Anticipating challenges before they become problems is always a smart approach. But in the security world, when you’re making the leap from installing traditional analogue CCTV cameras to IP surveillance, this think-ahead strategy is all the more wise.
One IP surveillance integrator, Cana Communications, knows this from experience. After making the transition from analogue CCTV to IP surveillance integration several years ago, these experts remember the learning curve well, and now chime in on what you’ll likely encounter during a similar transition – and what you can do to prepare for success.
Challenge #1: Lack of network design capabilities
“The first and very biggest issue we ran into was a lack of network knowledge,” said Scott Harris, project services manager. “We did not have techs that understood networking; yet all of a sudden we had to deal with Ethernet rules, the constraints of Ethernet and specific cabling requirements. Many times, we also had to provide network switches as part of the project scope. Because these skills directly affected the scope of work, we quickly realised that having networking knowledge would be critical for conducting effective site surveys, creating accurate estimates and designing project plans.”
In addition, the project team often had to interface with the customer’s IT department to establish the network requirements, which demanded another layer of network knowledge.
Solution: Bolster your project team with technical experts in network design. Some IP surveillance manufacturers like D-Link offer network design expertise to partners through their professional services offering.
Challenge #2: Defending your work
After the project plan is defined and implemented, new challenges can arise, especially when you consider that:
* Networking issues always complicate the installation.
* IP surveillance systems are typically installed on separate VLANs, which require special switch configuration. This work is usually done by the customer’s IT staff (or their contractors).
* It’s difficult to determine when a problem is on the network (eg, a configuration issue) versus somewhere else (eg, IP cameras, cabling). Thus, troubleshooting becomes more challenging.
* IP surveillance contractors have limited control over the network, so resolution often depends on a cooperative effort with the customer’s IT staff, network administrators and/or their contractors.
“Every integrator needs the technical ability to defend their installation when networking issues arise,” said Harris. “For example, an IT department or switch installer may say that all the VLAN ports have been configured and programmed properly, but that your team simply doesn’t know how to make them work. This puts you, as the surveillance contractor, in a defensive position and requires that you prove them wrong.”
Solution: Make sure your field project team includes technicians (or trusted contractors) that are savvy in both IP networks and switch configuration, and can interface with network vendors, installers and IT personnel to identify and troubleshoot network issues. Working cooperatively toward a positive resolution can go a long way toward protecting and preserving a good working relationship with your customer over the long term.
Challenge #3: More credentialing required
According to Harris, today’s IP surveillance project bids are specifying the need for more credentialing requirements. To win these bids, your project team will likely need to include:
* A registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD) with expertise in IT systems, architecture, electrical wiring and security design.
* Building Industry Consulting Service International (BICSI)-certified installers and technicians.
* A team member with Microsoft certifications (especially for solutions that include a VMS).
Solution: Unless you want to avoid all bids with BICSI credentialing requirements, you’ll need to invest in BICSI training for your primary video surveillance installers, especially those who will be installing Cat 5/6 cabling. If you don’t have an RCDD on staff, you may be able to subcontract; however, some specifications require that the RCDD be a full-time staff employee. In larger systems, especially those that require a VMS, you occasionally see the need for Microsoft MCSE certification (which you may meet through subcontracting). However, if you’re already considering adding networking expertise to your staff, try to have at least one technician with MCSE certification. Long term, you should seek to meet all of these credentialing requirements with your own personnel.
Physical networking constraints
Challenge #4: Facilities with minimal network infrastructures
Not every customer seeking IP surveillance has an extensive data network already in place. Facilities with smaller networks will require additional network expansion to support all the new IP cameras, recorders and potential external storage solutions. Therefore, your project may require adding more network switches or even new IDF closets to handle the increased data flow.
Solution: Rely on the expertise of your network designer (either on your staff, a subcontracted resource or available through manufacturer partners like D-Link). This expert should be well versed in network design, cabling and network configuration.
