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

'Clowns' Allege Ubiquiti 'Completely Fraudulent' on Sep 20, 2017
A short seller has alleged Ubiquiti is 'completely fraudulent'. Ubiquiti's CEO has responded calling them 'clowns'. Here is the short...
September IP Networking Course on Sep 14, 2017
LAST Chance - Registration is ending. Register now. This is the only networking course designed specifically for video surveillance professionals...
FLIR Lorex Wire Free System Tested on Aug 29, 2017
Wire free video surveillance is a major trend amongst consumers. But wire free systems tend to be designed for few cameras, lower resolution and...
Ubiquiti FrontRow Camera Tested on Aug 24, 2017
Ubiquiti is famous for low-cost wireless network equipment, a common choice for wireless video surveillance applications. The company has expanded...
Honeywell Total Connect 2.0 Tested on Aug 22, 2017
Honeywell is one of the biggest brands in security, with Total Connect 2.0 being the company's remote security and smarthome platform. We bought...
Startup Strops Completely Wireless Surveillance Camera Examined on Jul 28, 2017
European startup Strops has developed a surveillance camera that offers up to 6 days of runtime and cellular communications to create a fully...
Bosch G-Series Intrusion Tested on Jul 26, 2017
Bosch is one of the biggest names in intrusion, and the company's G-Series panels are their most advanced commercial and high-security panels. But...
Wireless Burglar Alarm Sensors Guide on Jul 21, 2017
Wireless sensors for burglar alarm sensors are an increasingly common option for the historical labor intensive wired alarm systems. However,...
Smoke Detectors Guide on Jul 06, 2017
Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors add a life-safety component to burglar alarm systems. As intrusion detection sensors are used to...
"The Armed Robbery Epidemic" - NRF on Jul 06, 2017
The National Retail Federation (NRF) Protect 2017 featured a session titled: "The Armed Robbery Epidemic: How to Stay Safe". IPVM attended this...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Avigilon 'Blue' Cloud Entry Examined on Sep 19, 2017
Avigilon is moving to the cloud. The company announced their Avigilon Blue platform, designed to be a web-managed surveillance system, utilizing...
HID Buys Mercury Security on Sep 19, 2017
One of the biggest access control deals in years. Mercury Security, the most widely used access hardware OEM, and partner to 20+ manufacturers,...
Hikvision Backdoor Exploit on Sep 18, 2017
Full disclosure to the Hikvision backdoor has been released, allowing easy exploit of vulnerable Hikvision IP cameras. As the researcher, Monte...
Avigilon Touting 'Made In America' on Sep 18, 2017
Canadian manufacturer Avigilon, who completed a US manufacturing facility in 2015, is now running a marketing campaign touting 'Made In America',...
Cloud Guy Prints Book, Misses Irony on Sep 15, 2017
On-premise security systems are dead. But $75 print books are alive and well. Such are the lessons from Brivo's CEO new book "The Five...
Forgotten Password Problem Importance on Sep 15, 2017
Forgotten passwords has become a major industry topic. For example, Hikvision has been emailing admin passwords in plain text until IPVM's...
September IP Networking Course on Sep 14, 2017
LAST Chance - Registration is ending. Register now. This is the only networking course designed specifically for video surveillance professionals...
Hikvision Launching Ezviz Pro on Sep 14, 2017
Hikvision is launching Ezviz Pro. In 2015, Hikvision expanded Ezviz, a direct to consumer offering, to North America. Now, Ezviz 'Pro' is...
Genetec Launches Community Connect Examined on Sep 14, 2017
Genetec has done best in large-scale, enterprise systems and relatively worse in smaller systems such as SMB. Now, Genetec is launching...
Master Keying Tutorial on Sep 14, 2017
Mechanical keys are the most fundamental, albeit unsophisticated, form of access control. Like access control, Master Keying allows large scale use...

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