Due diligence. It’s a term used frequently in real estate and business dealings, and also applies to organizations buying security equipment for the first time.

Technology leaders and security specialists seeking to purchase video surveillance systems and digital video recorders are becoming well versed in the precepts of due diligence, the key outfitting their buildings with the most efficient and cost effective equipment.

From understanding encrypted data to migrating from analog to digital systems, there are several specific considerations that government agencies need to make before embarking on a purchasing venture.


1. Does the data have to be encrypted?

Data, in this case, refers to video surveillance; encryption refers to the process of converting that data into a form that can’t be readily understood by unauthorized people. If an organization does not require data to be encrypted, then no extra steps are required. However, if the application does require encryption, end users can view a checklist of manufacturer options to determine if there is an existing infrastructure to handle it. Agencies that require encryption need to do business with a manufacturer that provides that service. While the encryption must meet government standards, in some cases, end user organizations may prefer to use their own encryption.

2. Interoperability of new and old equipment

Companies consistently ask themselves how much of the legacy equipment can they use if they purchase a new digital video system. The propositions can get trickier: Can the organization buy a digital video recorder from Company X if its cameras were purchased from Company Y? Can the organization use its existing keyboards to control the new equipment?

The answers lie with the manufacturers, most of whom publish data sheets that will describe the compatibility of each product and application to guide the end user through the system design. In many cases, an end user will hire systems integrators or consultants to go through checklists to determine which products are compatible. And in most cases, the integrators or consultants are savvy enough to ask the right questions.

The bottom line is simple; if the equipment is not interoperable, the cost of replacing it will be exorbitant. Labor costs alone can very often be more expensive than the cost of the new equipment.

3. Migrating from analog to digital

Many organizations are converting from using traditional analog VCRs and multiplexers to digital video recorders, benefiting from the technology’s immediate access to important data. Users can play back an event in a split second after it happens, while the digital videos can be transported via CDs, network or thumb drives, ensuring a solid chain of evidence in court.

4. Who’s in charge of administering/ maintaining once migration takes place?

Once the migration to digital video takes place, it is vital that someone with PC experience take charge of the process. Some companies have been able to use or convert their existing IT manager, others have found the hiring of a professional DVR security manager more beneficial. Either way, someone needs to take ownership of that function.

As is true for most companies, a security group usually has to meet with finance officials to justify the cost of hiring a new administrator. Additionally, a decision needs to be made whether the agency will use one network or two. While running e-mail functions and digital video functions on one network can be less expensive, some operations just don’t want to put the physical security component on the same network as e-mail.

5. A question of price

Issues of storage, bandwidth and picture quality all factor into the pricing. If pricing is critical and the operation needs to record just certain events, then the price will be lower. However, companies that foresee themselves requiring a lot of storage should buy from a manufacturer that offers the best compression technology for digital video. Compression technology refers to the manner in which video frames are compared and analyzed.

Specifically, companies with no restrictions on bandwidth can invest in premier digital video technology, in which compression is targeted to the highest picture quality. If, however, bandwidth needs are limited and specific image detail is not a concern, customers can select a manufacturer with a compression technology that uses less bandwidth.

For perspective, casinos require high image detail because security personnel need to see specific details occurring at card tables and other locations throughout their facilities.

6. Is accessibility a key factor?

Many operations need to determine how accessible the data – or video surveillance – needs to be. Accessibility to video does not occur in the same manner as civilian security. For example, if a bank is robbed, an FBI agent will go to the bank’s security room and download a video clip from a DVD or VCR. The investigation is done at the point of the crime.

In many organizations, though, the investigation occurs in a monitoring center via remote means where the data – or video surveillance – is centrally stored. Ultimately, organizations should seek manufacturers that provide remote access for data.

7. Network deployment considerations

Network deployment and network topology are very important considerations in the realm of buying decisions. If surveillance is spread over a local area network, then bandwidth is not an issue. But if the security is spread over a wide area network – with varying high and low speed access points – the security operation needs to work with a manufacturer that provides the proper equipment.

These considerations should serve security executives well as they embark on buying security equipment for the first time.