It’s not just network security that companies are worried
about today. It’s also important to protect your physical assets; that includes
IT equipment such as servers, workstations, routers, etc., but it also includes
non-IT assets: printed copies of documents, the money in the petty cash drawer,
even the paintings on the walls.

Video surveillance has been a mainstay of companies’
physical security systems for a long time, but today those systems can
integrate into your network to allow you to monitor what’s going on at the
office from anywhere in the world, over the Internet. And there are solutions
appropriate for the smallest businesses up to the enterprise level.

This isn’t your father’s CCTV

In the past, video surveillance was usually done via Closed
Circuit Television systems. CCTV cameras plug into monitors for live monitoring
or for recording to video tape. The quality is often poor and the cost for
better quality equipment is relatively high. That’s why the surveillance camera
footage that you see of break-ins and robberies on the news are so often grainy
black and white images that make it difficult or impossible to identify the
perpetrators of the crime. Companies that use CCTV/VHS often keep the tapes
only a short time, such as a week, due to cost of blank tapes and storage space

Digital Video Recording (DVR) presented a big step forward.
Although the cameras are still closed circuit, they record to a digital video recorder
(in essence, a specialized computer with a hard disk). That means better
recording quality, no worry about changing tapes or tapes getting tangled up in
the machine. It also makes it easier and cheaper to keep recordings for a
longer period of time and to search the recordings for the event you want.

The next step was to connect the computer/DVR to the
network, so its recordings could be accessed and played remotely on another
computer on the LAN or across the Internet. You could see the recordings
immediately after they were made, but you still weren’t seeing the events

IP-based cameras solve that problem.

Smile! You’re on candid Webcam.

The IP surveillance camera, also called a network camera,
has a Web server built right into the camera itself. You can plug it into an
Ethernet network or get a wireless model that communicates with your network
via 802.11 technology. The Web server has its own IP
address and can stream its images through your network to the Internet without
being connected to a computer. You access the streaming video through a Web
browser. The Web site is password protected so that you have to know the IP
address, user name and password to access the images.

Software that comes with popular models of network cameras
will allow you to archive the video to a hard disk and monitor more than one
camera on the same screen.

Starting small

Network cameras can be had for surprisingly low prices. For
example, the Lorex Video Module is a very compact
color camera and standalone Web server combination that supports up to 640×480 resolution. The included camera is fixed but you can also
get an optional pan/tilt head camera. The camera connects to the server module
via USB, and the module connects to your router or switch via Ethernet. You can
get a frame rate of up to 20fps. The server module supports the following
SNTP, BOOTP, DHCP, FTP, and SNMP. The fixed camera has an adjustable focus lens,
a 350,000 pixel CMOS and infrared LED for night time surveillance. This
packages costs
just $139.99 from a popular Internet vendor

If you have more to spend, D-Link offers a family of network
cameras. The DCS-6620G is a wireless model that has a 10x optical zoom lens,
low light sensitivity, autofocus, and a built in
microphone so you can listen as well as look. It has motorized pan, tilt and
zoom that you can control remotely. You can zoom in on a person’s face or a
license plate number for better identification. It records in both MPEG-4 and
Motion JPEG formats. The audio functionality goes both ways, so that you can
attach a speaker and talk to the subject remotely (for instance, when you have
the camera mounted at a door to monitor who’s ringing the bell). You can
monitor via the Web or D-Link’s IP surveillance software, which allows you to
manage up to 16 cameras simultaneously. Of course, all these advanced features
come at a price: around $800 to $900, depending on the vendor (for more info,

Scaling up

CCTV systems are often limited in the number of cameras
supported, especially at the low end of the cost scale. IP surveillance systems
scale more easily. Even the lowest cost systems usually allow you to monitor
several cameras at once, and this is a limitation of the software, not the
hardware. IP systems can scale from one to thousands of cameras. It’s also easy
to increase storage capacity by upgrading or adding hard disks, and with
compression, many hours of video can be stored on a typical hard disk.

CCTV usually uses coaxial cable and often requires new
wiring, whereas most office buildings already have an Ethernet cable
infrastructure. If you have to cable from scratch, it’s less expensive to
install Ethernet than coax. Wireless networking makes installation even easier.
And because some network cameras can draw their power via the Ethernet cable, you
don’t have to have electrical outlets at the sites of the cameras.

As your business grows and your surveillance needs become more
sophisticated, you can take advantage of many advanced features. The software
can actually make intelligent decisions, based on your specified criteria, as
to when to send alarms based on sensor input and event handling. Larger
organizations may also need better archiving capabilities. IP-based
surveillance scales well here, too. Whereas with VHS you must actually
transport physical tapes if you want off-site storage for security or space
reasons, with digital storage you can automatically backup the video data to a
remote location for redundancy.

IT and physical security come together with IP-based
surveillance, and it offers a cost-effective and scalable way to protect your
company’s assets.