What is the Difference Between IP and CCTV Cameras?

Jun 26th 2019

Most modern consumers have heard of CCTV cameras. Even if they haven’t set them up themselves or worked at a company that used them, they’ve likely seen them in movies and noticed the cameras in the businesses they frequent. What many don’t realize is that CCTV cameras are no longer the only security cameras that are available.

In modern times, IP cameras, also known as Internet Protocol cameras, have also joined them on the market. Both camera types serve a similar purpose in that they ensure building safety but there are still some important differences between them. Read on to find out how each of these systems functions and how they differ for help with choosing the right one.

CCTV Systems

Since CCTV systems have been around for longer, it makes more sense to start here. CCTV, short for Closed-Circuit Television, systems use an analog signal to transfer video from one or more camera to a central, on-site location. Their use by businesses dates back to the mid-1980s and although today’s CCTV cameras are more advanced and capable of capturing much better-quality footage, they remain an industry standard among commercial property owners.

IP Cameras

IP cameras are a perfect example of how much has changed in the world of property surveillance in the last few decades. Unlike analog CCTV cameras, they are fully digital. This allows for wireless installation, further improves image quality and resolution, and opens up the door for additional surveillance options.

With IP cameras, multiple users can view the footage on different devices and can access it from just about any internet-capable device with no proprietary hardware required. Property owners can install as many IP cameras as they want on their systems and download a software program that will allow them to view and manipulate the footage from their laptops, phones, tablets, and other devices.

Choosing the Right System

Choosing the right surveillance system requires a more in-depth understanding of the differences between CCTV and IP cameras. While an impressive array of different cameras exist on each of these popular markets, it is possible to make a few generalizations. The primary differences include flexibility, broadcast strength, technological requirements, and expansion capabilities.

Flexibility of the Technology

When a property owner installs a CCTV system, he or she places cameras in strategic places and monitors them on a closed system. The cameras transmit all the footage that they capture to on-site monitors and recording systems. Users typically store this footage digitally on-site using a DVR, or digital video recorder.

While the CCTV cameras don’t upload their footage directly to the Internet, attaching them to a DVR system allows for wireless communication. It is thus only possible to view footage remotely if it is being routed through a DVR.

IP cameras don’t require DVRs for remote access. Instead, these flexible, plug-and-play devices use network video recorders, also called NVRs. This simplifies the remote viewing process considerably, since users can set up their devices to share all the footage to a private network that can be accessed via any wireless network. There are plenty of strategies for ensuring the security of that footage once it’s broadcast, including encryption and authentication.

Most IP cameras don’t require proprietary hardware or software. This gives property owners the ability to choose the video monitoring software program that best meets their unique needs. Software programs range substantially in terms of price, user-friendliness, and available features.

Broadcast Capabilities

CCTV cameras transfer the videos they capture via coaxial cables to the DVR. It is only once these video signals reach the DVR that they can be processed for remote broadcasting.

IP cameras broadcast a digital stream of data through the Internet. Installation techs connect them to the NVR using ethernet cables, eliminating the need for an additional power cable.

Technological Requirements

CCTV cameras have higher technological requirements than IP surveillance systems. Since they operate on closed networks, the cameras need a direct connection to the monitoring and recording station via coaxial cables. Each of them also requires an independent power supply.

When they install CCTV cameras, property owners will also have to install monitors, DVRs, specialized cabling, and proprietary hardware. IP cameras have much lower technological requirements. The only hardware that’s needed is typically the cameras themselves.

Property owners will have to install additional ethernet cables to wire their cameras into the NVR, but that’s all they’ll need. IP systems can broadcast the video they capture via a wireless connection and accessed from any internet-ready device, anywhere in the world so there’s no need for additional monitors or on-site storage.

Possibility of Expansion

Since CCTV systems are, as the name implies, closed systems, they’re typically more expensive to expand. Most DVRs can only accommodate 32 cameras. Property owners who require substantial surveillance will have to invest in additional DVRs and monitors in addition to cameras and wiring.

Expanding an IP surveillance system is much easier and less expensive. Since the footage is broadcast via an NVR, installing wireless cameras requires little more than the cost of new equipment. The only cost associated with adding IP cameras to a system is additional digital storage, which costs next to nothing.

The Pros of CCTV

Despite the digital nature of the modern age, there are still plenty of businesses that prefer analog CCTV systems. It’s still easy to find technicians who can set up and maintain analog security systems. The cameras themselves are also comparatively inexpensive, so replacing equipment can cost less.

The Cons of CCTV

While it’s true that there have been some advancements in terms of image quality in recent years, CCTV cameras still don’t offer the level of detail offered by IP cameras. They don’t have digital zoom and their frame rates are lower, which makes them less than ideal for capturing detailed videos. They also require more cabling and more equipment to provide less coverage than IP cameras.

The Pros of IP Cameras

Many modern IP cameras can capture three or four video feeds at once. They’re also easy to install since they require just one wire and often function as plug-and-play devices. IP cameras offer better resolution, digital zoom, and remote focus.

Digital video is unarguably the winner in intelligence and analytics since IP cameras operate like small computers. Property owners can program them to detect smoke, count people, track colors, or set off alarms. CCTV cameras only capture video.

Users can view the footage captured from IP cameras with the software program of their choice. Viewing and storing footage requires less equipment and is less expensive. Finally, encryption and authentication can ensure that the data is being transferred securely.

The Cons of IP Cameras

IP cameras often cost more than their analog counterparts, although they compensate for it by providing multiple video feeds for each camera and requiring less equipment. There’s also a learning curve with IP cameras that isn’t usually as high with CCTV, especially for those who aren’t used to using computers. Those who want to store their video on-site instead of on the Cloud may also find that the larger files generated by IP cameras lead to the need for extra storage space.

Making the Right Decision

Choosing between CCTV and IP cameras is largely a matter of understanding the property’s surveillance needs and its owner’s technological capabilities, determining a budget, and going from there. Those who are not at all technologically inclined and only need a few low-quality video feeds can still get away with installing CCTV cameras. Larger businesses and most modern residential households are usually better off opting for digital video surveillance.

One great way for property owners to ensure that they’re making the right decision is to check out the surveillance systems used on similar properties. This will offer a much better idea of how the systems operate and what quality of video they can provide than just going to the manufacturer’s showroom, where the company has tailored the space to highlight their equipment’s strong points. Sometimes, it’s also possible to get referrals from vendors to speak with existing customers, which can also deciding between different systems and equipment easier.

Property owners who expect the cost to be an issue should establish a budget in advance. There are plenty of budget-friendly analog and digital cameras available that are perfectly suitable for home and small business applications. Make a point of factoring system installation, hardware, and software costs into the equation.

The Bottom Line

Both analog and digital surveillance systems have their benefits. Some property owners even opt to use a combination of the two, installing IP cameras to cover darker or highly trafficked areas when the additional features and built-in analytics offered by digital recording can be beneficial. Others have their existing CCTV systems retrofitted with new digital cameras and cabling so they can capture a higher quality of footage throughout their buildings and parking lots.

IP cameras are growing in popularity for a reason, but that doesn’t mean that CCTV doesn’t still play a valuable role in commercial settings. Ultimately, property owners must decide for themselves what type of system will best suit their needs.