How much does Video Surveillance Cost?

Author: John Honovich, Published on Jan 11, 2009

This report provides rough estimated prices for video surveillance products and systems including cameras, video management systems, video analytics, storage and installation. While such numbers cannot be precise without choosing specific components and knowing site conditions, knowing rough estimates can be very useful.

Why You Should Know Costs

I am a big believer of the importance of knowing costs. Without factoring in costs, many technology discussions turn into pointless debates over what's the absolute best. The reality is that customers care immensely about cost and the relative value of products. Only by knowing costs of competing products and solutions can you determine what is the best solution, what people will buy and ultimately where the market will head.

Assumptions Behind These Estimates

  • The estimates are for the US market priced in US dollars.
  • This is for professional products, not home security/DIY.
  • The estimates will focus on the general case to make it easier to understand the big picture. Detail cases and exceptions can be discussed in the comments.
  • If you believe that major elements are wrong or incomplete, please comment and I will adjust.

The Structure of Pricing

One of the most confusing aspect of prices is that a number of pricing levels exist for each product.  This is a basic element of building, distributing, integrating and buying products.

Let's use DVRs as an example to demonstrate pricing structure:

Pricing Level Amount
Manufacturer's Cost to build the product (e.g. DVR) $1,300
Dealer Price (e.g. how much a large integrator pays) $4,000
Typical Price End User Pays $6,000
Retail Price (MSRP) $8,000

Understanding the differences here is important so if you are not familiar with this, please pay careful attention:
  • Video surveillance manufacturers usually do not sell direct to end users.
  • Manufacturers typically sell to dealers (integrators, installers, defense contractors, etc.). Dealers then mark up the product price and sell it to end users.
  • Manufacturers often use Manufacturer Rep firms and distributors to sell to dealers. While they can be important, from a pricing perspective, their impact is minor.
  • Dealers generally can charge end users whatever price they can get. However, manufacturers do set suggested (MSRP) or retail prices. Typically, dealers charge less than the MSRP.

Whenever someone tells you pricing, you should clarify with them what pricing they are providing - dealer price, MSRP, typical price paid on the Internet, etc.

For purposes of rough estimates, I will use 'typical end user' pricing which is usually 15%-25% less than the MSRP. Even this can vary with small businesses paying close to MSRP and big box retailers paying dealer pricing.

Cost Overview

This table provides a summary of rough estimateed costs for popular products/categories in video surveillance. Below, I will offer comments on each item:

Product Typical End User Price
Commercial DVR, 16ch, 500GB $1,500 - $3,000
Enterprise DVR, 16ch, 1TB $5,000 - $7.000
Analog Fixed Camera $250 - $350
PTZ Camera $1500 - $3000
IP Fixed Camera $400 - $800
Megapixel Camera $500 - $1200
Video Analytic 1 channel software Free - $500
IP video surveillance software 1 channel $75 - $300
Installation/Integration 50% system cost

DVRs

I view DVR products to fall into 1 major categories:
  • Commercial DVRs: record video, allows for searching, provides remote access over the Internet but not much more: average end user price: $1,500 to $3,000
  • Enterprise DVRs: everything that commercial DVRs do but generally supports extensive 3rd party integration (PoS/ATM, Access control, PSIM, etc.), central management of multiple DVRs and often video analytics: average end user price: $5,000 to $7,000
This is not an official segmentation but it is the one I personally find most useful.

IP Video Surveillance Software

With IP video surveillance software, you typically buy the camera licenses separately from the hardware. For example, you buy 16 camera licenses, a PC or server from Dell and a NAS or SAN storage array. Then the video management server is custom built from these components.

Pricing for surveillance software varies widely from under $100 to about $300. The cost variation primarily depends on the level of advanced features supported such as third party integration, centralized management and support of video analytics.

Analog Fixed Cameras

An indoor analog "box" camera with lens generally costs about $250 - $350. Using an outdoor housing can cost another $100. Cameras that support WDR can cost an extra $50-$100. 

Dome camera, which provide better aesthetics, can often cost an additional $100 - $200 more than "box" cameras.

IP Fixed Cameras

Standard definition IP box cameras exhibit great variance in pricing from less than $400 to over $800. This is primarily a factor of varying software features on the camera (security, multi streams, analytics, etc.). A secondary factor is the rapid growth and early adoption of IP cameras that has allowed market leaders to command higher prices.

Megapixel Cameras

Megapixel camera pricing ($500 - $1200) varies primarily by the amount of pixels and the CODEC used. The greater the resolution (1.3, 2, 3, 5 MPs), the higher the price, often in increments of $100 more per resolution level. Cameras supporting H.264 are often $200 more than their MJPEG counterparts.

PTZs

PTZ pricing is significantly higher than both fixed cameras and even megapixel cameras. The pricing ranges from about $1500 to $3000 with the primary drivers being the level of optical zoom (i.e., how far the camera can see) and whether the housing is indoors or outdoors (outdoors being very common given the need to see across long open distances).

PTS are fundamentally mechanically more complex and costly to build. Because of the resulting high comparative price, a lot of interest exists in replacing PTZs with megapixel cameras.

Video Analytics

Video analytics can be deployed on dedicated servers, inside a DVR, cameras or encoders. The type of video analytics and the quality of video analytics can vary significantly. Many manufacturers are increasingly providing video analytics at no or little cost as a way to sell more cameras or recorders. Nonetheless, the price for a single channel of video analytics seems to generally be $200 - $500.

Price should be a secondary concern in video analytics to determining and assuring effective performance.

Installation

For purposes of producing rough estimates, I recommend multiplying the total product costs by 50% to get the cost of installation. For example, let's say you have a 16 cameras and a DVR that cost $10,000, I would estimate $5,000 for installation.

Of course, installation prices will vary significantly depending on the difficulty of installation.

Conclusion

My hope is that this will provide a basic reference despite the fact that a comprehensive reference guide would easily run more than 50 pages. If you have questions or see errors, please share in the comments.

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