Ensuring Performance

Networked security systems enhance facility coverage

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 camera.

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 your camera.

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 moment.

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 and administration.

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 specifications.

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 as possible.

This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue of Security Today.

About the Author

Aaron Saks is the product trainer at Panasonic System Networks Co. of America.

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