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January 16, 2021


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Video surveillance guides

The ultimate guide to DVR systems for buyers, businesses and beginners

In this guide, you’ll learn what to look for when choosing a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) system, know how to determine the best DVR for security cameras, and discover trends and developments in DVR systems for businesses.

A beginner’s guide to DVR systems 

What is a DVR system?

DVR stands for Digital Video Recorders. They allow you to record security footage that your CCTV security camera captures, allowing you to watch it back when you need to. This is paramount to site security. In the case of a security threat or criminal attack, a DVR system will ensure you’ve got security footage as proof, and it will also enable you to identify the assailant. In fact, businesses of all sizes should make a habit of regularly backing up their data, as it safeguards you in the event of physical damage or theft.

DVR systems available today tend to be capable of recording footage from up to 16 CCTV security cameras all at once – known as ‘multi-channel recording’. DVRs also tend to come with hard drives that enable you to store and back up the footage that has been recorded. Alternatively, more advanced DVR products will support cloud storage, or even come with apps that help you monitor live streams when you’re away from your site.

What is the difference between a DVR and a NVR?

While DVR stands for Digital Video Recorder, NVR stands for Network Video Recorder. NVRs use IP cameras which are technologically advanced and have the power to actually record and store video footage on their own – with the help of an internet connection. DVR systems, on the other hand, use analogue cameras. These cameras are unable to store and record CCTV footage themselves. They send unprocessed streamed footage through coaxial cables to a DVR – which then processes the video.

In technical terms: “A DVR encodes and stores video signals, while an NVR stores video that a camera encodes.”

How do you connect your security camera to your DVR?

There are plenty of videos that will show you exactly how to connect your CCTV security camera to a monitor using DVR, with one example below.

What is the resolution feature in a DVR system?

One thing to bear in mind when assessing the resolution feature in a DVR system is the ‘frames per second’ metric, as this will help ensure your recorded security footage is of a high enough quality.

‘Frames per second’ is essentially the number of still images a DVR records in a second. These stills eventually piece together to create a video. Though this might sound archaic, it’s how video footage works – even in the world of Hollywood. A USA broadcast film is shot at 30 frames per second. That means each second of film comprises 30 still images, strung together in succession to create a flow.

The higher the FPS number, the better the image quality. Because DVRs are responsible for recording your video footage, you need to ensure you’re opting for an appropriate FPS. Usually, DVRs allow you to decide the FPS you need – so you could trial and test your requirements on your site. Just ensure you can accurately identify faces, details and changes to high-risk areas.

It’s also not uncommon for DVRs’ marketing materials to reference 400 FPS. While this sounds shocking – especially when compared to the 30 FPS quality of Hollywood Blockbusters – this simply means that the DVR can accommodate a total of 400 FPS, but this figure will be split across the number of CCTV security cameras you have on your site. So, if you have a CCTV system of 20 security cameras, each will achieve an FPS of 20 (400 FPS divided by 20 security cameras).

What to look for when choosing a DVR system

Where can you find the best DVRs for security cameras?

Ideally, finding all of your options in one place will allow you to assess and compare the right one for your premises. The IFSEC Global Directory allows you to search by product and company to find the best security products. By clicking through to each product, you can send enquiries, access a host of additional information and view PDF factsheets about each product. DVR systems can be found here. By comparing products in this way, you’ll also get a sense for how much you should pay for your DVR system, alongside the average cost of DVR systems.

What questions should you ask when specifying the most appropriate DVR system for your site?

  • How high is the FPS?
  • How large an area do you need to cover?
  • How high do you need the resolution and image clarity to be?
  • Will you need to add more CCTV security cameras to your site? If so, this might reduce your DVRs’ FPS potential.
  • What is the field of view of your security camera? What is the lens’ focal length? This might affect the image quality of objects or parts of your site that are further away, resulting in an inconsistent resolution across footage. For example, lenses that are super-wide (180 degrees) are fantastic for overall security monitoring, but are likely to distort facial recognition efforts due to the ‘fish-bowl’ angle, rendering footage unusable.
  • Is audio important?
  • What are the lighting conditions, weather conditions and obstacles that may cloud image quality?

It’s also worth looking into a VMS (Video Management System) to accompany your CCTV security camera and DVR set up, as the average time someone can focus on video footage is 20 minutes: “VMS or in-built analytics can alert you to suspicious activity and apply analytics, improving the way you run your business.” If you’re considering installing cameras with built-in analytics:

  • Don’t rely solely on sales brochures – speak to manufactures
  • Know that VMS can be difficult for DVR manufacturers to integrate, simply due to the “amount of graphical work involved in importing user interfaces”
  • Understand whether it’s user-friendly
  • Find independently tested software

Best DVR for security cameras

What are the best-rated DVR systems?

According to Tech Radar’s article ‘Best DVR for security cameras in 2021: digital video recorders for CCTV’, some of the best Digital Video Recorders include:

  • Sansco S4D4C1T All-in-One Smart CCTV Camera System
  • ZOSI 8CH Security Camera System HD-TVI Full 1080p Video DVR Recorder
  • ANNKE 8 Channel Security Camera System 1080p
  • Samsung Wisenet SDH-B84040BF 8
  • OHWOAI Home Security Camera System
  • Westshine 16 Channel 1080N DVR 5-in-1 Hybrid

There are many more options, however, so it’s worth viewing IFSEC’s online marketplace of DVR systems to help compare.

What do the best DVRs for security cameras have in common?

As we mentioned in our introduction, the best DVR systems for security cameras will offer additional features, such as app integrations that allows you to watch recorded footage – or live footage –anytime, anywhere, even when you’re not on the site. And of course, the higher the FPS, the better the DVR.

Some of the best DVR systems will also include night vision, motion detection and motion detection alerts (which are signalled to you on an app), the ability to use your own hard drive, long recording times, and of course, a great user interface.

Trends and developments in DVRs systems for business

According to a Strategy Analytics survey spanning across France, Germany, the UK and the US: “The transition from traditional security systems to interactive systems that can be monitored and armed/disarmed with an app from a computer, laptop, tablet, smartphone or smart speaker is nearly complete.” The transition has also led to an average of 20% more revenue per subscriber on account of enhanced capabilities, with consumers feeling prompted to adopt smart home capabilities.

Likewise, as computers become more and more powerful, the security sector is welcoming an exponential rise in video analytics and “the explosion in volumes of data generated, processed and stored.” Naturally, both integrators and installers are eager to develop their skillsets to capitalise on this growing trend, and shift their business model to not only survive, but thrive in this new marketplace.

We’ve also witnessed an evolution in product flexibility, with the likes of Hikvision – which grew from a minor regional player to the biggest video surveillance brand in the world – embedding an open platform programme on its network cameras. Designed to ensure that third party analysis, detection and recognition applications can be downloaded and installed to run on its network cameras. Naturally, that gives integrators a choice around which application, service or system management components they use alongside Hikvision hardware.

Meanwhile, on a macro-scale, “smart cities are expected to improve the quality of daily life, promote sustainable development and improve the functionality of urban systems.” Naturally, this will be bolstered by the rise of security systems which work in tandem with urban planning to reduce crime and safeguard our cities. Video surveillance and video analytics are likely to play an important part in that, strengthening the DVR market.


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