Nov 05 2019

Key Questions to Ask When Installing IP Video Security Cameras in Schools

When investing in video surveillance, district administrators should consider many factors such as location, bandwidth, and relevant laws.

It’s something school IT leaders and other educators know well: Safety and security are crucial to learning. And schools have a lot to protect — starting, of course, with people and including millions of dollars (or more, for larger districts) of hardware, physical structures and other assets. Networked security — namely, IP video cameras — are a key part of school security strategies. In fact, the number of U.S. schools reporting the use of security cameras for video surveillance rocketed to almost 81 percent in 2015-2016, the latest year available, from just over 19 percent in 1999-2000, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

IP video systems should be a key part of most organizations’ security strategies, particularly those with distributed environments. Ask these questions when installing IP video cameras.

What Are Features of an Ideal Location?

The intended placement of IP video systems will dictate the type of cameras to purchase and deploy. For example, cameras may be designed specifically to operate indoors or outdoors, capture images from long distances or run by remote control. Keep these tips in mind when picking a location for your IP camera:

  • Deploy cameras in conspicuous locations to deter misconduct.
  • Choose ingress and egress points to monitor visitors.
  • Install cameras in poorly lit or hidden locations to detect vandalism.
  • Set up surveillance cameras in meeting locations for liability purposes. 

Is There a Need for Audio?

Audio is a top feature of IP video systems, providing additional context to recorded video. Some video management systems have audio analytics integrated to make video review easier. It’s also important to strike a balance between privacy and security. Understand how the laws in your state govern recorded conversations, and consult your legal team to ensure you’re in compliance. 

Has the Network Been Updated?

The network plays a key role in the performance and reliability of IP video cameras. Networks affect issues such as video retrieval speed, video clarity, network resiliency and lapses in footage. Consider connecting cameras via fiber optic cabling instead of copper — a switch that reduces network-related issues by as much as 90 percent, research indicates. 

Who Should Have Access to the Cameras and Their Data?

Many school districts grant the entire IT department access to all systems. That might be fine for printers and computers, but K–12 administrators should rethink this with IP video systems. The information collected through the cameras may be highly sensitive. Restrict access to only those who are responsible for ongoing operations. 

How Much Storage Is Needed, and Where Should It Be Kept?

When integrating IP video into a district security strategy, it helps to gauge how much data will be collected, where it will be stored and for how long. Also, higher quality video means larger files to store. Depending on the volume of your storage needs, consider leveraging cloud storage. 

MORE FROM EDTECH: Technology is integral to district comprehensive safety needs. Here's why. 

What Are the Best Ways to Secure the Cameras?

Traditional networks require manual provisioning for each switch if a newly secured partition (virtual LAN) needs to be added to the network to secure an IP video camera. Misconfigurations can happen, causing poor performance or even outages that result in footage loss. Legacy networks were not designed for the rigors of IP video. Administrators should consider software-defined networking to implement segmentation, which centralizes control in software and facilitates making changes on the fly. Secured network settings create an extra layer of protection.

How Can You Incorporate Analog Cameras?

Many K–12 districts have older, analog cameras that still work. These cameras can be integrated into the network video system using video servers. The analog stream can be connected to the video server, which digitizes, compresses and transmits the information over the data network. However, if image quality is important, don’t do this. Analog systems do not have the resolution of today’s IP systems. 

What Are Tips for Choosing the Right Video Management System?

Video management systems are the brains of the deployment. At a minimum, a VMS should have these features:

  • Motion-activated recording
  • Alarm management
  • Frame rate control
  • Multiple-camera monitoring
  • Camera recording
  • Camera management

Also, decide whether to use an open or closed system. Open platforms run on commodity hardware with components selected by the IT team. This has the benefit of letting IT pros work with equipment they are comfortable using. Closed systems are turnkey in nature and built for performance, but they limit the choice of hardware; often, this includes cameras and other infrastructure.

Neither approach is better, per se; it’s just a matter of choice as to whether performance or flexibility is more important. The use of IP video systems has exploded as schools look to improve their physical security posture. IP video can be difficult to provision and tune if deployment occurs with an ad hoc approach. Asking the right questions up front can improve the odds of success without introducing new risks.

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