Challenge #5: Cameras too far from IDF closets
Another common problem may be the location of cameras relative to IDF closets. In many large facilities, some IP cameras will be placed in remote locations – and too far from available network IDF closets.
“This scenario happens frequently when a customer needs cameras covering parking lots, access gates, truck entrances or outlying storage buildings, so they can record vehicles as they’re coming and going,” said Harris. “In these situations, you’ll likely need to run fibre optic cable to cover the longer distances beyond the traditional 100-metre limit of copper cables.”
Unfortunately, this requires some level of experience with fibre optic cables – and a new layer of expertise. A second (and more costly) option would be to build new IDF closets, but this would require additional network design and expansion of the current network infrastructure, which most customers are hesitant to do.
Solution: You’ll need someone with fibre-optic expertise on your team – even if it’s just short-term. Since this specialised skill may not be needed for every project, hiring a full-time employee may not be necessary, but at the very least you’ll need to find a trusted subcontractor (or rely on the assistance of your manufacturer partner’s professional services team). Another word of advice: At the project onset, conduct a complete site survey with someone who understands all the physical restrictions of your customer’s specific location. Knowing the distances and special installation requirements will help you construct the right project team – with the right technical skillsets – from the start.
Challenge #6: Existing networks with non-PoE switches
Some customers want all the advantages of IP surveillance, but their existing network is configured with traditional network switches and no PoE capabilities. If the IP cameras are spread across multiple network IDF closets, you’ll need to convince the customer that additional PoE switches are required.
Solution: To overcome this challenge, you’ll need a team member who can effectively interface with the customer’s IT staff and assist with network design changes. If the project scope requires that you provide and install the network switches, you’ll also need the technical skills to add switches to an existing network infrastructure.
Challenge #7: Need for cabling expertise (UTP and fibre)
According to Harris, learning the ins and outs of network cabling is another valuable skillset often unforeseen by new IP surveillance integrators. In order to successfully navigate network cabling, you need to know:
* Ethernet limitations and their impact on exterior cameras,
* The challenges posed by perimeter and parking lot cameras, and
* How to resolve them.
Cameras that are not hanging on buildings or that need to be placed in remote locations (eg, parking lots, access gates) often require more extensive use of fibre-optic cables and may need certain network electronics (eg, fibre transceivers), specialised sealed and weatherproof enclosures/mounting hardware and external power requirements (so the cameras can draw power at a mounting pole).
Solution: To address these needs, you’ll need a project team member with technical and electrical knowledge of cable testing and certification common to UTP/fibre installations, plus the right testing equipment (which can be costly). You may also need to find someone to help you mount cameras on poles and pull the required fibre and power.
“We have electricians on our staff, so we can handle all the electrical requirements on our own, but we do seek outside resources when we need to set the poles,” said Harris. “We’re fortunate enough to have electricians who can handle all the special mounting boxes and unique conduit requirements, but if we didn’t, we would subcontract that piece out and bring electrical expertise in.”
Challenge #8: Requirements to ‘add to’ and ‘match’ existing cable infrastructure
Frequently, you’ll be required to match a customer’s existing network cabling. This requires that you provide the same category of cable (typically the same manufacturer and part number) currently in place. This requirement may also extend to the connectivity components (e.g., faceplates, jacks, patch panels, patch cords). Many times, you’ll also be expected to certify the installed cabling and provide the manufacturer’s extended warranty (which requires installation and testing by a manufacturer’s certified installer).
Solution: Be prepared to match existing cable installations (eg, Panduit, Siemon, CommScope). If certification and extended warranty coverage is required (and you’re not able to achieve this with your own staff), plan to subcontract or partner with a company that can meet the specific cabling requirements.
Putting it all together
As you continue your transition to IP surveillance, take time to think ahead, devise a strategy and plan your resources wisely. These proactive steps will help you deflect challenges, ensure better outcomes and protect positive relationships with customers.
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