Your First Home Security System – Part 3: NVRs and Storage Solutions
In this third part of our multi-part series on setting up your first home security system, we’ll be looking at network video recorders (NVRs) and the different storage options available to you as a first-time buyer. We’ll cover NVR hardware and how to balance footage quality with storage space and network bandwidth.
Network video recorders make up the ‘brain’ of your home security system; tying the cameras to the hard drives, providing the hub for playback, and a host of other utility options. There are many to choose from, so how do you go about picking the right one for you?
Number of Channels
The first and likely most important thing to begin with is also perhaps the most obvious: the number of channels. Simply put, you want an NVR that is able to support the number of cameras in your system; there’s no use getting a 4 channel NVR if you’ve got 10 cameras ready and waiting to be connected! Whilst this seems straightforward enough, it’s also worth bearing in mind your plans for the future. A 4 channel NVR may be fine for now, but if you think you may expand to a bigger system at some point in the not-too-distant future, it may be worth getting an 8 channel or larger to save you from unnecessary extra purchases down the road.
As with the number of channels, the bandwidth of your NVR refers to a hard limit on your system; in this case, the upper bound on the Mbps it can receive from your cameras. If you want an 8 camera system recording at full HD 1080p resolution and 15fps, this is clearly going to be far more demanding on your network than say, a 4 camera system recording at 720p and 10fps. It’s a balancing act, in which you have to weigh what quality of image you need vs what your home network can take. Luckily, we have a bandwidth and storage calculator to help you estimate what those will be, and steer your purchase accordingly.
Plug and Play
Most NVRs, particularly those from Hikvision, now come with plug and play functionality, but it’s worth noting that not all do. Those that do will typically allow you to plug your cameras directly into your NVR, rather than your router or network switch, and will come with added utilities such as automatically calibrating your cameras with your selected settings, and assigning them strong passwords on your network. While this isn’t a necessity as most software is designed these days to be as straightforward to setup as possible, it’s worth keeping an eye out for plug and play in the product specifications if this is something you want to make life a little easier.
There are a number of extra features that may be worth considering for your NVR. It’s worth at this stage bearing in mind that the NVR supersedes the camera’s in-built settings: if the NVR doesn’t support it, you won’t be able to use the camera’s feature. Both external alarms, as supported by the Synology NVR216, and number plate recognition, as available on the Hikvision DS-7716NI-I4-16P, are examples of such options that are fairly popular. If these or any other additions are something you want for your home security system, it’s important to check the product specs of your NVRs to ensure that you’ll be able to use them.
Power over ethernet, or PoE, is a common feature in modern cameras and NVRs that reduces the number of cables you need in your system. Via the use of PoE network cables, your cameras are able to be powered via their connection to the NVR, rather than requiring a power lead or battery in addition to this. Each NVR lists the number of PoE connections it can have, so it’s worth just making a note of this when purchasing as it should hopefully make installation a little more straightforward. Also note that the network cables you use have to specifically be PoE compliant – all category 5 (cat 5) cables and above fulfil this requirement, so they’re not hard to find. You can read a little more in-depth info about PoE on our Help & Info pages.
It is important to note that each NVR can only support a limited number of hard drives, with a maximum amount of storage space, though these are obviously designed with the appropriate amounts in mind. This places a hard limit on the amount of data you’ll be able to store from your cameras, so it’s worth adding up the numbers to ensure that the NVR you’re buying will allow you to store as much as you’d like. Once again you can use our calculator to work out roughly how much storage space you’ll need for your setup and how many days you’ll be able to store at a time.
Due to the nature of CCTV recording, conventional hard drives aren’t generally fit for purpose within a security system. This is due to the 24/7 usage, constant writing of data, and the associated heat and vibration that comes with this usage. Instead, there are drives built specifically for this purpose, with for example the Western Digital Red Series made for use within networks, and the Western Digital Purple Series or Seagate SV35 Series, both made specifically for use in security systems. Some cameras also come with an SD card slot, however as you’d imagine these are rather limiting in terms of storage space. For very small setups of, say, 1-2 cube cameras though, this may be an ideal budget alternative solution instead of buying an NVR.
In this part we’ve looked at the various features of NVRs and storage drives that are important to consider when setting up your first home security system. We’ve covered some of the limits that will be in place on the network, ways of working these out before-hand, as well as some suggestions for possible storage solutions that should hopefully make this aspect of setting up a little more straightforward.
Thanks very much for reading! As always, your comments and suggestions are very welcome. Any questions? Things you’d like me to cover in future posts? Let me know in the comments! Be sure to check out the rest of the blog if you like what you see, and have a look at our YouTube and Twitter also for more great content. Next week, we’ll cover some of the common pitfalls to avoid when it comes to installing your cameras, and things to consider when putting them up.
This is part 3 of 3. View the other parts at the links below: