The best security camera systems will help small business owners deter theft from shoplifters and employees, deter property damage from vandals, assist in monitoring employee and contractor work, and document everything in detail so it is available for insurance providers or law enforcement.
We did the research and talked to pros in the industry. Here’s everything you need to know to choose the best security cameras for your business.
Below, we cover security cameras and security camera systems that you (or a contractor) can install yourself. They do not include having a alarm systems or a security firm monitoring the feeds. If your business has complex security needs, we recommend consulting with ADT.
The Best Security Camera Systems for Small Businesses – DIY
The first thing we’re going to look at are the best security camera systems. They include multiple cameras that all hook into a DVR or NVR to store your footage. If you need to monitor a large space from multiple angles, you will want to consider one of our recommended DIY security camera systems.
We’ll cover all the technical details in depth lower in the article.
|IP Ratings (Full Details)||IP66||IP66||IP66|
|Field of View||Bullet 75°||Bullet 85°|
|130° - 20°|
|Cloud Storage||Yes (Extra)||No||Yes|
|Mobile App||Apple & Android||Apple & Android||Apple & Android|
The Best Standalone Security Cameras for Small Businesses – DIY
The second thing we’re looking at are standalone security cameras. These standalone security cameras are plug and play and most have have internal storage via MicroSD cards. If you only need one or two cameras to monitor your business, then a standalone security camera will be a good, affordable option.
|Field of View||78°||78°||78°|
|Frames per Second||25||25||30|
|Pan/Tilt Range||350° x 100°||320° x 120°||N/A|
|Storage||MicroSD Card slot up to 32 GB||MicroSD Card slot 32 GB recommended||MicroSD card Slot up to 128GB|
Best Security Cameras For Small Businesses – A Detailed Overview
Now that you’ve seen the summary table for our security camera recommendations, let’s dig into the details and feature of security cameras. Make it through this and you’ll walk away an expert.
- Common Features of Security Cameras
- Picture Quality
- Field of View (FOV)
- Fixed vs. Pan/Tilt/Zoom (PTZ)
- Irises – Fixed, Manual, and Auto
- Motion Sensing
- Infrared Night Vision
- Analog (CCTV) vs. IP (Internet Protocol)
- Video Storage
- Power Source
- Indoor vs. Outdoor and IP Ratings
- Advice from the Security Camera Pros
- DIY or Professional Installation
Common Features of Security Cameras
There are many, many security camera options out there. It can be difficult to compare the various options, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the terms. Here are the most important terms to familiarize yourself with when choosing a new security camera.
A security camera’s picture quality is impacted by two things: resolution and frames per second
Resolution is based on the number of pixels making up the image. We might be more familiar talking about resolution in regard to our televisions. It’s the same idea. Standard resolution is 480p and full HD is considered 1080p. The more pixels in the image captured by your security camera, the clearer the image will be. However, that extra information will also take up more memory space.
Frames per second is how many pictures are taken during one second. 30 frames per second is considered real-time. Going above that probably will not add much to your capabilities but will cost more and take up more memory space.
Field of View (FOV)
The camera’s field of view is what it is able to see. The wider the angle, the more it will be able to see. However, the more the camera is able to see, the less detail the image will have. Likewise, the narrower the angle, the less it will be able to see, but the greater the detail.
Fixed vs. Pan/Tilt/Zoom (PTZ)
Fixed security cameras are set to one position when they are installed (for example, on the front door or the cash register). They can’t move their gaze up or down or rotate unless adjusted manually.
PTZ security cameras can pan left and right, tilt up and down, and zoom in or out. For this reason, PTZs can do a lot more work than your average fixed camera. The flexibility gives you greater field of view and more flexible camera coverage. Plus, adjustments are very fast. High-end versions will respond automatically to motion but most will require you to adjust the camera from a program (desktop or mobile).
Irises – Fixed, Manual, and Auto
The camera’s iris is the opening that lets light into the camera which is critical for capturing usable images. Too much light will wash out your image. Not enough light and the image will be too dark. The appropriate iris for your security camera will be determined in large part by the lighting in the area you plan to surveil.
A fixed iris comes with one setting and can’t be adjusted. These will work in a setting that is always well lighted with few light level variations.
A manual iris can be adjusted manually to let in more or less light. Because it is a manual adjustment, this is typically done during installation. After that, it works like a fixed iris unless other manual adjustments made.
An automatic iris has a mechanism that adjusts the opening in response to changing light conditions. This is a feature that is particularly important for effective outdoor cameras or in areas where daylight impacts the rooms lighting significantly.
