Analog VS. Digital Security Cameras: What’s the Best Option for Your Atlanta Business’s Security/CCTV System?
Technology is ever-evolving, and that holds true in the realm of CCTV security systems, too. Now, businesses are finding that they have a choice. If they already have an analog system, do they upgrade? Is it worth it? And if they are just establishing their security system, should they choose analog or digital CCTV security cameras? If your metro Atlanta-based business is in one of these two categories, you want to make sure you are making an informed decision based on the needs and budget of your company. For this purpose, we put together a list of the pros and cons of both analog and digital video surveillance cameras.
A Primer: Analog vs. Digital Video Surveillance Cameras
The main difference between analog CCTV and digital (IP) CCTV is the method by which video is recorded and delivered. Analog cameras record images and then send the signal over a coaxial cable to a DVR (Digital Video Recorder). The DVR converts the video from analog to digital signals, compresses the file, and stores it on a hard drive. Monitors need to be hooked up to the DVR to view the video, or the DVR can be connected to a router and modem to broadcast it over the internet through an internal network.
Digital security cameras on IP-based CCTV systems, on the other hand, record the images digitally to begin with. Then, they can receive and send data over a computer network rather than going through a DVR first. This method nixes the boxy setup with multiple ports in favor of an NVR, which is typically a simple software program that can be run on a device dedicated solely to operating the NVR or on a complete system.
Which Security System is the Better Option?
This is not a simple question to answer, as there are advantages and disadvantages to both analog and digital security camera systems. If you’re going to make a decision, be aware of these pros and cons and weigh them appropriately for your business’s needs.
Analog Security Cameras
- Cost: Analog cameras tend to cost less, sometimes even a lot less, than their digital counterparts on a per camera basis.
- Simplicity: DVR is easier to set up and understand for most. It is one unit with one cost, and the installation is a bit more straightforward.
- Lower Bandwidth Requirements: Analog recorded video files tend to be smaller, and they are transmitted to the DVR over coax instead of LAN, so transmitting them doesn’t take as much bandwidth and doesn’t tax your network as much. Plus, DVRs also usually only transmit the information and use bandwidth when someone is viewing the video, rather than on a more constant basis.
- More Design Options: With a wider variety of analog camera designs, you may have an easier time finding a camera model with all of the features you need at a lower cost.
- Cabling: Because the cameras need to be connected to both the power supply and the DVR via cables, you tend to have a lot of wiring to handle, even if you use cables that bundle video and power. Furthermore, coax cables are usually more expensive on their own than the Cat 5 or 6 counterparts used for digital systems.
- Image Quality: The image quality on analog cameras is pretty low. Most smartphones today have higher resolution. As a result, details at a distance may be grainy, making it difficult to identify potential suspects in an incident with a high degree of confidence. Moreover, there’s no digital zoom. If you try to zoom in on something on analog video, you’ll likely get an image that is even more blurred and grainy.
- Coverage Area: Typically, analog surveillance cameras have a much narrower field of view than their digital counterparts, so you may need more of them to cover the area you need.
- Positioning Limitations: Because analog cameras need to be connected to the DVR, you have to keep these cameras within a reasonable range of the device, or you risk diminishing the reliability of the connection. As a result, you become more limited on where you can place your cameras.
- Port Limitations: DVRs have only so many ports on them, so you can only connect a limited number of cameras to them. If you want to exceed this number, you’ll probably have to get a second DVR.
- Wireless Capability (or Lack Thereof): The reality is that analog wireless systems don’t work very well due to government regulations regarding analog frequencies and signal strength. As a result, other wireless devices and even fluorescent lighting can interfere with and distort the video signal.
- Encryption: Analog signals can’t be encrypted, typically speaking, meaning that it could be easier to for unwanted eyes to view the signal.
Digital Security Camera Systems
- Image Quality: The image quality from digital security cameras is significantly higher than analog, with many cameras capable of recording and transmitting high-definition video. Plus, digital cameras are more likely to have digital zoom features, which can have zoom distances over 100ft.
- Coverage Area: A single digital camera can cover an area that would require three or even four of its analog counterparts. As a result, you may require fewer cameras and be able to maintain security surveillance over a wider area.
- Fewer Cables Needed: Instead of individually wiring each camera with power and then cabling each camera to the DVR, digital systems can have multiple cameras connected to a switch, and then all of those cameras on the switch can be connected to the NVR with a single cable.
- Positioning or Port Limitations: Because cameras merely need to be connected to your LAN network in order to connect to your NVR, you are no longer limited by the distance between cameras and the video recorder. As the NVR is software-based and does not have ports, you also eliminate that limitation as well.
- Power over Ethernet (PoE): Power over Ethernet switches enable your signal cables to provide power to the cameras as well, reducing the need for those additional cables.
- Wireless Capability: Digital security camera systems are very good at operating within a wireless network. They are not susceptible to the same kinds of interference that affect their analog counterparts, so you can easily view a live feed from more remote locations if desired.
- Encryption: A lot of digital security cameras have encryption built in, so your data is safer from the beginning of its journey to its end.
- Setup Complications: If you don’t have the network set up already and the switches in place, these can increase the cost and labor involved in your CCTV installation, regardless of the fact that you’d need fewer cables overall.
- Higher Initial Cost: The cameras and equipment (aside from cables) tend to cost more on an individual basis compared to their analog counterparts (though you might need fewer of them, so the costs may balance out).
- High Bandwidth Requirements: IP security camera systems usually require a lot more bandwidth than analog ones. Between the higher resolution and higher frame rate, even with compression, you’re looking at around 720Kbps, and that’s before considering the newer cameras that have megapixel resolution. As a result, this could drive your costs up.
- Storage Requirements: Higher resolution and higher frame rates mean larger files, so you’ll need a lot more storage space on your hard drive to accommodate them.
Which CCTV System Should You Go With? Analog or Digital?
The best option for your business will depend on your company. The good news is that a unique and customized solution is available through the knowledgeable professionals at Customer 1st Communications, who are experts in business security systems and CCTV. Conveniently located in the metro Atlanta area, we work closely with you to determine what your company’s security needs are and how best to meet them within your budget, and we offer a FREE consultation as well. To schedule your consultation, give us a call at 855-TECH-C1C (855-832-4212) or contact us online and one of our representatives will help you get started.