Network security camera systems, also known as IP camera systems, are some of the nicest cameras and surveillance systems available on today’s market. The high definition resolution and remarkable fluidity do come at a small price. We’re not talking about dollars here, but rather a time investment. You’ll probably find yourself needing to add a few steps to your installation procedure that you wouldn't have had with an analog system.
*Please note that these instructions are general and only pertain to wired (hardwired) IP or network CCTV security camera systems. Any installation that follows these instructions is intended to take full advantage of all the features and components in your entire surveillance system.
Are your stress levels rising?
As we've done in previous articles, we’re going to take a brief pause. We suspect that you’re already not loving the idea of moving forward with an installation like this. We’re going to take this moment to re-establish some confidence. When we say “extra steps” we do not mean difficult ones. It’s not that any of this is very difficult; it’s usually just a matter of there only being one right way to do things. This is very much one of those situations where it would behoove you to follow the instructions provided. In doing so, you’ll ensure the effective and fast completion of your entire installation.
The best place to start with any installation is acquiring the hardware that you’ll need to get everything working together. Don’t let the list overwhelm you. We promise to make life simple again when all is said and done.
Needing cameras for a CCTV surveillance system is obvious. What’s not so obvious to most people is the specific type of camera. The majority of consumers aren’t aware of the fact that different types of cameras even exist, so here it is in black and white. You must have IP cameras if you plan on installing an IP camera CCTV system.
If you plan on recording your video feed, you’ll need a video recorder to do so. The device specifically intended for IP cameras is the network video recorder (NVR). While the NVR and DVR serve the same purpose, they do it in different ways. Your typical NVR will not have any "video in" ports on the back like the DVR does. This is because you’ll usually be attaching your IP cameras to a network switch instead (we’ll get to this). Similar to the DVR, you’ll need a hard drive(s) installed inside the unit for the video to record to. The size of the hard drive you’ll need will ultimately depend on how much video back-up you think is necessary and the rate at which you’re recording. There are NVRs available that have network ports built into the back. If you decide to go this route, you’ll be able to bypass purchasing a switch as you’ll now be able to attach the cameras directly to the NVR. The only real disadvantage to going this route other than an increase in price is that if something goes wrong with a network port, you’re out the whole NVR while it’s being fixed.
You don’t need anything crazy since we’re not talking about wireless here. If you already have internet service, you probably already own a router for it's wireless capabilities. If not, something simple will do (Netgear, Linksys, etc…). Once you have it, ensure that it’s connected to your internet modem provided to you by your internet service provider (ISP). We don't recommend using a router provided by your ISP because you'll often only have limited access to the device and service providers love to give out old, and often malfunctioning, hardware.
These switches are very simple and convenient devices and they are, generally, unheard of by the majority of the population. The switch is just going to connect to your router with a length of Cat5 cable. At this point, the switch has just become an extension of your router. All you’ve really done here at this point is add additional usable network ports to your router. This is what you’ll end up connecting your cameras to unless you have and NVR with built in ports as we previously mentioned. You can certainly connect your IP cameras directly to your router if you have enough open ports, but even with smaller systems, you probably won't have enough.
Unlike analog CCTV systems, you’ll be using Cat5e, or Cat6 cable here instead of Siamese cable or coaxial cable. Do not try and save money here by using ordinary Cat5 cable instead of Cat5e; it just won’t work. From a technical standpoint, your shopping experience for cable should really start and stop with Cat5e. The Cat6 cable will work just fine for you, but you’ll be paying for something you don’t need for your system to function at full capacity. We’d recommend purchasing this cable by the spool instead of in pre-made lengths in order to save money, and to ensure that the cables are exactly the right length. If you do end up purchasing your cable by the spool, you’ll need to make sure that you also purchase the RJ45 connectors for the cable as well as the RJ45 crimping tool needed to attach the connectors.
You certainly have some options here. Most of the cameras you’re able to purchase will come with an individual power supply that can be used with that particular camera. These individual power supplies will work just fine for you but they lack longevity. After about a year and a half, these power supplies will hit their lifespan and die out. The bad news is that these will need to be replaced with some frequency, but the good news is that they’re relatively cheap. All you need to do to replace one is to find one with an identical output (i.e. - 12 volts 1 amp). We’d recommend having a couple extra in reserve. If you’d like an alternate route, a power distribution box is another option. A power box will be a little bit larger of an investment but it won’t need to be replaced every year or two, and won’t require you to have multiple power supplies all over the place or a daisy chain of surge suppressors. Your final option is a power over Ethernet (PoE) switch. There are network switches available out there with PoE ports built into them. This means that the switch will be acting as the power supply for the cameras. Note that this option is only possible with cameras that have the PoE feature built into them. This is easily the best route to take as long as you’re able to. It’ll eliminate the need to run any additional power cables or use any dedicated power supply at all.