Security cameras with motion sensing capabilities can do a lot of nifty things.
Most security cameras will need to be on and recording in order for the motion sensing capabilities to work. If they detect motion most systems will have an alert system and either email, text, or send push alert to your smartphone to alert you to the motion. From there, if you have remote access you can log in and view the video feed.
Some security cameras have the capability to start recording only when they detect motion. This can save a lot of memory space. Other more advanced security cameras will have the ability to track and focus on motion.
Infrared Night Vision
A security camera that can continue to capture usable images when the lights go out is extremely helpful. Infrared security cameras can do exactly that because of the IR LEDs placed around the edge of the camera lens. While IR cameras can take usable images in complete darkness, a little ambient light will increase the quality of the image drastically.
Analog (CCTV) vs. IP (Internet Protocol)
When people refer to analog (CCTV) and IP security cameras they are making a distinction between how you access the camera’s footage.
Analog (CCTV or closed-circuit televisions) security cameras record an analog video signal. That data is sent over coaxial cable to a DVR (digital video recorder) for storage. You would then hook monitors up to the DVR to view the footage. Some DVRs are capable of hooking up to the internet so that you can access the feed remotely.
In most cases analog will require more wiring than IP. Also, Analog security cameras have pretty limited resolution compared to IP cameras, which means reduced image quality. They also don’t have great compatibility with wireless cameras. That said, analog cameras typically cost less than IP cameras.
IP security cameras send digital video data over the internet or a LAN (local area network). The data can then be directed to cloud storage or to an NVR (network video recorder) or both. IP security cameras are capable of much higher image resolutions. Also, they work much better with wireless cameras than analog. While they are a little more expensive than analog cameras, their versatility and ability store and transfer more image data makes them well worth the investment.
Your security cameras need somewhere to store all the footage they’re recording. How they store the footage is often determined by what kind of cameras you have.
Analog, or CCTV cameras, will require a DVR (digital video recorder) to store the footage. The DVR will come with a certain number of ports to connect your cameras and a certain amount of memory space to store your footage. Make sure to double check you have sufficient ports and memory for your purposes. The video data will be stored internally on the DVR which is located on premises with the cameras. This can pose some risk of losing video data (fire, theft, tampering, etc) if not otherwise backed up.
NVRs (network video recorders) are used in conjunction with IP cameras. NVRs also have a certain number of ports however, by employing switches, you can actually connect many more security cameras than with a DVR. Similarly, there is a certain amount of memory space. Also, this too is an on premises device. The key difference being that the Ethernet cables allow you to send more data over longer distances without suffering the data degradation that you do with the coaxial cable used with analog systems. So you can place the NVR further away from the actual cameras.
Cloud storage is most often associated with IP cameras. Essentially, you send your video data over the Internet to a storage company’s servers and access the footage whenever you want via any device with an Internet connection. It can be used as the sole means of storage or as a backup to a NVR or DVR.
MicroSD cards are another method of storing data. They are inserted directly into the cameras. Some cameras have this capability and others do not. You can use this as your primary recording method or as a backup to other methods. The downside of using this as a primary method is that your data’s safety is directly linked to the cameras safety. Loss through theft, accident, or tampering is increased.
Security cameras do a lot for your small business, but they can’t do it without power.
Many security cameras will need to be wired to the building or plugged into a nearby outlet. If directly wired, a certain amount of professional skill is required and can make setup price and timeline increase. If the camera requires an outlet, that can put limitations on camera placement and increase the chance your cameras can simply be unplugged (both accidentally and intentionally).
Some IP cameras can be get power over Ethernet (POE). Rather than running separate cables for power and video, the Ethernet cord serves both roles. This makes for much easier installation and much more flexibility in the camera placement.
Certain security cameras will be battery operated. Some will use batteries as their sole power source (especially true for wireless, standalone cameras). Using batteries as the sole power source has the obvious downside of your batteries dying just when you need security footage most. On the other hand, this is a great feature to have as backup.
Indoor vs. Outdoor and IP Ratings
There are two reasons you might want a different camera outdoors than indoors: light/distance requirements and protection from the elements.
The International Protection code (aka IP code, aka Ingress Protection code) rates cameras on how protected they are from dust/grit (rated 0-6) and how protected they are from humidity/water (rated 0-8). The rating lists the dust number first and liquid number second. So the rating will read IP24, IP67, etc. The higher the number, the better your security camera will be able to stand up to the outdoors.
We chose IP66 for our recommendations because they will stand up to even severe outdoor environments. Basically, unless they’re completely submerged, IP66 cameras will hold up just fine.
