Are Your CCTV Cameras Broken?

Author: John Honovich, Published on Dec 01, 2010

Broken cameras are some of the most common and, ironically, solvable problems in video surveillance. Not only does this undermine confidence in users, it hurts public perception as broken cameras are viewed as wasted money.

A good example of this is a scathing critique by the UK's "Big Brother Watch". In their 23 page, anti-CCTV screed, the most common and compelling argument is how often cameras are broken.

Over the years, we've seen similar issues over and over again in different cities, applications, products, etc.

While most surveillance problems are the result of manufacturers, out of service surveillance systems are often the result of poor planning by security end users.

We see 3 core issues:

  • Failing to budget for long term system costs
  • Underestimating outdoor issues
  • Factoring in wireless maintenance costs

Let's break them down.

Failure to Budget

When deploying a system, almost all the attention goes to the cost and functionalities of the new products. While this is no doubt important, ignoring the costs for ongoing maintenance/monitoring is a common problem.

We understand that it can be hard for security end users to 'go back' and ask for more money. Tight budgets, security as a cost center, lengthy allocation processes, etc, etc. However, if you don't figure this out up front it will lead to ongoing problems (even with the 'best' products and installations).

Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox
Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox

As a rule of thumb, users should allocate 10-15% of initial installation price for annual service costs. If you spend a million dollars on a new system, you should have at least $500,000 to maintain it over the next five years. For background, review our LinkedIn discussion on pricing for maintenance contracts.

Underestimating Outdoor Issues

Outdoor cameras are significantly more likely to fail than indoor ones due to the elements (storms, heat waves, blizzards, cold freezes, hurricanes, monsoons, salt water, etc., etc.). While the specific conditions will vary by geographical region, cameras outdoors will fail.

Making matters worse is that servicing equipment outdoors is more difficult and costly. If the cameras are mounted high or out of the way, you often need to deploy a bucket truck to make even a simple repair.

Outdoor servicing can get quite expensive and can often result in delays (coordinating the right equipment to the site, etc.)

If you have a lot of outdoor cameras, it is especially critical to ensure you have a funded maintenance plan in place.

Secondly, if those cameras are PTZs (and outdoor cameras are often, if not usually PTZs because of the large areas covered), they are much more likely to fail than fixed cameras. For instance, most fixed cameras come with 2 to 3 year warranties but most PTZ cameras only have 90 day warranties (when they "are at any time used in continuous motion applications" - see the Axis warranty terms as an example).

Wireless Costs

Maintaining an outdoor wireless video surveillance system is much more complicated than a wired one. Every few months a new 'horror' story arises. The most recent is Scranton, PA's surveillance system. Also take a look at a good discussion we had in 2008 about other wireless failures.

In surveillance, wireless connections are generally unlicensed, low power and sensitive to obstructions. Unless it's very well designed and properly maintained, the chances that many of your wireless links fail is extremely high. Making it worse, many security integrators (and even IT integrators) are not wireless experts and can be hard pressed to optimize these systems.

Public Deployments - the Highest Risk

Because public, city wide deployments consist of almost entirely outdoor cameras and often wireless, these are the projects most likely to suffer from serious outages. And, as many examples attest, this is something that happens all too often.


Related Reports on Wireless

July 2018 IP Networking Course on Jun 22, 2018
  This is the only networking course designed specifically for video surveillance professionals. Register now. Lots of network training exists...
S2 Access Control / 'Unified Security Management' Profile on May 08, 2018
In our 13th access control company profile, we examine S2 Security's Netbox platform: Unified Security Management Platform positioning Core...
IP Network Hardware for Surveillance Guide on May 02, 2018
Video surveillance systems depend on IP networking equipment. In this guide, we explain the key pieces of equipment and features, explaining where...
Favorite Access Control Manufacturers 2018 on Apr 26, 2018
150+ Integrators told IPVM "What is your favorite access control management software/system? Why? Unlike the 2016 access favorites where a group...
ISC West 2018 Access Control Rundown on Apr 06, 2018
For ISC West 2018, what is new and interesting in access control?  This rundown will bring you up to speed on the exhibitors, what they are...
The 5 Major Lock Profiles Guide - Euro, Oval, KIK, Interchangeable Core, Mortise on Apr 03, 2018
Locks are used everywhere, but they are not all the same. In fact, even the shape of the lock changes, sometimes for no other reason than...
70+ New Products Directory Spring 2018 on Apr 02, 2018
We have compiled a list of new products for Spring 2018 in the categories: Video Surveillance Access Control Fire and Intrusion Other...
Wireless Networking For Video Surveillance Guide on Mar 29, 2018
Wireless networking is a niche in video surveillance applications, but it can be a difficult one to understand with proper wireless design,...
IPVM Camera Calculator User Manual / Guide on Mar 09, 2018
Learn how to use the IPVM Camera Calculator. The guide below includes instructions, images, gifs, and videos demonstrating and explaining the...
Cellular (4G / LTE / 5G) For Video Surveillance Guide on Mar 06, 2018
In this report, we explain using cellular for video surveillance including: 4G vs LTE vs 5G 4G standards 5G future Advantage: Placing cameras...

Most Recent Industry Reports

July 2018 IP Networking Course on Jun 22, 2018
  This is the only networking course designed specifically for video surveillance professionals. Register now. Lots of network training exists...
Installation Hardware for Video Surveillance - Indoor Fasteners on Jun 22, 2018
As part of our Installation for Video Surveillance series, in this note, we cover drywall anchors. A key part of installing security hardware is...
Hikvision ColorVu Integrated Visible Light Cameras Examined on Jun 22, 2018
When it comes to low light, infrared light has become the defacto standard in surveillance. But IR is limited to monochrome images, making colors...
'Secure Channel' OSDP Access Control Examined on Jun 21, 2018
Despite claiming to be better than Wiegand, OSDP's initial releases did not address the lack of encryption between reader and controller, leaving...
Most Wanted Improvements In Manufacturer Technical Support (Statistics) on Jun 21, 2018
5 key areas of improvement and 1 clear wanted support feature were voiced by 140+ integrator responses to: What improvement in manufacturer...
GDPR / ICO Complaint Filed Against IFSEC Show Facial Recognition on Jun 20, 2018
IPVM has filed a complaint against IFSEC’s parent company UBM based on our concern that the conference violates core GDPR principles on...
IFSEC 2018 Final Show Report on Jun 20, 2018
IPVM attended the IFSEC show for the first time this year. The Chinese took over the show, centered on Hikvision, flanked by Dahua, Huawei and a...
Mobotix Releases 'Move' Into 21st Century on Jun 20, 2018
For years, Mobotix stood resolutely against, well, every other manufacturer, selling it as a virtue: MOBOTIX equipment is designed with no...
Cybersecurity Startup VDOO Disclosing 10 Manufacturer Vulnerabilities Starting With Axis And Foscam on Jun 20, 2018
Cybersecurity startup VDOO has uncovered significant vulnerabilities in Axis cameras along with many others not yet disclosed. In this report, we...
Axis Guardian - Cloud VMS And Alarm Monitoring - Released on Jun 19, 2018
Axis has struggled to deliver a cloud-based managed service video platform. Video service providers have utilized AVHS for over a decade, and have...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact