Networked security systems enhance facility coverage
- By Aaron Saks
- May 01, 2011
Networked video surveillance systems have greatly expanded the
industry’s ability to provide coverage of multi-campus facilities.
Today more than ever before, video surveillance systems are likely
to be spread across multiple locations and integrated using IT
infrastructure. The inherent operational and economic benefits
of network technology continue to drive this trend, but the reliability of these systems
varies greatly depending on the products that compose them.
A challenge for end users of multi-campus systems is maintaining video surveillance
systems in good working order despite the fact that some system components
may be physically located miles from the security control center. Although
these components may be out of sight, they should not be out of mind, and system
operators should have a plan to keep all system components working dependably
and efficiently. Here are some suggestions:
Check the cameras. Regularly check camera images to ensure the cameras are in
focus, pointed the right way and have not been vandalized. Some systems can even
alert you to these actions or refocus themselves.
Keep it in focus. Make sure that day/night cameras are switching color modes
properly, and check that you have proper focus 24/7. Using cameras with auto
back focus (ABF) can ensure they are focused properly all day, every day, thus
eliminating the need for a service call or specialized equipment to reach a defocused
Is PTZ returning “home”? Make sure PTZ cameras have a self-return time programmed.
Cameras can be set to go back to a “home” position or to an automatic
panning tour after a period of inactivity. You don’t want to have to worry about
cameras recording a blank wall or a tree for 24 hours.
Double-check network accessibility. All IP cameras and recorders should be accessible
on the network. If you cannot view some of them, there may be a network issue.
Confirm frame rates. Ensure that video is being viewed at the correct frame rate. If
not, check that camera settings are correct. Otherwise, you may have network issues.
Minimize network load. If you are using a unicast network, always close down
viewing stations to lighten the network load. This way, a newly opened session will
not have to compete for resources. Multicasting video is preferred so additional users do not overload a single network destination.
Is the firmware up to date? Firmware often contains
new features and bug fixes that can enhance
performance. Make sure to schedule time for updates
during off-peak hours, when your system can tolerate
a few minutes of downtime per camera. Find out how
long each device should take to upgrade and whether
a maintenance/support contract is needed to obtain
upgrade software. Panasonic provides firmware/
software updates free of charge and uses the i-Pro
Administration Console to automate mass firmware
upgrades, eliminating the requirement that users upgrade
each device one at a time.
Can you view logs from a central repository? Routinely
review the logs to ensure everything is working
correctly. You should also be able to export logs for
review and offline archiving if needed. Checking logs
may alert you to a power or network issue that you
may not have been aware of.
Clean outdoor dome cameras regularly. Avoid
high-pressure sprays that may cause water to enter
Be an early bird. Check for condensation early in
the morning to ensure your heaters and dehumidification
devices are working. Failing power supplies will
typically go out completely during the first cold night
of the season. and date display on recorders and cameras
with an embedded title.
Is the time correct? Check the time
and date display on recorders and cameras
with an embedded title. When
Daylight Savings Time begins and
ends, make sure your clocks are correct.
Many systems can synchronize clocks
using network time protocol.
Get to know your system. Don’t wait
for an incident to learn how to archive
video, regularly check your hard drive
retention period and verify that your
hard drives are functioning properly.
Don’t forget that hard drives are consumables
and must be replaced regularly.
Consult your vendor or hard drive
manufacturer for recommended drive
life. Use high-performance, AV- or
RAID-rated hard drives designed for
demanding 24/7 applications.
Keep it cool. Make sure your cameras
and recorders are within their
temperature and humidity ranges.
Overheating will greatly reduce the
life of your system, often at a critical
Segment your system. Working with
100, 500 or 1,000 cameras can be challenging.
Design a hierarchy that makes
sense to you and your organization. For
example, group cameras by floor, building
and then campus. Or organize a
school district by building wing, school
building and campus. This way you can
easily locate your camera for viewing
List and compare. Have a clear list
of camera requirements and settings
designed and documented before the
cameras are installed. Then you can
compare actual performance to your
Backup, backup, backup. Make sure
you have a utility that can easily back
up your system’s programming. Most
systems allow you to download these
settings through the network from the
comfort of your control center. This
way you can restore a device in case of
a failure or changed configuration. In
addition, if you need to install another
camera later on, you can refer to the
saved configuration and load it in as a
template, speeding up your installation
and deployment time.
Statistics don’t lie. Use a simple network
management protocol package
(SNMP) to collect and organize statistics
about your system, including your
cameras, recorders, network switches
and more. SNMP software packages
can alert you to network outages, power
issues and bandwidth concerns. Often,
SNMP will be your first line of defense,
sending a text message or e-mail
before you notice something is offline
or a server room is too warm.
Smart choices and proper maintenance
will help to keep your multi-campus
system running smoothly and performing
the functions you need most.
Use the tips above as a guide and you
can rely on your security solution to
keep everyone on the premises as safe
This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue of Security Today.
About the Author
Aaron Saks is the product and technical manager at Hanwha Techwin America.