Keep in mind that even though most indoor cameras can’t be used outside, many outdoor cameras are suitable for both indoor and outdoor surveillance.
|Dust/Grit (1st IP number)||Humidity/Water (2nd IP number)|
|Rating 0-6||Protection||Rating 0-8||Protection|
|0||No protection provided.||0||No protection provided|
|1||Protects against >50 mm. Large objects, like the back of the hand, etc.||1||Protects against vertically dripping water.|
|2||Protects against >12.5 mm. Objects the size of fingers, etc.||2||Protects against vertically dripping water when tilted up to 15° from its normal position.|
|3||Protects against >2.5 mm. Objects like most tools, thicker wires, etc.||3||Protects against water falling (drip or spray) at angle of 60° or less.|
|4||Protected against >1 mm. Most wires, most insects, etc.||4||Protects against splashing water from any direction.|
|5||Dust-protected. Dust is not totally prevented from entering, but it won’t let in enough to hurt the equipment.||5||Protects against water sprayed from a nozzle from any direction.|
|6||Dust-tight. No dust can get in.||6||Protects against water sprayed from a jet from any direction.|
|7||Protects against immersion in water of up to 1 m (low pressure).|
|8||Protects against immersion in water of greater than 1 m (higher pressure).|
Advice from the Security Camera Pros
We spoke with Scot MacTaggart, Product Manager for Security at PSX, a national security firm. Drawing from his over 12 years of industry experience, he shared with us the top ten questions a business owner should ask themselves before installing security cameras.
- Why am I doing this? Is it realistic to expect this investment to pay off? Video is great for catching a thieving employee, but catching strangers is harder. Many small business owners get their hopes up that the police can identify and arrest suspects with video. That’s not always the case.
- Is there enough light in the areas I’m watching? Yes, many cameras have night vision capabilities, but night vision still misses a lot of detail.
- Are we doing enough to reduce or discourage crime? Better natural sight lines, better morale, electronic access control, all of these things reduce crime. Any of these options are better than taking a loss then trying to recover from it.
- What can I afford? Budget is an uncomfortable question for a lot of people. The problem is that there is a system for every budget. Just because you can afford it does not make it the right system. Going back to lenses and usable details, a cheaper system is made for broad views, not fine details. If you need to capture the moment when someone is putting a stolen wallet in their pocket, a low-cost system probably won’t work.
- How much will a loss cost me? Sure, you hate graffiti, but how much did it cost you? You’re already paying for the paint and the labor to apply it. Is it worth hundreds or thousands of dollars in video investment to catch a tagger?
- Have I considered all the possible uses? If you’re buying a system to catch a vandal, the system may not pay for itself. But maybe you can expand the system to eliminate time clock fraud, vending machine vandalism, and make sure the sales floor is always covered in ordered to improve the return on investment.
- What do I already have? A lot of times, this question is about cable and network resources. There’s a lot we can do to reuse existing wire and jacks these days.
- How long will it take to notice a theft or loss? If your video evidence overwrites itself every three days, you’d better make sure you don’t ever close for a three day weekend.
- How can I team up with my landlord and neighbors? Although it is now cheaper than ever, video is still expensive for most small businesses. Talk to the landlord and neighbors before committing to a go-it-alone plan.
- Do I have a good area to install the storage? For maximum life and stability, the storage area should be around 70 degrees, 50 percent humidity. The location should not be so obvious that an intruder can easily find and destroy your video evidence.
DIY or Professional Installation of Your Security Cameras
When considering security cameras for your small business you need to decide whether you want to select and install the cameras yourself (DIY) or consult a professional.
Technological advances in the security camera industry have made DIY options very competitive. Installing a system of wireless IP security cameras that store your recordings in a cloud based system really takes no more technical knowhow than setting up your smartphone. The hardware is basically plug and play and many of the settings are controlled via an app.
But the more complex your security needs, the more value a professional can bring to your business. For instance, if your small business has a large amount of square footage to surveil, if the lighting varies significantly, if you need variations in picture quality and detail, if you have security employees that will need constant access to the system – these are all reasons to engage a professional and lean on their expertise.
Bottom Line: Best Security Camera Systems
Security camera technology has come a long way in recent years. Now the best security cameras are essentially plug-and-play and are easily installed. And with the information in this article, you should be able to identify what cameras will work best in your business’s space.
If your business has complex security camera needs, or you want to incorporate other systems like burglar alarms, we recommend consulting with ADT.
Security camera systems are one component of reducing theft. If you’re a retailer, another critical tool for preventing theft is your inventory management. Read our guide to using Lightspeed POS to reduce retail theft.