CCTV systems are an efficient and flexible way to protect your business. Their usefulness in deterring criminals and in providing evidence to the police have made CCTV cameras a common feature in the physical security suite of many UK companies.
Deploying CCTVs efficiently is a difficult, but well-understood process that is covered by a significant body of industrial know-how, regulatory material, and legal requirement. This vast body of knowledge can be difficult to navigate without some basic starting points.
This is why we have compiled this handy set of nine practical starting points to help you understand and manage the main aspects of planning, deploying and maintaining a CCTV installation.
It’s been more than 20 years since ACCL started helping London companies with their CCTV and security needs. During this time, we have come up with our own set of best practices and set new, superior standards in CCTV deployment for London buildings.
Let’s take a look at the main principles that have helped us meet and exceed our customers’ expectations:
Having a clear purpose for installing CCTV surveillance equipment in your London building is one of the highest-ranked recommendations that the Home Office makes to prospective CCTV users in its CCTV Operations Manual. We stand in complete agreement with this recommendation. Before you start planning what to deploy and where, you should have a clear understanding of your goals.
In practice, this means you should start your planning with a general statement of your intentions. You can get by without numbers yet, but your statement should be specific.
In other words, “increased security” is a bad answer to “why do you think you need a CCTV system?”. Better answers include “to prevent and detect break-in attempts”, “to reduce shoplifting” or “to supervise working conditions”. This provides a solid foundation on which to define more specific requirements — that is, a list including:
The most visible reason why we support this recommendation as well is cost. CCTV systems offer a great deal of features today, but no feature is free.
The price tag of a CCTV system that’s good at everything is therefore very high. Purchasing expensive CCTV equipment for your London offices and using only a subset of its functions is very inefficient.
Cost aside, we make this recommendation for technical reasons, too. CCTV cameras are only one part of your security system. What your requirements are also influence decisions related to:
Last, but not least, certain CCTV deployment options also carry special legal requirements that you must comply with, such as installing signs and, in more extreme cases, obtaining a license.
A careful analysis of your requirements should reveal what areas need to be monitored and, consequently, where CCTV cameras need to be installed in your London building. However, simply pointing cameras at these “hot spots” is unlikely to yield useful results.
You are probably familiar with the most problematic environmental factor — light. Have you noticed how you can hardly tell what’s in a picture where the sun is directly behind the objects in the frame? Or, when taking a picture in the dark, how using the flash yields nothing but a big blob of light if you’re photographing a highly-reflective object?
This holds true for CCTV cameras as well: the quality of the images depends on the ambient lighting conditions and on the objects that are (or can be) in the frame. For outdoors cameras, other factors come into play, too, such as fog and rain – which must be taken into account given London weather conditions. Environmental factors such as temperature and humidity also translate into special requirements for fixtures and cabling.
It can be difficult to make an exhaustive list of these issues, especially since some of them are not obvious at all. The good news is that the security industry has long been aware of these issues, so industry guidelines do exist.
The best approach is to conduct a thorough survey of your environment along with your security solutions provider. While detailed blueprints are enough to determine some environmental parameters, the only way to get a
complete picture is an on-site survey.
In the early days of CCTV, there used to be separate network infrastructures for security equipment, telecom equipment and, when that showed up, data equipment.
This is no longer the case. The convergence of networking and security technology, and the advent of structured cabling have made CCTVs (and security systems in general) an integral part of a company’s IT network.
On the one hand, this results in vastly better prices: you can use the same infrastructure for every piece of equipment in your network — and thus use fewer types of cable and less interconnected equipment. And it has opened the way to an unprecedented level of flexibility in terms of what you can do with security equipment and footage.
On the other hand, this also means you need to plan for additional data streams in your network. Live monitoring and high-quality pictures result in increased demands in terms of latency and bandwidth. Furthermore, the sensitive nature of this traffic may prompt your IT staff to take additional security precautions, which require some time to implement.
