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Buyer's Guide

So you have decided to protect your business assets, your family, and yourself.    

        Smart move.

However, your excitement to get the perfect system is almost immediately crushed by one little thing: you know virtually nothing about security systems, except it involves cameras, wiring, and a recorder. 

Well stop worrying and get to learning!


1. The first, and most important thing to do is set a budget. Like any purchase, buying a security camera system without a premeditated amount is a recipe for disaster. For example, you may decide that $300 is your limit for a home security system, or perhaps your company has a maximum of $30,000 to secure the property. A little price comparison can pay off in the long run. 

2. Remember, you get what you pay for. Think on this: a client's car was vandalized while parked on the street in view of the camera. However, the position of the car was just far enough that the existing camera system could not help in identifying any useful information to take to the authorities. Oftentimes upgrading to a camera that is $20 more can mean the difference between justice and an arrest or you watching the footage over and over hoping for some kind of clue.

With this in mind, let's get to the good stuff!

System Selection

The first thing to decide is what type of system do you want to run. We're going to look at some typical system setups below.


The determining factor for what kind of quality you want and how far you want your system to go, is cabling.

The types of systems most common, in order from worst quality to best quality, are as follows: Analog, Analog High Definition (AHD), Composite Video Interface (CVI), High Definition-Transport Video Interface (HD-TVI or TVI), and Internet Protocol (IP). 

For almost every cabling situation, except IP cameras, an RG59 siamese cable will do the trick. This dual cable provides you with the ability to connect video, audio and power in one product. If you are running an IP system then you have to have some sort of ethernet cable, whether that is a Cat5 or a Cat6 depends on your personal preferences. 

                 RG59 Siamese Cabling                                              Cat5 Ethernet (IP)

                        CBSA1KB                                                               CB5E1KB


*Do keep in mind that at distances greater then 300 feet video quality can become an issue. Check with one of our sales associates if you think this could affect you.

The good news is most of the cabling we sell comes with the connectors already attached at pre-made distances. This is how we recommend purchasing cable unless you have a security installer who knows what they are doing!


                         60ft BNC Pre-made Cable                   100ft CAT5E Pre-made Cable

                                      CBMC60B                                             DPCAT5100


IP cameras are almost identical in structure: connector -> cable -> connector -> NVR. The difference here is that IP cameras run entirely over Cat5 and Cat6 ethernet cables. This is a fantastic utility because not only do the video and audio run through the ethernet cable, but power does as well! This eliminates clutter and headaches that come with having to use more than one cable. With this knowledge, you can now understand the difference between an inexpensive Analog camera and an IP camera. The IP cameras are among the most expensive cameras comparatively, however, we price them competitively so they are well worth the money. Additionally, if you decided to purchase a Pan, Tilt, Zoom (PTZ) camera, all of the motor functions are ALSO run through the ethernet cord.


All systems, except for IP, will most likely have Bayonet Neill–Concelman (BNC) connectors regardless of the type of cabling running from the cameras to the DVR.

With that in mind there are many different types of BNC connectors to fit a wide variety of cabling. For example RG6 BNC connectors (video and audio only), and RG59 BNC connectors, (also known as siamese cabling - both video and power in the same cord).

                                        BNC Connector                                   CAT5e Connector

                                            BNC-RCA                                                 K3001


BNC connectors can be connected to cables in different ways such as twisting on the cables by hand or using compression connectors. Twist-ons are cost-effective and relatively easy to use because compression connectors require buying and figuring out how to use a special tool to use them. However, compression connectors are more likely to last longer and have a reduced amount of issues in the long run.

Digital Video Recorder (DVR) or Network Video Recorder (NVR)

Which will I need: a DVR or a NVR?

You will need a DVR for most any system, except for an IP setup. IP cameras require a NVR.

There are many aspects that go into fully understanding a DVR or a NVR, but in this introduction, you only need to understand how to answer two questions. First, how many channels should I get? And second, how much memory do I need?

