If you are responsible for security, then you know how difficult it is to justify funding for security measures. This is especially true when it’s time to upgrade from an older analog-based video surveillance system to an IP-based system with 1080HD or even 4K capabilities. There are many traps you can fall into when considering this type of upgrade. This is true whether you are a stadium operations manager, an upscale large condo building property manager, or even an inner-city school principal. These applications all seem to have the same issues: it all comes down to the network.
Let’s start with wiring. You need the proper fiber or category 5/6 cables – and you need to know each of their limitations. You have to know if the fiber is multi- or single-mode. This may seem simple, but it’s surprisingly common to find that people do not know the difference. For instance, category 5 and 6 cables have a maximum segment length of 100m (330ft) – the difference between the two is that category 6 is faster. Multimode fiber cable is rated for approximately 500m (1,650ft), whereas single-mode can go as far as 40 miles with the right switches.
Next are the network switches – as critical a component as it’s possible to get. If the switches are wrong, your system is wrong. If the switches can’t handle the load coming in, the video stream gets backed up. You don’t want to put an 8-port switch, designed for a small business, into a stadium setting just because you only have six ports currently being used. In the long term this limits the future growth of your system. In the short term it will immediately back up your system, creating ghosting or jumpy images. Your system needs the power of a larger switch to push the data of the new HD cameras and the massive video stream. These cameras are bandwidth hogs, and if the switch isn’t the right size, then you will experience backup and failure. Think of it this way: if you try to attach a garden hose to a gushing fire hydrant, you’re not going to get a good result. The same is true with IP video-surveillance systems and the massive amount of video that is constantly streaming.
Next are your workstations. They are often overlooked and seen as an unnecessary expense in a new system, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Where does all this new data from the cameras, fiber and switches go? That data stream has to be viewed somewhere, and your workstations are the workhorses of your new system.
Much like gaming computers (which are sold separately from regular PCs or Macs for casual users), your workstations need to pack a punch. Gaming computers have fast processors, such as an Intel i7 or better, as well as 16+GB of RAM, 256GB or larger solid-state drives, and upgraded video cards. Your video surveillance workstations should have the same muscle.
We have gone from a world of electrical hookups for analog video surveillance systems, to environments that require IP 1080HD or 4K systems – and need network engineers with computer training. If you don’t seek out and find a network engineer to help determine what you need and why, you could be doomed to failure.
It’s hard to get funding for security systems when there have been no incidents driving the investment. Knowing the ins and outs of what to look for when buying a new system can help identify the resources you need, and help justify the expenditure.
Jack Phillips is the founder of Phillips Security Consulting. He has worked for the US Department of the Treasury and the Department of Homeland Security as a security officer and a counter terrorism response team senior member.
April 14, 2016