You don’t need to purchase a monitor by any means, but unless you luck out, you’ll have to access the video recorder prior to having access to it through your network. This is done by using the on-screen keyboard, mouse, and attached monitor or television. All you need to do at this stage is change the network settings within the unit to match your own personal network that you’ll be using it on. Once this step is completed, you’ll most likely find yourself never needing to connect a monitor to your NVR again. You of course have the option to permanently hook a monitor or television up to your NVR if you’d like , but it isn’t a requirement.
A computer is absolutely required during installation and setup, but after that, it’s just something that’s nice to have around as an option. Since your system will be tied into your network, you’ll be able to use your computer to access your NVR and therefore your camera feed. As far as the installation is concerned, you’ll need to use your computer to configure the cameras. Network cameras also have built in network settings and just like the NVR, and like the NVR you’ll have to change those settings using a configuration tool to match your own personal network and to avoid creating any “IP conflicts.”
Even though we previously said don’t let yourself get overwhelmed, you probably have some questions at this point. It’s a lot to take in and we can sympathize. If you’re completely lost, it’s probably better to sit down with someone who knows what they’re doing and that can help you set this all up (i.e. – a licensed installer). If your confusion or questions are limited to minor details, a phone call to a tech support department or sales representative who knows what they’re talking about is all you’ll probably need to get you back on the right track.
Step 1: Purchasing
Find a reputable retailer or seller of CCTV security products. Find reviews, look at forums, do whatever you have to do to gain as much information about the product as possible before making any kind of investment. It’s very easy in this industry to end up with junk. Sites like eBay and Amazon have created a platform for anybody to sell anything. What they’ve also done is create a place where sellers can say whatever they want about their products since it’s completely unregulated. Beware that everything does not necessarily come as advertised through sites like these. You might have the idea that going through these smaller guys will save you money but all you’re really doing is shooting yourself in the foot. Assuming you get exactly what you need, that’s all you get. Any hope of future technical support is gone. The only time these people are going to want to help you is when you’re buying something. You get what you pay for.
Step 2: Preparation
Preparation can mean different things to different people. What we mean here is just getting everything together and ready to install. Part of this will mean getting your cable cut to the right lengths and getting those connectors attached. Also, as we discussed, you’ll want to configure your IP cameras and NVR at this point as well. The idea of this stage is do everything you need to so that when you plug everything in and turn the power on, it just works.
Step 3: Camera Installation
By now, you should have established where these cameras are going to be placed. In addition to pre-drilling holes for the mount, make sure that you take into account that the camera has its own cabling that you’ll need to pull through the mounting surface. In other words, drill another hole large enough to pull that cable through. Once you’re done pre-drilling, pass the camera’s cabling (pigtail) through the mounting surface and mount your camera.
Step 4: Cabling
Since your cable has already been prepped, start by attaching the cable to the IP camera. If you have to run a dedicated power cable, connect this at this time as well. From here, just snake your cable back to your switch, NVR, and/or power supply (whichever one applies to your setup). If you need to run conduit at this stage, do so, but only after having tested the cable. You’ll also need to run a Cat5e/Cat6 cable from your NVR to your switch or router in order to tie it to your network. For that reason, it’s a good idea to place your NVR, modem, router, switch, and power supplies as close to each other as possible to avoid having to run all over the place.
Step 5: Adding Cameras
This step is required for everyone who hasn’t directly connected their cameras to the back of their NVR. Your cameras will need to be powered on at this stage. You’ll need to use the “Remote Device” feature that’s on the main menu of your NVR. From this page, click the “IP Search” button. If you configured your cameras properly to your network, you’ve connected them to your network, and your cabling is all good, you should see the IP addresses that you established for them displaying in this menu now. By checking the boxes to the left of them and pressing the “Add” button, they’ll be added to your NVRs device list. From here, make sure that the status column for each camera is displaying green and not red, and click OK. If your status column is displaying red, you more than likely have accidentally created an IP conflict. This will just mean going back and re-configuring that particular camera to a different IP address.
Step 6: Test
At this point, you probably already have everything powered on, but if not, go ahead and flip that switch. If you still have your monitor or television connected to your NVR (recommended), you should already be able to see the live feed coming from your IP cameras. If you need to make small adjustments to them, now would be the time. With everything up and running, this marks the end of your installation. By using the NVR’s IP address, you’ll be able to view your camera feed from your internet browser, software, or Smartphone application. For the time being, your viewing will be limited to local access. For additional information on viewing option, please be sure to view our articles on remote viewing.