The right number of channels is an easy determination. Channels essentially determine how many cameras you can hook up to the DVR or NVR. a four-channel system can host up to four cameras. If you plan on expanding your camera system in the future, it will be a good idea to buy a DVR or NVR that can hold more cameras than you initially want. This will save you $$ when you move to a larger location, or you want an extra camera in the blind spot at home.

In the security world, memory is often referred to as HDD or Hard Disk Drive. Because of the ability to compress memory into smaller and smaller units, we only sell memory by the Terabyte. 

Two things can help you in deciding what memory to buy: 1) memory is not set in stone, meaning that you can always upgrade your memory (add HDD); 2) changing out memory requires opening the DVR or NVR and switching the internal components (not something most people want to do). Remember that generally the difference between one Terabyte and two Terabytes is around $25. 

The table below shows a rough estimate on how many Terabytes you would need for your system. These were gathered together using averages, so some cameras require less memory, while other will require more.

24 hours of non-stop HD recording on 4 ch, 8 ch and 16 ch DVRs/NVRs
Recording channels


2 TB

48 TB

4 channel

14.6 days

29.2 days

700.8 days

8 channel

7.8 days

15.6 days

374.4 days

16 channel

5.4 days

10.8 days

259.2 days


The Power Supply

Just like DVRs and NVRs, you have two options: power supplies or PoE switches (Power over Ethernet). All systems, except IP, will operate mainly on regular power supplies. The reason IP systems are different is that it uses an ethernet cable, which means you must have an accompanying PoE switch.

When picking power supplies, there are three things to consider:

1. The number of channels.

If you have a 16-channel system, selecting a 9 port power supply will cause you problems. This is because each camera will run corresponding to the red and black power cables to each port. The only time you could circumvent this issue is by powering the camera locally into an outlet with a dedicated power supply rather then running the cable to the power supply itself. Running dedicated power supplies is going to get very expensive, very fast. A typical 18 channel power supply is around $50. A relatively cheap dedicated wall plugin power supply starts around $7.50. There are sometimes though that you have to run dedicated power supplies no matter what depending on the distance and camera specifications. 

2. The type of current: AC (alternating current) vs DC (direct current).

Generally, DC power supplies are cheaper and perform well. However, when distance comes into play, AC power supplies must be used because they are capable of pushing power over large distances.

3. The number of amps.

A good rule of thumb is that the more amps you have, the stronger your electric current will be.


When it comes to monitors, we cannot emphasize enough about having the correct type! While typical monitors purchased for computers or televisions will run your security system, they are not meant for constant 24/7 use. Ultimately, regular computer monitors or even televisions will die much faster than a specifically designed monitor that can handle 24/7 surveillance. For your peace of mind and ease of access, every monitor we sell on our site is a rated security camera monitor. This means for you that in the long run you get more bang for your buck.

                                                                19 Inch DH-LCD-19



For most camera system setups there are two main camera types: Dome cameras and Bullet cameras.

If you are using, or want to use, an Analog / AHD cameras, then you must consider the number of TV lines (TVL). Essentially, the higher the number, the better your picture. Relatively the same concept in TVI/CVI and IP cameras: you are going off of megapixels, the higher the number the better. 

                                                                    2MP TVI Photo 


                                                               Analog TVL Cameras


Next is focal length which is expressed in mm and a higher number means a bigger zoom, while a lower number mean the lens can be used for wider shots. As a rough reference, the human eye is said to see about the equivalent of 30-50 mm on a full frame camera. 


Infrared or IR is the next thing to consider. Almost all cameras today have a night vision setting that kicks on when it gets dark. The distance a camera can see at night is largely determined by the number of IR units that camera has. The larger the number the better it will see at night.


The last point to mention is Wide Dynamic Range (WDR). Put simply, it describes an attribute of an imaging system that can record greater scene details, than normal, from shadows to highlights . 


That said there are many other configurations on the market that fill certain niches. Fisheye cameras give you the ability to manage a 360 degree field of view, box cameras tend to be far sturdier (and bulkier) then typical bullets. Covert cameras let you catch the nanny pocketing your grandfathers watch. and PTZs give you the mobility you need to scan and zoom for an actively secure wareshouse.

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