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Best Practices for Surveillance Camera Maintenance

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A few weeks back, we shared a post about Home Surveillance System Design. That post aimed to help potential surveillance camera customers answer the most important camera system design questions. However, the work does not end after system design and installation. In this post, we want to help you preserve your surveillance cameras in the long run. We will start with some tips on making sure that you install the right cameras in the right places. We looked at camera location and selection from a performance standpoint in our System Design post. Here, we look at those topics through the lens of camera security.

We will also discuss ways to shield your cameras from different outside dangers. Obviously, thieves and criminals may target cameras before, during, or after committing a crime. Choosing cameras that can withstand these attacks will help you safeguard both the cameras and their footage. We’ll also discuss electrical and power-related issues that occur with surveillance systems and how to avoid those. Finally, we’ll look at using some security measures to keeping your camera’s footage from outsiders. Many people are unaware of this danger, but a few common-sense steps can prevent others from viewing your cameras remotely. Let’s start by thinking about where you will install your cameras, and the types of cameras you should consider.

Install Cameras Rated for Their Application

Part of our job as security professionals involves choosing the right cameras for each application. This can ensure the durability of the camera in its environment. It can also help you keep your surveillance system as cost-efficient as possible. For example, a camera meant for indoor use will not last very long in difficult outdoor conditions. On the other hand, we also do not recommend installing a camera designed for outdoor use indoors. If you do so, you may end up paying for features that you do not use.

One way to make sure you select the proper camera is by checking its “IP Rating.” The “IP” stands for “Ingress (or ‘Entrance’) Protection.” A camera’s IP rating is shown with the letters “IP” followed by two digits with varying values (e.g. “IP 67”). The major camera manufacturer Axis provides this chart to explain both ratings. The higher the number of each digit, the more resistance provided by the camera. The first digit represents protection against solid objects, on a 0-6 scale. To achieve a “6” on this scale, an object must not allow dust. Most cameras are dust-tight, so almost every camera has an IP rating that starts with a “6.”  The second digit generally ranges from a “5” to an “8.”

An IP65 camera can withstand jets or sprays of water, while an IP68 camera can withstand continuous water submersion under specific conditions. Obviously, IP66 and 67 cameras lie in between those two extremes. If you do have reason to believe your cameras face potential weather or element damage, you will want a camera with a high IP rating. However, installing an IP68 camera in a dry, safe location is probably unnecessary. Knowing what these ratings mean and choosing cameras accordingly goes a long way in keeping them safe. In addition to weather and element protection, you may want to consider protection against intentional damage as well. Let’s look at another way to make sure you’re choosing the right camera for the job.

An Everfocus Vandal Dome Camera.

Vandal-Resistant cameras, such as this one by Everfocus, provide a strong measure of resistance against physical attacks.

Choose Vandal-Proof Cameras Wherever Appropriate

Vandals and burglars often target low-hanging surveillance cameras. Of course, many of them wish to cover up a future or in-progress crime. Some of them simply want to vandalize your property. Either way, installing exterior cameras without vandal-proof measures can invite trouble. Vandal-proof cameras (such as the one pictured) generally feature a sturdy, metal base. Additionally, these cameras come with a sturdy covering over the lens itself.

These surveillance cameras have their own “vandal-proof” rating system. The “IK code” measures impact protection. IK Code ratings range from 1-10, and the rating improves as the numbers go up. Unlike with IP rating, IK Code ratings do not measure performance against specific environmental dangers. Rather, this rating measures a camera’s ability to withstand specific levels of force, measured in joules. For example, an IK10-rated object must withstand 20 joules of force. Examples of 20 joules of force include 10 kilograms of force from a height of 20 centimeters, or 5 kilograms of force dropped at 40 centimeters. This Axis impact test of a 10k-rated vandal-proof camera shows the type of protection these cameras provide. These first two tips should help you maintain your cameras by choosing the right camera for the job. Now let’s look at how to keep your surveillance cameras away from other outside threats.

Defend Your Surveillance Cameras from Hard Shutdowns and Power Surges

Power issues can wreak havoc on electrical appliances in a couple different ways. First, the outage itself can cause damage by creating a “hard shutdown” of your recorder. Think of the error message your get when you start your computer back up after an improper shutdown.  Your video recorder has its own hard drive and stores data in a similar way to your own computer. Therefore, preventing a “hard shutdown” can ensure full functionality after a power outage. Changes in electrical current can also damage your surveillance cameras’ power supply and recorder. A home’s flow of electricity is often uneven, with occasional disruptions followed by spikes in electricity. A great enough spike can cause serious damage to your most valuable appliances.

Purchasing an Uninterruptible Power Supply, or UPS, to plug your recorder into can help with these issues. A UPS can provide power to your recorder

A Tripp Lite UPS Power Supply

Some UPS Power Supplies, such as thie model by Tripp Lite, will shut down your recorder in the event of a power outage to minimize damage.

for a short amount of time after a power outage, allowing you to shut the device down properly. More advanced UPS devices can even shut down your equipment unattended. Many of our customers also plug their UPS into a backup generator. This keeps the recorder running while the generator kicks in. Once this happens, your cameras stay on and avoid any interruption whatsoever. Additionally, many of these units also work as a surge protector to help guard against minor voltage surges or spikes. The most powerful surges, such as those caused by lightning, will still do damage, so we recommend turning your recorder off and unplugging it during inclement weather to avoid this risk.

Take Steps to Uphold the Security of Your Cameras

So far, all of these best practices have involved measures taken to physically safeguard your surveillance cameras. Additionally, we recommend taking steps to secure your cameras’ footage. Recently, websites such as  https://www.insecam.org/ have gained both popularity and notoriety. These websites broadcast camera footage from cameras all over the world. From a bar in New York City to a waterfront parking lot in Norway, you can view other peoples’ cameras remotely from your own computer. How do these websites exist, and how can you keep your own cameras off of them? As it turns out, taking a couple of very simple precautions can prevent you from seeing your own cameras on one of these “snooping” websites.

In order to set up remote camera viewing, you must first set up an account with your video recorder’s manufacturer. Out of the box, the user name and password have “default” settings. For example, a default username is often “admin,” and a default password could be a series of numbers. Anyone can find these “default” usernames and passwords through a quick online search. From there, going to a manufacturer’s mobile app or website and using that company’s default username and password will let these “snoopers” view the cameras of customers who have not changed their username and password.

A computer user entering a username and password

Making smart decisions to control remote access to your cameras can ensure that only those with permission can view your camera’s footage.

The Insecam homepage itself points out that any cameras they feature can be removed from their website easily by changing the remote access password. We recommend changing your username and password as soon as setting up a surveillance camera system. Additionally, we recommend selecting difficult-to-guess words or phrases for this information. That way, even someone specifically attempting to view your cameras will find themselves locked out. Using your last name as a username or a pet’s name as a password may only provide security against people who have never met you.

Putting it All Together

We hope this post has given you some specific ideas on how to properly maintain your own surveillance cameras. Obviously, all electronics depreciate and perform less reliably over time. However, following these steps will help you keep your cameras operating at maximum levels of performance and security for years to come. If you have any questions about anything you’ve read here, please do not hesitate to contact us. We provide free site surveys to assist with both residential and commercial surveillance cameras. Whether you have an existing surveillance system in place, or if you want help designing and installing a new system, we will be happy to help. Together we can create a plan to keep both your cameras — and the footage they capture — as secure as possible.