Upgrading an Existing Surveillance System 1

Not everybody who contacts 2MCCTV for service is starting from the ground up. In fact, many customers call us to get up to date with their existing video surveillance system, or to troubleshoot a weakness in coverage they have noticed over the years. Lately, many customers are interested in upgrading their old cameras to the newer, more network friendly,  IP cameras (read what to look for when buying an IP security camera). This can be a daunting task for a business or residence to undertake, and can certainly get expensive. To avoid the headache, clients sometimes feel the need to scrap everything and start from scratch. This is not always the best approach.  Everything depends on your current situation.

Latest Generation Equipment

This DVR stand alone unit  is an example of one option available.
This DVR stand alone unit is an example of one option available.

Instead of the old clunky VCR stacks of the past, all modern surveillance networks use Digital Video Recorders or DVR. Put very basically, a DVR is a computer part that converts the analog video feed into a digital feed. Since it is basically the brain of the network, it is always best to start with a DVR unit that records a sufficient amount of data, gets the FPS (frames per second) and resolution to an acceptable frame rate, while still taking into account possible future expansion. When upgrading an existing system, bottom line costs depend on what is currently in place and how well it is performing in that spot; if performance is not as desired, upgrading also allows administrators time to evaluate and rectify any previous issues they couldn’t address while network was fully operational.

This NVR looks similar to the DVR above but has far more power and expansion potential.

When purchasing equipment it is best to start at the backbone of the system- the DVR. A NVR is the newer cousin to the DVR –  it records in a digital format as opposed to needing a capture card to convert the feed. NVRs  must be used with IP cameras, while a DVR with a capture card is the usual setup for analog cameras. So it looks like there are only two ways to go, but such is not the case; some manufacturers offer DVRs with NVR functionality in the form of a hybrid. Hybrid recorders are useful for expanding a network while minimizing downtime due to being compatible with both previous generation technology and the latest.

Old Cameras, New Network

Upgrading does not require throwing out the proverbial ‘baby with the bathwater’.  Integrating old equipment into a new system can save both time and money. Altering existing infrastructure is unnecessary and costly. If all your old cameras are analog and working just fine there is no need to change them out completely.  Just adding the newer recording device can greatly enhance performance system-wide. As long as the cameras, cables and recorder are all compatible (more on that later) there should be no need to alter any infrastructure you would like to keep.  A hybrid video recorder allows the existing cameras to stay put, and will record their feeds just fine while allowing for newer security cameras to be installed.   The focus on being able to expand the existing network before scrapping it is the most cost effective route for anybody with a system already in place. In some cases, when a client is unsatisfied with one portion of a system, but fine with the rest; hybrid recorders and IP cameras allow administrators to rectify the portion that is not performing how it is desired, while not affecting the entire network as analog systems tend to require.  Having the ability to use and test a camera before it is physically affixed into the desired position allows the administrator to try out different options, and only expand what needs to be expanded upon.

Other Issues to Consider

Capture Card
Some systems may need a “capture card” to compress the video into a digital feed.

Depending on which route you go with for your system, additional equipment may be necessary to ensure optimum performance. To explain every configuration would be exhausting, as the options are almost limitless. A few of the things you should look for are capture cards (check out our guide on choosing a capture card), wiring, cameras and software. All respectively have their limitations and benefits, but there is a combination of equipment that will fit any budget and any need. Since there are so many combinations of all these components, it is always advisable to consult a professional about what might work best, and which devices are compatible. Call 1-877-926-2288 should you have any questions regarding any of these products and our security professionals can answer any questions you may have.

The most important aspect of selecting all that is needed for your upgrades is foresight into what is required of the network. A little foresight saves a lot of hassle in the end. Depending on the camera manufacturer, there may be issues with hardware desired across the network. For example, your needs may require replacing some, but not all, of the cameras on a network. Purchasing the most high end camera to replace an old one might lead to running a network cable instead of the traditional coaxial cable analog systems use. This slight oversight can end up being quite costly. Due to this, it is always recommended that a professional is consulted during the earliest possible phase of your upgrade. It will save you time and money by knowing which equipment will be needed up front.

Camera Concerns

Test CCTV Cameras
With many options available, there is a camera to suit just about any need.

The most daunting task in setting up or upgrading a surveillance system is finding out which camera has the functionality that best fits the physical location in which it is to be installed. This involves knowing exactly what is needed out of each camera placement. For example, a large area that has one camera in a corner will work best if it can pan, tilt and zoom; a PTZ camera is made specifically with that situation in mind. Since the upgrading of an existing camera will involve downtime already, it might be best to use the downtime to address all performance issues system-wide. In the process of upgrading, any long-standing performance issues should be addressed (camera angles, wiring, grainy feed, etc.). Knowing exactly what is not working and what might need an upgrade can save you money by limiting what the installer has to look out for. Cameras are only going to be able to capture images at a quality limited by the abilities of the video recording unit, so some problems might not be a faulty camera at all. The key to troubleshooting is figuring out which component or camera in your system is causing it to function more poorly than desired, then taking action only where needed instead of making system-wide changes. One very commonly overlooked obstacle is the power going to the camera, as it could be a vulnerability (a cord to a camera can be cut easily if left exposed). IP cameras eliminate this vulnerability altogether due to the power being run in the same cable as the image, while box cameras might be the best option for an existing network experiencing this obstacle.

Importance of Topography

Topography refers to the physical locations of the equipment in a network. Topography of a surveillance network differs from other models (such as data networks) in that there aren’t many issues with proprietary hardware (it is more plug-and-play). A Samsung IP camera may not work to its full potential with a GeoVision NVR as it will with any other brand. IP cameras, still being in their infancy, have been plagued with minor compatibility issues that may slow or even halt installation completely.  Unfortunately for the do-it-yourself crowd, serious knowledge is necessary in order to know which components will work with others. Many manufacturers do publish compatibility lists, but they are neither easy to find nor friendly to the layman user. Topography needs would be something an administrator would want to plan for as far in advance as possible when upgrading, as this plan can ultimately determine the time frame in which a network can go from an idea to a reality.

Network Topography
Network topography is one of the most important aspects to consider.


Having the ability to support current generation technology, as well as the capabilities for future expansion opens up options for the whole system. Maybe all that is needed is for all the old network of cameras to be supported and 2 new IP cameras installed. A hybrid video recorder can handle that with no problems. Want to archive old footage while also capturing new footage? Not a problem. One of the biggest costs of getting a surveillance system up and running from scratch is the infrastructure. If everything is in place and functioning optimally, there is no need to start from the ground up. Expand your choices with a hybrid DVR/NVR and expand your network’s functionality now and for the future.  Finally put in that infrared camera by the parking garage or go from antiquated to updated with an IP camera package. Whatever your needs, 2MCCTV has the equipment, experience and professionalism to get you up to date.

Questions about your surveillance system? 

Call us at: 877-926-2288

One Comment

  1. thanks for sharing this Aaron, i had concerns for updating the cameras in an old set-up and this gave me all the info i needed.

Leave a Reply

Call Now Button