Small School Video Surveillance Recommendations

Author: John Honovich, Published on Oct 27, 2009

What's the best video surveillance solution for a small school? Schools are a fast growing market for video surveillance and one of the most successful markets for IP video.

In this report, we examine the needs of an actual school and examine what solution would fit best.

[Update: The report now features 40 comments discussing and debating a variety of options. While using IP cameras with storage built-in was attractive, the two best fits for the school are likely to be (A) a mixture of analog and megapixel cameras connected to a hybrid DVR or (B) all IP cameras with free software loaded on a 'normal' PC.]

Background of the School

This US elementary school does not currently have a video surveillance system. Driven by recent vandalism problems, the school would like to add a moderate amount of surveillance video.

The school is independent and the system does not need to be integrated with other campuses.

School Staff

Like many smaller schools, the school does not have full time security staff. They do have in-house IT expertise and a Gigabit LAN with ports in each classroom. They plan to monitor their own system.

With their in-house IT expertise, they are open to installing the system themselves.

School Building and Camera Coverage

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The school is a 3 story building with dimensions approximately 150' x 105' (40 meters wide by 30 meters long).

The school is planning for 10 surveillance cameras. The school notes:

"It would require probably 5 outdoor cameras and 5 indoor cameras.  Indoor would be 1 in gym that would cover the whole gym, one in the main entrance, one at the stairs to the second floor, one looking down the long hall where the classrooms are and one between the cafeteria and kitchen covering the cafeteria.  Outdoor would need to cover main entrance looking toward the main road, in the back covering the a/c units and back door, in the front covering the door and exterior stairs, and probably two on the long side - one covering the a/c units and one at the other end covering the door there."

Local Bids

The school has received multiple bids from local installers to provide 11 analog cameras, a DVR with 500 GB storage, monitor and full installation. The average bid is $6,000 USD. While the bids do not specify the make or model of the equipment, given the price, it is likely entry level/ lower quality products.

Key Concerns

From talking with the school, here are a few key concerns:

  • Price: While price is not the only concern, it is a key one. It is unlikely that the school will want to spend more than the price of the bids it has received from local installers for analog systems.
  • Resolution: Using analog cameras for the outdoor monitoring and gymnasium likely will not deliver sufficient quality needed to identify people.
  • Cabling: Since the school already has network drops in each classroom, IP could reduce the cost of buying and installing cabling. However, the additional cost of the IP cameras may offset these costs. Also, there are only 2 drops in each classroom and these are currently used for academic purposes.

Potential Options

Here are a few potential options given the school's key issues:

  • All analog: Go with one of the existing local bids recognizing the risks of insufficient resolution or the need to add more cameras in the future to increase coverage.
  • Hybrid approach: A hybrid approach could be used combining an analog encoder card or hybrid DVR with some analog cameras (for the hallways) and IP megapixel for the gymnasium and outdoors. This would keep the cost of hallway cameras low but will be more expensive for the hybrid DVR (compared to free single vendor IP solution).
  • Single Vendor IP Solution: A single vendor IP solution would allow for megapixel cameras, free IP video software and flexibility in storage and computer selection. A downside is that the indoor analog cameras for the hallway would be significantly more money. Also, the school would be limited to the camera selection of that vendor and the functionality of the single vendor's free IP video software which tends to be less capable than open IP video software.
  • Multiple Vendor IP Solution: A multiple vendor IP solution would likely provide the highest quality IP video software and the flexibility to choose the best IP cameras from a variety of manufacturers. However, the IP video software will likely cost $1,000 while the single vendor IP software is free.

What Do You Recommend?

Given the constraints on cost, what specific product offerings do you think would work best in this scenario?

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