Diving into IP Surveillance
Experts reveal top challenges and how to face them head-on
- By Vance Kozik
- Dec 01, 2013
Anticipating challenges before they become
problems is always a smart approach. In the
security world, when a company is making
the leap from installing traditional, analog,
CCTV cameras to IP surveillance, this “thinkahead”
strategy is all the more wise.
One IP surveillance integrator, Cana Communications in
Kennesaw, Ga., knows this from experience. Having made the
transition from analog CCTV to IP video surveillance integration
several years ago, Scott Harris, project services manager,
remembers the learning curve well and chimes in on what a company
will likely encounter during a similar transition and how to
prepare for success.
Lack of Network Knowledge
Encounter #1: Lack of network design capabilities. “The first
and biggest issue we ran into was a lack of network knowledge,”
said Harris. “We did not have techs that understood networking;
yet all of a sudden, we had to deal with Ethernet rules, the
constraints of Ethernet and specific cabling requirements. Many
times, we also had to provide network switches as part of the project
scope. Because these skills directly affected the scope of work,
we quickly realized that having networking knowledge would be
critical for conducting effective site surveys, creating accurate estimates
and designing project plans.”
In addition, the project team often had to interface with the
customer’s IT department to establish the network requirements,
demanding another layer of network knowledge.
Solution: Bolster your project team with technical experts in
network design. Some IP video surveillance manufacturers offer
expert network design partners through their professional services
Encounter #2: Defending your work. After the project plan
is defined and implemented, new challenges can arise, especially
when considering that:
- Networking issues always complicate the installation.
- IP video surveillance systems are typically installed on separate
VLANs that require special switch configuration. This work is
usually done by the customer’s IT staff or their contractors.
- It is difficult to determine when a problem is on the network
(e.g., a configuration issue) versus somewhere else (e.g., IP cameras,
- IP video surveillance contractors have limited control over the
network, so resolution often depends on a cooperative effort
with the customer’s IT staff, network administrators and/or
“Every integrator needs the technical ability to defend their
installation when networking issues arise,” Harris said. “For example,
an IT department or switch installer may say that all the
VLAN ports have been configured and programmed properly,
but that your team simply doesn’t know how to make them work.
This puts you, as the surveillance contractor, in a defensive position
and requires that you prove them wrong.”
Solution: Make sure your field project team includes technicians—
or trusted contractors—that are savvy with IP networks
and switch configuration, and can interface with network vendors,
installers and IT staff to identify and troubleshoot network issues.
Encounter #3: More credentialing required. According to
Harris, today’s IP video surveillance project bids are specifying
the need for more credentialing. To win these bids, your project
team will likely need to include:
- a registered communications distribution designer (RCDD)
with expertise in IT systems, architecture, electrical wiring and
- Building Industry Consulting Service International (BICSI)-certified installers and technicians; and
- a team member with Microsoft certifications (especially for
solutions that include a VMS).
Solution: Unless you want to avoid all bids with BICSI credentialing
requirements, invest in BICSI training for your primary
video surveillance installers, especially those who will be
installing Cat-5 or Cat-6 cabling. If you don’t have an RCDD on
staff, you may be able to subcontract; however, some specifications
require that the RCDD be a full-time employee.
In larger systems, you occasionally see the need for Microsoft
MCSE certification—which you may meet through subcontracting.
If you’re already considering adding networking expertise to your
staff, try to have at least one technician with MCSE certification.
Long term, you should aim to meet all of these credentialing
requirements with your own staff.
Physical Networking Constraints
Encounter #1: Facilities with minimal network infrastructures.
Not every customer seeking IP surveillance has an extensive
data network already in place. Facilities with smaller networks
will require additional network expansion to support all the new
IP cameras, recorders and potential external storage solutions.
Therefore, your project may require adding more network switches
or new IDF closets to handle the increased data flow.
Solution: Whether part of your staff, subcontracted or a manufacturer
partner, rely on the expertise of your network designer,
who should be well versed in network design, cabling and network
Encounter #2: Cameras too far from IDF closets. In many
large facilities, some IP cameras will be placed in remote locations
too far from available, network, IDF closets.
“This scenario happens frequently when a customer needs
cameras covering parking lots, access gates, truck entrances or
outlying storage buildings so they can record vehicles as they’re
coming and going,” Harris said. “In these situations, you’ll likely
need to run fiber optic cable to cover the longer distances beyond
the traditional, 100-meter limit of copper cables.”
This requires some level of experience with fiber optic cables
as well as a new layer of expertise.
Solution: You need someone with fiber optic expertise on your
team, even if it’s just short-term. Since this specialized skill may
not be needed for every project, hiring a full-time employee may
not be necessary.
A second, more costly option would be to build new IDF closets,
but this would require additional network design and expansion
of the current network infrastructure, which most customers
are hesitant to do.
Another word of advice: At the project onset, conduct a complete
site survey with someone who understands all the physical
restrictions of your customer’s specific location. Knowing the distances
and special installation requirements will help you construct
a project team with the right technical skill sets from the start.
Encounter #3: Existing networks with non-PoE switches.
Some customers want all the advantages of IP video surveillance,
but their existing network is configured with traditional network
switches and no PoE capabilities.
Solution: A team member who can effectively interface with
the customer’s IT staff and assist with network design changes
is needed. If the project scope requires that you provide and install
the network switches, you will need the technical skills to add
switches to an existing network infrastructure.
Encounter #1: Need for cabling expertise (UTP and fiber). Harris
suggests learning the ins and outs of network cabling as another valuable
skill set, often unforeseen by new IP surveillance integrators.
To successfully navigate network cabling, you need to know
Ethernet limitations and their impact on exterior cameras; challenges
posed by perimeter and parking lot cameras; and how to
The cameras may need certain network electronics like fiber
transceivers; specialized, sealed and weatherproof enclosures/
mounting hardware; and external power requirements to draw
power at a mounting pole.
Solution: You need a project team member with technical and
electrical knowledge of cable testing and certification common to
UTP/fiber installations. The right testing equipment, which can
be costly, is needed, and you may need someone to help mount
cameras on poles and pull the required fiber and power.
“We have electricians on our staff, so we can handle all the
electrical requirements on our own, but we do seek outside resources
when we need to set the poles,” Harris said. “We are fortunate
enough to have electricians who can handle all the special
mounting boxes and unique conduit requirements, but if we
didn’t, we would subcontract that piece out and bring electrical
Encounter #2: Requirements to add and match existing cable
Solution: Be prepared to match existing cable installations like
Panduit, Siemon and CommScope. If certification and extended
warranty coverage is required and you’re not able to achieve this
with your own staff, subcontract or partner with a company that
can meet the specific cabling requirements.
This article originally appeared in the December 2013 issue of Security Today.