Caring for your Video Security System
Like any piece of electronic equipment your CCTV security system and its surrounding environment needs to be maintained to achieve and sustain optimal video quality.
This article describes a few of the routine maintenance procedures that should be followed for your system.
First off, the camera.
For both indoor and outdoor mounted cameras, there are some common factors which can adversely affect the performance of the overall system. Outdoor cameras, however, also have to deal with additional stresses arising from their environment.
For all cameras, the following are some basic, routine maintenance tasks:
Remote dust and contaminants. Regularly inspect your camera for deposits of dust and dirt. The lens, in particular, needs attention. Using a very soft cloth or a tissue, gently wipe the lens and the area around it. Gently wipe any dust off the camera housing, cables and connections. Be careful not to bump the camera or change its viewing angle.
Remove spider webs insect infestation. Spiders and insects are often attracted to security cameras. Some insects are attracted to infra red light while others enjoy the heat that emanates from the camera, particularly in winter. Spiders may leave web across the lens which will disrupt the view and may trigger motion detection settings. This will cause motion false positives. Insects, such as wasps, may build nests on or around the camera, cables or connectors. These should be removed.
Outdoor cameras are prone to having their focus or field of view moved by birds landing on the cameras. Regularly check the field of view for each camera and ensure that mountings are secure to reduce the incidence of angle change.
Many cameras rely on infra red for night vision. Regularly check that the IR LEDs are working and that the camera is detecting the cut between day and IR night vision by inspecting live or recorded vision.
Where systems are configured for recording on motion, check that motion events are triggering recording. Where they are not being recorded, confirm that the camera and/or recorder sensitivity is set correctly.
For outdoor cameras in particular, check the camera housing, mounting bracket, bolts, cables and connections for corrosion or weather damage. Replace any elements which have become damaged or corroded. Indoor mounted cameras should also be checked by maybe less frequently.
Check the quality and resolution of live and recorded vision. Changes to lighting at different times of the year or changes to internal lighting may impact the quality of the video. At some times of the year, the sun my rise or set in direct line with the camera. This may damage the lens and will certainly impact the recorded video. Where possible, cameras should not be angled to capture the horizon.
IP cameras are often powered using Power over Ethernet. This power is generally supplied by a special PoE capable switch. Regularly check the switch to ensure that all ports are operating and that cameras are only connected to PoE ports.
IP cameras are little computers and may, from time to time, glitch and require a restart. Regularly check that the camera is operating and power reset the cameras from time to time or when one fails. If the camera is PoE powered, this can be done from the switch or in-stream PoE adapter.
Now the recorder.
The video recorder or VMS is the point at which all of your video recording is stored. It is also the device to which you will connect to view real time and recorded video. The recorder will either be a NVR (network video recorder) or a PC. A NVR looks similar to your home personal video recorder or DVD player. A VMS looks like a PC (actually, it probably is a PC).There are some maintenance issues that you need to observe to keep your recorder operating at peak efficiency.
Ensure that the device has sufficient ventilation. Video is recorded to a computer hard disc and these can run very hot so cooling and ventilation is important. Make sure that there is nothing obstructing the fans and that nothing is stored on top of the unit.
Check all cable connections, power and network, to ensure that there are no broken clips and that all plugs are securely connected to their respective sockets.
If using a Windows PC for VMS software, periodically check that the latest Windows updates have been applied. Ideally, Windows should be hardened. This is a technique whereby unnecessary services and features in Windows are disabled, thereby reducing the probability of virus or intrusion attack. Virus updates should also regularly be applied, as should updates to the VMS software.
Check the time and date settings on the NVR or VMS. Date stamping of video streams is important and incorrect dates and times may hamper investigation into events such as theft. Special care should be taken around changes to daylight saving time.
Finally, I need to mention the environment around the cameras. When originally set up, your cameras would have been directed at the area you need to capture or observe. Over time, changes to that area may occur. In the case of external cameras, many events can take place which encroach on that target area. These include:
Growth of trees or bushes. In such cases, the trees may need pruning or the cameras relocated to recover the required target area.
New structures may be erected in the field of view. These may be on your or adjacent property and will more likely require a relocation of the cameras.
Changes to the use of the area in front of the camera may change. A car park, for example, may now include a bus or truck space which will block the field of view. Again, a camera relocation may be required.
New structures or encroaching trees outside the field of view may not be directly blocking the target area but may alter the lighting by, for example, casting shadow. This may impact the ability of the camera to capture the detail required of the target area. Tree shadows cast may also move in the wind, thereby triggering false positive motion events.
I have written his article from experience in the hope that it will help users of video security to understand that, like any machine or system, a degree of maintenance is required to sustain the system in peak operating efficiency. Video security systems are not “set and forget” and a failure in your system may mean that you do not capture that vital piece of evidence when you really need it.
Author: Craig Colnan