Raising Your IP Camera Comfort Level

Anyone who has ever worked in operations or technical support can tell you some interesting stories about meeting the demands of sales personnel who are selling the “latest and greatest” IP devices. However, in all fairness to experienced salespeople,

it is important to work closely with technical personnel to make sure all new technology features work and are thoroughly tested. This helps minimize customers’ exposure to beta testing.

In an effort to become more efficient and knowledgeable in the IP tech arena, this month we will look at some of the installation, service and resource areas of networked cameras. I hope to convince the old-timers out there to embrace digital connectivity, and also to have sales strategies that help bring customers comfortable with the analog status quo over to the wild digital side. Remember, technology change is not that easy for most people, especially when tied to key business decisions.

Suppliers Can Simplify Your Life

OK, you’ve heard my cautionary and pessimistic viewpoints. Now I want to give you what I see as a really bright, optimistic view going forward. Anyone who has worked with IP devices knows that the entire networked system needs to be addressed for positive solutions.

Recently, I was impressed to see a major industry distributor, ScanSource Security of Greenville, S.C., offer a new support service division for IP devices and network connectivity. I had a chance to bounce a few questions off Mike Burns, vice president of OUI Managed Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of ScanSource Inc.

Please give a brief overview of your new program.

Mike Burns: ScanSource has created a customized professional service for security dealers offering IP video and wireless solutions. Some of the services include network assessment, virtual design, and WiFi site surveys. This provides more accurate planning for dealers and their end users. Services are implemented through our Catalyst Telecom sales unit.  

What are a few big problems you see dealers having when installing IP cameras?

Burns: Product skill sets for new technologies. The technology is moving very quickly and is a fast-changing landscape for dealers who need to quickly learn new IP-based technologies. Infrastructure costs — it costs to have professional services experts on staff/payroll. It is extremely valuable to have someone to do the services for them until they get to a certain level.

Do you have any training and other documents for dealers on IP cameras?

Burns: We provide a host of information at the ScanSource two-day IP workshops. The workshops include Networking 101, a comprehensive introduction to wireless and an overview of video basics and access control technologies. The online IP center also has a lot of information at www.scansourcesecurity.com/ipworkshops.

Ditch the Coax, Beat the Bandwidth

Now I would like to offer some tips for getting acclimated to the IP realm. My first one is to get in the habit of specifying and installing Category cable, such as CAT-5e and -6, in virtually all video installations. Say bye-bye to an old friend — the conventional coax cable — even if the customer is still using analog cameras.

In most cases, using “balanced” twisted CAT cable will be as good, if not better, than coax. It is more flexible, less expensive and capable of carrying device power (PoE) and control signals, and most importantly lays the foundation for future IP camera upgrades. Also, using balun (balanced unbalanced) devices to interface non-IP devices with balanced CAT cables is inexpensive.

My next tip is more for salespeople selling commercial IP cameras. Make sure you get the chief information officer (CIO) or IT manager onboard very early in the project. You may be sharing bandwidth on his/her network and it can be either hell or heaven.

The head IT person needs to understand you have IP cameras that can now use H.264 and MPEG-4 compression, along with quality of service (QoS) data control and priority management. This all makes for a more compact and intelligent data stream on “their” network.

Customers are now demanding more remote Internet camera connections, which can place heavy demands on IP services. The IP bandwidth demand for remote connections can be 384kb for only two cameras. However, with local network-attached storage (NAS) the same 384kb bandwidth can now be used for up to nine cameras. This is because the remote network traffic will only be for on-demand data access to the local NAS.

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