High-quality security equipment tends to be sturdy and long-lived. This has created an incentive for existing security infrastructure to be upgraded, rather than fully overhauled — and this is something that you should take advantage of.
If you see your surveillance needs expanding, it may be possible to achieve them through a process of incremental upgrades, rather than a complete overhaul. This will help keep your CCTV’s system prices down and will allow you to reduce the business disruptions associated with completely overhauling your security system.
An upgrade is not without headaches.
Integration between new and legacy equipment is not always complete, nor always too smooth. And, more often than not, you will eventually need to overhaul the entire system. But it can be a good temporary compromise, which can satisfy both your security requirements and your budget constraints.
CCTV deployment for London buildings is somewhat of a niche art among network cabling practitioners. For example, many of them require special shielding for power and data cables, so that they cannot be simply cut by an attacker. Some outdoors, long-distance CCTVs use fiber optic cabling, which requires special equipment for some operations.
These requirements are not just security theatre. Failing to tamper-proof an exposed camera can compromise it entirely and irreversibly undo any security benefits it might provide.
Even seemingly “mundane” requirements, such as cable length and type, should still be implemented. Using a cable that’s too long, for example, can result in frequent disconnects and data loss, which is simply not something that you can afford in a security system.
In many cases, CCTV camera images are not useful right as they are being taken — and even if they are, they usually still need to be retained (so that they can be handed over to the police, for example).
You are legally responsible not only for the proper securing (and, eventually, erasure) of the data, but also for retrieving data from it upon request. Complying with these regulations requires that you make provisions for controlling access to stored data, and for installing and maintaining the archival system.
Most security systems today come with integrated solutions for archiving, retrieval and access control, but they still need to be setup. Ideally, you should ask your London CCTV deployment service provider for recommendations and assistance in this regard.
Which system you choose depends on your requirements. High-end CCTV systems, with advanced image lookup and processing features, are extremely convenient but exceed the requirements of most small and medium-sized businesses. On the other hand, you will be paying for an inadequate system with your own staff’s time.
Testing security systems is one of those problems that make even seasoned security professionals shiver. If something was overlooked during the system’s design or deployment, finding out about it after a successful attack is mounted can carry disastrous consequences.
At a minimum, testing CCTV cameras should entail:
It may be a good idea to retain samples of video and image recordings from each camera, which you can use as a reference during maintenance.
The Home Office recommends that the performance of a CCTV system be monitored and benchmarked regularly as part of a documented system audit. You can carry out the audit along with the usual maintenance process implemented by your company. Indeed, for many companies, the audit can consist of nothing but viewing recent footage and comparing it with reference data retained during commissioning.
A regular audit can make you aware of any degradation in the system’s performance. It is important to spot any loss of performance – image quality, integration with other devices etc. – before it accentuates enough to impact your security.
The frequency of this audit depends on your installation; for small, strictly-indoors installations with live monitoring (or, at least, with access to a live feed) a monthly routine is usually sufficient. Outdoors installations that are frequently subjected to adverse weather conditions may need to be checked more often.
Loss of function in a security system is not something that you should take lightly. A camera suddenly going down after functioning perfectly for many uneventful years is something that can easily go unnoticed, or be labeled as nothing more than your usual malfunction.
However, the most successful data thefts or break-ins look like nothing more than your usual malfunction.
Problems with your CCTV cameras should be resolved as quickly as possible. Ideally, you and your staff should know who to call and what to do if a camera stops recording or broadcasting, and what additional measures to take.
The best way to ensure this is to have an immediate maintenance plan in action, which anyone who notices something wrong can follow. Most of the chain of action in this plan will likely be internal to your company, but there is a good chance that the end of the chain will require coordination with your London security services provider.
Need to make sure that the deployment of the CCTV system for your London building is a complete success and that it won’t cause problems in the long run?
Of course you do!
Who wants to invest in faulty equipment and installation?
This is why you should work with London’s top security systems installers, ACCL. Take a look at our clients’ testimonials to understand why you can’t go wrong with our skilled installers and give us a call to schedule your free on-site survey.