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

Blink XT Outdoor Totally Wireless Camera Tested on May 11, 2017
Running wires for cameras outdoors is one of the biggest challenges, especially for consumer or DIY installs. Now, Blink has released an outdoor...
Burglar Alarm Zoning Guide on Apr 28, 2017
The function of an alarm panel is to gather information from sensors and respond to this information by triggering actions. While it is possible to...
Last Day - IP Networking Course May 2017 on Apr 26, 2017
Today is the last day to register for the May IP Networking Course. This is the only networking course designed specifically for video...
Ring Floodlight Cam Tested on Apr 20, 2017
Ring has released their latest entry, the Floodlight Cam, calling it the "Evolution of Outdoor Security", touting motion activated floodlights,...
Siklu PtMP Millimeter Wave Wireless Examined on Apr 18, 2017
Siklu is attempting to make millimeter-wave wireless systems more applicable in the security industry. Two years ago, they started marketing to the...
Bosch B-Series Intrusion Tested on Apr 10, 2017
Bosch is one of the biggest names in intrusion but their B-Series panels, targeted at smaller site installs and available through distribution, are...
Ring Solar Stick Up Camera Tested on Apr 04, 2017
We bought and tested the Ring Stick Up Camera along with the Solar Panel accessory. Inside we report our test result...
2Gig Intrusion Megatest (GC2 & GC3 Panels Tested) on Mar 28, 2017
2Gig is one of the most widely used intrusion systems, with two product lines that are the main offering of many alarm companies, huge national...
Alarm Panic Switches Tutorial on Mar 16, 2017
Panic switches allow silently triggering an alarm system when it is otherwise disarmed. In this tutorial we explain and contrast the 7 most common...
DMP Intrusion Tested (XR Series) on Mar 09, 2017
DMP is a major provider of intrusion systems, but lacks the global brand recognition of some of its rivals (such as Bosch, Honeywell, DSC, or...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Pelco Shutting Down Clovis Line, Laying Off 200 on May 22, 2017
Pelco's Clovis facility once turned out some of the industry's most popular products. Now, the facility is mostly building "obsolete" equipment,...
IP Camera - 15 Year Shootout on May 22, 2017
How far have IP cameras come? We bought and tested 4 cameras across the past 15 years to understand how much and where performance has...
Remote Video Monitoring Providers Directory on May 21, 2017
Remote video monitoring can help integrators generate RMR plus end users lower their security costs and/or improve response to critical...
Axis Criticizes OEMs: "When You Buy An Axis Camera, An Axis Camera Is What You Get!" on May 19, 2017
When you buy a Honeywell camera, you likely get a Hikvision, Dahua or some other company's product. The same goes for easily 100 different...
Hackable 125kHz Access Control Migration Guide on May 19, 2017
Despite being one of the most popular credentials, 125 kHz credentials are easily copied and insecure as we showed in our test results, video...
Forget The Backdoor, "ALL HIKVISION PRODUCTS" On Sale on May 18, 2017
Less than 2 weeks after the Hikvision Backdoor was confirmed, Hikvision has launched a sale "ON ALL HIKVISION PRODUCTS". In this note, we examine...
Amazon Techs Installing IP Cameras Tested on May 18, 2017
In 2015, Amazon started offering video surveillance installation. Now, Amazon has made it a lot easier, with automatic add-on options and...
Hanwha Recorder Vulnerability Analyzed on May 18, 2017
ICS-CERT has released a vulnerability notice for Hanwha SRN-4000 recorders.  Hanwha provided additional information to IPVM about this issue,...
DMP Video Doorbell / Access Reader Examined on May 17, 2017
Consumers increasingly demand video doorbells, with "doorbells selling like hotcakes, everyone wants a doorbell", according to ADT's CEO. At ISC...
ShotSpotter To IPO, Facing Low Revenue and Losses on May 17, 2017
A rare event for North American security manufacturers is upcoming. ShotSpotter is planning to IPO on the NASDAQ, aiming to raise $34.5...

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