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Frank Cullen discusses: IP Cameras vs. Analogue Cameras

Choosing a security solution which best meets your business or residential needs can be a daunting task. With a variety of different security cameras on the market, it can be difficult to know which to choose. In this blog post, Mercury Security & Facilities Management’s CEO, Frank Cullen, discusses the difference between IP and analogue cameras.

At Mercury Security & Facilities Management, we get a lot of enquires from customers wishing to upgrade from analogue cameras to IP cameras. They are often worried about their current system and do not understand the difference between IP and analogue.

How powerful is IP/high-definition surveillance technology these days? In recent times there has been an explosion of increasingly sophisticated IP (internet protocol) cameras coming on to the market.

Have you ever seen pictures of suspected criminals on TV? Think of Crimewatch, for example. They ask the general public to assist in identifying individuals but the images are often out of focus with lots of grain. This grainy footage from the analogue security camera only gets hazier and coarser when zoomed in for a closer look.

However, all is not lost! As we have seen IP cameras arrive on the market, no longer will your CCTV security camera footage have to consist of the poor quality, badly focused images that we’re used to seeing on analogue CCTV for years.

What is an IP camera and what is the difference between this and an analogue camera?

IP stands for Internet Protocol and refers to a digital video camera that can send and receive data via a computer network, as opposed to sending a feed to a (DVR) Digital Video Recorder.

When we speak of picture quality and evidential image quality, the best analogue surveillance camera at this time still can’t match the worst IP camera when it comes to the resolution of the image it captures. Today’s IP cameras capture a much wider field of view than the analogue cameras. A single IP camera is potentially able to do the job of a few analogue cameras.

Another important consideration is flexibility and scalability. For example, in a traditional analogue DVR set-up, each camera must be connected directly to the DVR (Digital Video Recorder). IP cameras can side-step this through the use of switches, which allow cameras in close proximity to each other to be connected to a single switch, which then runs a single wire to the NVR (Network Video Recorder).

This saves money and reduces the amount of cabling runs required. This ultimately makes it less labour intensive and allows the connection of more cameras. This is because you are no longer limited by the number of ports on your DVR.

On top of that, using a POE (Power over Ethernet) switch allows your Cat 5e or Cat 6 cable to run the signal, providing power to your camera and removing the need for a distinct power supply.

From a technical standpoint, the two recorders differ in where your CCTV video footage is actually processed. With an analogue system, a DVR (Digital Video Recorder) is responsible for this. In an IP set-up this is completed in-camera and then streamed to the NVR (Network Video Recorder). In reality, an NVR is a software program.

Our technical experts here at Mercury Security & Facilities Management say that network video recorders (NVRs) and servers are the future of CCTV video recording. When DVRs and other once cutting edge technology become a thing of the past, NVRs are software-based and unlike digital video recorders, the video is encoded and processed directly in the camera and then streamed to a device for storage.

You do not need to spend a fortune to obtain a fit for purpose CCTV/IP system and we accept that when you are looking at a new CCTV system, the components, configuration options and features available in today’s CCTV market create a complex set of purchasing options.

A single IP camera can take the place of 4 to 5 similar analogue cameras due to the increased coverage area. It is important to remember that while a single unit may cost more, you’re ultimately buying fewer cameras which means more savings for you.

Switches allow you to connect more cameras per NVR than you’d be able to connect to a DVR. So depending on the size of your set-up, you’re buying less recorders as well, provided you keep an eye on the capacity and make sure your NVR can handle it. Processing from analogue to digital takes place at camera level meaning that redundancy exists for a safer and more robust system for you. For further security, data over the system can be encrypted for better protection of you, your family and your assets.

It’s very important for you to remember separate power sources aren’t necessary for IP cameras if you use a POE switch, so you can save money on power supplies. Easy to install and no wiring needed, IP camera systems provide greater flexibility when placing cameras and designing your overall security protocol.

Mercury Security & Facilities Management are happy to provide you with further information on the capabilities and limitations of a CCTV system and its workings that will aid you in procuring a new fit for purpose CCTV system or upgrading an existing one. To receive further information, please contact Sharon Kirkpatrick on skirkpatrick@msfm.biz or call Mercury House on 02892 620510