Surveillance Questions Checklist

Looking to purchase and/or install a surveillance system? Need help on what to get or how to even start? If any of this is true when it comes to understanding surveillance, use this article as your guide into the world of simple cctv.

The Checklist

This is a basic checklist of surveillance components you will need for your system. We will briefly discuss each of them and ask some quick questions about each that you should answer.

1. DVR (Digital Video Recorder)

2. Security Cameras

3. Connectivity Equipment (Cables, Connectors, Wireless, Etc… )

4. Power

5. Installation & Knowledge

DVR (Digital Video Recorder)

This is the device that you will connect all your security cameras to in order to monitor or record your video.

Question 1:

Do you want to just monitor your surveillance cameras or do you want to be able to record them for later review? This will help you determine whether you need a Hard Drive or not.

Question 2:

Do you want to be able to remotely monitor your system, or do you want access to it from abroad? Basically do you want the ability to look at your security cameras when you’re not at your home? Knowing this will determine whether you need a networkable DVR or not.

Question 3:

How many cameras do you intend to have? This is important because it will help you determine the size of DVR you need. Additionally if you think you will add cameras in the future, it would be wise to buy a slightly bigger DVR than what your bare minimum is; as it will allow you the room to upgrade without having to completely replace your DVR.

Security Cameras

These are the devices you use to actually capture and send out your video footage to the DVR.

Question 1:

Will your camera be used outdoors? If the answer is yes you will want to look for an outdoor camera with a high weatherproof rating. If the answer is no, then most any security camera can work.

Question 2:

Is your security camera going to be in a stressful and high intensity environment where vandalism is a possibility? If the answer to this is yes, you will want to get a vandal proof dome style security camera. Generally these cameras are also weatherproof for outside use, but that is not always the case.

Question 3:

Does your camera need to function at night or in low light areas? If this is the case, then you will want to find a camera with a good low light rating or one with IR’s (Infrared LEDs). It is good to note that if you get a camera with IR’s you will not want it pointed at glass or any other nearby reflective surface; as the camera could blind its own video.

Question 4/5:

How far or close up do you need to see? Do you need a wide angle view, or do you need a zoomed in close up view? Knowing the answer to these questions will help you determine what size lens you will need on your security camera. The smaller mm (Millimeter) size of the lens, then the wider your view is; the larger it is then the narrower the view and the greater the zoom. For example a 3.6mm lens is a much wider viewing lens than a 12mm lens which will have a more narrow and close up view. Additionally you can get varifocal lenses which will allow you to adjust the size of your lens within a certain range for varying applications.

On top of all that it should be noted that many cameras can have their lenses exchanged for others of varying size. This is good to keep in mind if you happen to find a security camera you love with a less than optimal lens size.

Connectivity Equipment

This is where we will talk about the medium you will use to connect your security cameras and cctv equipment to your DVR.

Question 1:

What is the distance your cameras will be from your DVR? By knowing this you can determine whether you need custom length cctv cables or if you can buy pre-made cables to fit your needs.

Question 2:

Are you even able to run cctv cables in your installation? If running cctv cables is problematic in your surveillance application; then you will want to look into using wireless cameras where a video cable is unnecessary.

Question 3:

What type of connector does your cameras, DVR, and cable use? By keeping track of this you can make sure to buy the appropriate cables or adapters to connect all of your equipment.


This is a necessary component of a surveillance system as it makes all of your equipment work.

Question 1:

As previously asked, what is the distance between your cameras and your DVR, and what is the distance between your power source and your equipment? Knowing this can help a surveillance installer or a retail surveillance provider determine whether you will need a 12VDC solution or a 24VAC solution for your power.

Question 2:

Where are your power hookups located? You need to know where all your power will be running from for your various components. This will help you decide whether you want a centralized power solution or if you will use individual adapters near each piece of equipment.

Installation & Knowledge

The simple question behind this is: Do you feel technologically adept enough to install your surveillance system yourself or will you need professional help? By being honest with yourself in determining the answer to this question you can make sure that your surveillance system is installed correctly and works exactly to your needs.

In the end by going through all of these questions and answering them before looking into purchasing your surveillance system; you will better be prepared to find a solution that best fits your needs.

Christian M Gillman has worked in the surveillance industry for over 7 years. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter, learn more about surveillance, and find great products at

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