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Choosing the right security camera is a key step to improving safety at your organization, but it can be a daunting task given the size and scope of the market. A report from IHS Markit predicts the number of cameras used for surveillance will climb above 1 billion by the end of 2021—an almost 30% increase from the 770 million cameras today.

Along with more cameras come more considerations, encompassing everything from camera type and video storage to image quality and video analytics. Advancements in surveillance technology have made it possible for cameras to record footage in 4k, recognize meaningful motion in frame, and even withstand extreme sub-zero temperatures. The question then becomes: what features are essential to core business functions, and which are simply nice to have?

It can be a challenge to identify what aspects to prioritize, but by answering the questions below, you can quickly filter out requisite business needs and pinpoint critical requirements.

1. Industry Regulations

From HIPAA to PCI, what requirements exist around security cameras in your industry? Consider that there may be a minimum or maximum number of days that footage needs to be retained, along with specifications around the privacy of individuals recorded. Any organization operating in a highly regulated industry (such as gaming, healthcare, or banking) should check both local and federal laws to ensure compliance.

2. Deployment Environments

Where are you planning to deploy cameras? Depending on environmental conditions, your security camera may need to meet certain criteria to ensure reliability and functionality. For instance, cameras deployed outdoors demand higher weather- and vandal-resistance (indicated by IP rating and IK code) compared to indoor. If the area is remote or experiences a high volume of traffic, then necessities around network connectivity and image quality may also come into play.

3. Storage Requirements

Where will the footage be stored and how long should it be kept? Video storage is fundamental to any security camera system. Whether it’s local or cloud—or a combination of both—figuring out which method to use will narrow down the best type of camera to meet your business needs. Also consider that your video storage must be able to support the retention time outlined by industry-specific, local, or federal mandates.

4. Core Business Needs

What other features are required to fulfill core business needs? Depending on your use case, the best security camera for your organization may call for additional components on both the software and hardware side. For example, if you’re managing multiple sites, the camera you deploy should support remote monitoring to provide visibility into all locations. Other features to consider include audio support if sound is required, as well as user provisioning and authentication if multiple stakeholders need access.

5. Budget

How much budget do you have allocated to spend towards security? When investing in a video surveillance solution, it’s important to keep in mind that the initial expenditure does not reflect the total cost of ownership. Any security camera system will have an upfront cost of equipment and installation, but often overlooked is the ongoing price of maintenance and overhead. Consider hidden fees that many security providers have tucked into their bylines, which may include annual charges for firmware and software updates, as well as staffing, hardware replacement, and licensing costs.