Aug 12

Home Surveillance 101 – System Selection Preparation


My wife and I roughly 6 months ago decided to build a new home and we decided to install a home video surveillance system.  Having no idea about home video security systems, I started to do my research.  I started by looking at complete systems on Amazon.  I seen complete systems from $300 to as much as $4,000; so which is the right one?  How do you choice what system is right?  The purpose of this article is to outline the process I went through for the selection and qualification for the system I selected.

Analog or Digital?

The first decision you will need to make is will your system be analog or digital. The inexpensive video systems you find on amazon in the $300 range is all analog.  Just looking at the connectors for the camera and the video recorder you will see BNC connectors.  Analog systems are stable and is the inexpensive solution.  They are also limited in the video quality since it is an older technology.  You will need to be careful on the length of your camera drops if you are selecting analog since the max length is around 60 feet.  Digital on the other hand is the modern technology and can be more expensive.  The max length of digital also increases and depends on the quality of the cabling that you install; cat 5e cable drops can exceed over 1000 feet with little digital lose.  I decided to choose digital for my installation.

Camera and System Location 

You will need to determine the location of your cameras and where you will be placing your central system (recorder, etc).  When you are determining where to place your cameras think like a criminal and understand the purpose of a surveillance system is to watch entry points and target areas.  I decided on 8 camera locations; 6  external and 2 internal.

External areas monitored:

1.  Driveway where my cars will be parked

2.  Front Door

3.  Front Road – criminals usually stake out the property before the crime.

4.  Rear in all directions covering all points of entry (windows, doors)


1.  Garage

2.  Living Area

3.  Safe or valuables


This decision will also help you know what cable you need to run.  The best advice I can give you is to just install cat 5 or better yet cat 6 cable.  This cabling will support both analog or digital.  The only issue is if you go with analog you will have to buy adapters to switch between bnc and RJ 45.  Additionally, since I was building it was easy for me to run the new cabling during the construction phase.  If you are securing a pre-existing structure you will need to look and make sure you can wire appropriately for all drops; meaning you can run the cabling from the central location to all camera locations.


Both cameras and system will require power.  So if you do not want to have an outlet or run power cords to all cameras you will need to use power over ethernet (POE).  Additionally, your central location will need to have at least two outlets.  More on power later.


So with this information you can:

1.  Decide analog or digital

2.  Locate your cameras  and central location

3.  run cat 5 or cat 6 to all locations from the central location

In my next article I will discuss the process I went through for the selection of the actual hardware.







  1. Pete Gordon

    I woke up this morning thinking I’m definitely going to do this at my existing home. I have had cat5 run internally from a basement patch panel to all the rooms for many years. I’m thinking I’ll need to run 3-5 cameras (3 outside, 2 inside) and will need new drops for them. Which cameras have you tried so far, where did you source them on eBay (give links), who are the couple primary manufactures in China? How about infrared? Can’t wait to hear about the software being used, I hope it is something pulled from Github!

    1. James

      Hopefully this weekend I will be able to get to the second post reference to camera selection. You are asking all the right questions which is good.

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