wide open areas, everything has to be taken into account. Wireless signals are very unique with the way they travel, and what they may be able to pass through. The importance of creating a design before implementation stems from exactly that uniqueness. A packaged system has a fixed antenna on the NVR and fixed omni-directional antennas built into the cameras. This results in a very limited signal strength. A camera might not be able to get the required signal strength if located far away. Intermittent video, limited video quality and no connection at all can all be the result of this poor and limited design.

Our Recommendation

When considering a surveillance system we usually do not recommend wireless video surveillance cameras or packages. Due to the limited security options they offer, the high bandwidth required and the reliability issues of WiFi, the end user is better off with a wired system. Wired systems result in similar cost, but offer better reliability, much easier networking and better security. Wired surveillance systems are just as simple to install, but will take longer since the wires will have to be pulled. While the installation costs for wired systems are higher, wireless systems consume more money in the design process. Wireless systems also require more access points and improvements of the network infrastructure, which can be costly.

We recommend a complete separate network for these cameras, when a wireless video surveillance system is absolutely required. The SSID should be hidden and the password extremely strong. This ensures that hackers cannot easily gain access and the system can run as reliable as possible. The power plugs should be fastened to the outlet with screws to make the deliberate unplugging more complicated. When installing a wireless system, the final signal strength at the camera level should be measured. If there is not enough signal strength, access points will have to relocated or more added.

Get in Touch

Eyeing a wireless surveillance system? Let us show you your alternatives and walk you through the process. We do offer both wired and wireless surveillance solutions, and will help you weigh the options. Feel free to contact us with any questions or comments. You can call us at any time at (403) 477-4800 or email us at [email protected].

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