Cameras are more plentiful than ever before. They’re used in all kinds of surveillance and security systems, not to mention the fact that many people use their phone primarily as a camera now. Deciding how serious to get about your video security systems can be a difficult choice for small and medium businesses, because the gear and cloud solutions get fairly pricey. On the other hand, having a proper recording of just one incident can bear out the value of having your camera system in place. This week we’ll show you what you need to know about building up your cloud- or network-based camera system.

Consumer-Grade Cameras

The most popular network camera systems are the most affordable ones, like Wyze, Ring, and Blink. They all offer indoor and outdoor cameras with varied features and power sources. The way they are powered is really important, since these are expected to be DIY products that you install and configure yourself. Before weighing the other options, make sure you think about how to get power to wired units, and whether or not changing batteries makes sense for the position of some of the cameras.

Each of these companies offers an app that you can control the cameras from, or they can be integrated with your Alexa or IFTTT. Each also has their own modestly priced cloud storage which scales with how big your setup is. It should be pointed out that Ring products don’t offer local storage, and that Wyze and Blink offer small devices for video storage–devices that can hold a month or two of recordings.

Typically, these systems cost a few hundred dollars for hardware, with cloud subscriptions ranging from free to $60/month.

Network Video Recorders

A step up from the consumer-level items is what’s called a Network Video Recorder (NVR), which has replaced CCTV and DVR systems in the recent past. These are devices that act as a brain for the attached cameras. These systems typically have eight or more channels and the cameras are usually connected to the device with an ethernet cable. The NVR typically has a hard drive in it, but most will have some option for cloud storage and remote access as well. NVR devices are commonly found at your local big-box stores and have many features that vary by brand and model: hard drive capacity, resolutions up to 4k, and even spotlights and sirens.

Since the NVR is a part of your network, it needs to be carefully planned out with your IT team. This is not just for practical reasons, such as accessing the camera feeds on your network, but also for storage and cybersecurity purposes. These are, after all, network connected devices that need security updates and can be prone to vulnerabilities. Beyond that, a lot of what your NVR can do will depend on a video management system that has advanced features like alerts and “AI” search tools.

Typically, these systems cost a few thousand dollars, with cloud subscriptions of $100—$400/year, depending on the number of cameras.

Professional Systems

Of course, beyond these solutions, you can find professional systems that meet higher standards and have safeguards like a fallback cellular connection, which will keep backup and monitoring available during a disruption to the internet connection. For businesses who need video for incidents or loss prevention, and who presumably submit video to law enforcement from time to time, solutions need to be as robust as possible and meet guidelines for chain of custody—which is likely to become more important in a world of deep fakes.

-Written by Derek Jeppsen on Behalf of Sean Goss and Crown Computers Team