Proper surveillance can save small businesses


POSTED: Sunday, June 28, 2009

Recently the FBI released its annual statistics on crime. The good news is that Honolulu is one of the safest large cities in the nation. The bad news is that despite less prevalence of violent crime, some property crimes such as burglary are up.

To insure their security, retailers and other business owners routinely hire licensed security companies to install alarms or surveillance equipment, but what can small businesses on a small budget do?

“;Plenty,”; says Andrew Lanning, founder of Honolulu-based Integrated Security Technologies Inc. “;There's a huge array of consumer-grade equipment sold by companies such as Radio Shack,”; says Lanning. “;But it will take some technical homework and a real commitment of time to install your own system.”;

The first step is to assess your needs. Videosurveillance.com (which not coincidentally sells equipment) provides a great “;needs”; checklist for every manner of business (from banks to gun shops) as well as a free needs analysis that you can request online.

Kokua Market, a natural foods cooperative in Moililili, like many retailers in the neighborhood, has been plagued by graffiti and wanted to upgrade its aging surveillance system. A professionally installed system would have cost about $20,000, including 13 cameras and a 16-channel DVR 500 gigs of storage, an individually fused, emergency power supply, an LCD display and a UPS backup.

Half that price tag is likely labor and warranty service, and Lanning reckoned that Kokua could save another 50 percent on gear if they were willing to use lesser-quality cameras and a lower-end storage device.

The upshot: $5,000 for basic surveillance system hardware is a good deal, but there's a price to pay for cutting corners. For example. an outdoor, “;vandal-resistant”; Bosch camera that Lanning recommends sells for around $700 and carries a three-year warranty. A similar off-the-shelf unit from another manufacturer for around $450 had only a year's warranty.

Most surveillance systems nowadays are IP-compatible, but streaming video uses up a great deal of bandwidth. You'll need a high-speed connection for remote access via DS1 and/or via an IP connection over the Web, if you want to monitor more than a few cameras offsite at reasonable frame rates and resolutions.

It can be a daunting feat to put in a quality off-the-shelf video-surveillance system. But with research, planning, patience and at least a little help from an electrician, budget-conscious installations are achievable with reasonable quality results.

Cliff Miyake, general manager in Honolulu for Time Warner Telecom, can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).