Given the times, it is generally easier to invest in an IP (Internet protocol) camera for surveillance than in an analog camera system. But it is important not to write the analog camera off. When it comes to pricing and overall availability, they are hard to beat. However, there are considerations to make on both sides. While analog systems come with a smaller price tag to begin with, IP camera systems allow for a much greater degree of flexibility.
Making your choice between these two systems requires a solid overview of what each type offers. Whereas an IP camera system is the go-to in a digital age, there are arguments to be made for an analog camera system as well.
What Is an IP Camera System?
An IP camera system is a series of video recording devices hooked up through a network video recorder (NVR). This is usually a mass storage device with an embedded operating system designed to store high quality digital footage, either for storage purposes or to be viewed live.
Furthermore, NVRs allows for a degree of additional processing, including running the video through a series of sensors to detect smoke in the video, count heads, track certain colors, and so on. It can even be connected to an alarm system to go off when an individual crosses a specific colored barrier on the floor.
NVR systems record and process video within the cameras themselves, and then send the processed video to the storage device. These cameras can be wireless but are usually powered through the same ethernet cable that connects them to the network. This is also safer than a wireless network, because it requires physical access to the storage device.
Overall, IP camera systems are gaining in popularity and availability. Once the cutting edge, they are becoming the norm. Furthermore, NVR systems can be simplified through the use of switches, minimizing the cabling by having several cameras in one area feed into a switch, with one cable per switch feeding back into the NVR rather than one cable per camera. However, there are limitations.
What Is an Analog Camera System?
An analog security camera system captures video that is fed back through Ethernet over Coax or UTP cabling into a digital video recorder (DVR). This device then converts the analog video into digital and stores it on its hard drive.
The DVR is either connected to a set of monitors, or the footage can be viewed over a local network or the internet using a router and modem. Through the DVR, you can keep track of the footage, view it, roll it back, and manage your storage.
The installation and set up is quite simple. You have one DVR, and a cable for each camera. However, there are some drawbacks.
Considering the Pros and Cons
The advantages to an analog system are simple. For one, it is cheap. Analog cameras are less expensive than their digital counterpart. However, it is important to note that this advantage does come with a caveat. As analog cameras and DVR systems continue to age, we reach a point where IP camera systems will overtake the market and crowd out analog cameras, making them harder to come by, making both maintenance and replacement a major issue. However, these are still long-term problems.
DVRs are also quite simple to setup. Ultimately, this simplicity becomes an advantage for the analog camera system. And because the video tends to be of a lower resolution and 30 frames per second or less, video files on analog CCTV systems tend to be smaller, which lowers the bandwidth requirements, and allows you to store more footage on a cheaper and smaller hard drive.
The disadvantages become obvious as well, however. First is file quality. You are going to be hard pressed to find an analog camera that truly captures high quality film. The end result is almost always going to be grainy due to its standard resolution, making it difficult to figure out who you’re looking at in any given video, if they are not wearing distinctive clothing. Consider this – many smartphones today capture video that is much higher quality than anything you are going to get from an analog camera.
Then, there is the amount of cabling. You need more than one cable per camera, as each camera needs power as well as a cable to transmit video. Because DVRs have a limit to how many cables you can run to them, you may have to consider a second DVR if your surveillance needs are quite large. Coax cables tend to be more expensive than the Cat 5 or Cat 6 cables usually used for IP cameras. And because of the lower quality of the equipment, analog cameras must contest with IP cameras on their field of view. Analog cameras tend to capture less then IP cameras do.
The advantages for IP cameras include far better image quality, including potential 4K resolution and higher if need be. This allows you to truly analyze footage, down to the text printed onto an item a shopper may be holding. Because the cameras only require one cable and the cables can be fed into a switch to reduce the port limitations of the NVR, you can effectively have a much larger number of cameras per NVR and live with far less (and cheaper) cabling. IP camera systems also function wirelessly, and all video is encrypted on many models, if you so choose. This can make it harder for other people to potentially intrude on your data and steal your footage.
But of course, IP camera systems do not come without their own list of disadvantages. Storage requirements and bandwidth requirements is a big one. All that high-quality footage needs to go somewhere, and high resolution, high framerate footage can be quite big even after compression.
This, alongside the significant bandwidth costs, makes it unrealistic for many CCTV systems to have very high-resolution video. However, you can still reasonably capture video files that are much clearer in quality than anything you would get on an analog system. All that, however, comes at a price. IP camera systems are still more expensive and more complicated to set up, typically with larger labor costs associated with installation.
Making Your Choice
It often comes down to price, as the winner in terms of quality is the digital system. But investing in a digital system can be quite a painful financial burden for some businesses. You have to consider if it’s worth the investment, or if you are better off using older technology for the time being.