Security is imperative for any business. After all, how can you be profitable if you can’t protect your assets? Video surveillance systems are more intelligent and effective than ever, with cameras that offer computer-like functions such as motion sensors, remote viewing and mobile notifications. Some systems even contact law enforcement instantly with the push of a button.

Technological development has also led to more efficient methods of recording and storage. Small business owners have access to immensely powerful surveillance systems at relatively affordable prices. If you’re in the market for a video surveillance system but not sure where to start, read on for our video surveillance system buyer’s guide.

How to choose a video surveillance system

Assess your needs before you select a video surveillance system. Just because some security equipment is more expensive than others doesn’t mean it can meet your requirements.

Take the following steps when shopping around for a video surveillance system:

Consider security necessities. First, evaluate exactly what you want to monitor. Are you only monitoring the front door, or do you also want in-store coverage? This process will help you determine your basic needs, such as how many cameras your system requires.

Consider tech specs. How high-resolution will your video footage be with the systems you’re considering? Can you store your footage in the cloud, locally or both? Answer these questions to see whether the functionality of your potential system delivers what you need from your surveillance infrastructure.

Conduct ample research. Be thorough when looking into available systems. Compare prices and look into the details of each potential vendor’s offerings to help narrow your selection. Additionally, read customer reviews on websites like Trustpilot for honest feedback.

Try before you buy. Many companies let you test their product on a trial basis before committing. At the very least, you should be able to access a live demonstration. Getting hands-on experience is one of the best ways to ensure a surveillance system is right for your business.

Compare prices and notes. Once you’ve determined which systems feel right for you, compare their prices and review your notes. The best video surveillance system for your business is the one that fits within your budget while meeting more needs than any other option.

What to consider before purchasing a video surveillance system

Here’s a quick overview of some of the most important factors to consider when deciding on a video surveillance system for your business.


If your business is small and you don’t have many areas to monitor or multiple cameras to set up, you can install your surveillance system yourself. Larger companies with multiple business locations and complicated setups should have a professional do the installation.


Video surveillance system pricing depends on multiple factors, including the following:

Business size

How many cameras you require

The storage type you want

How long you want to store video

The features you need (e.g., video analytics, motion detection)

Video surveillance systems start at around $50 per month for simple one- or two-camera systems. However, you could pay up to $5,000 for advanced systems with multiple cameras.

Type of camera

The two primary camera types in video surveillance systems are Internet Protocol (IP) and analog. Traditional analog cameras are being phased out in favor of IP cameras, which offer more features and capabilities. IP cameras are networked devices that capture images in a higher resolution; they enable automatic alerts, video analytics and other advanced functions. (We’ll go into more detail about IP vs. analog cameras later.)

Type of storage

You can choose from three types of video data storage for your video surveillance system:

NVR: NVR stands for “network video recorder.” This storage type is used with IP cameras.

DVR: DVR stands for “digital video recorder.” This storage type is used with analog cameras.

Hybrid: Hybrid systems allow you to combine analog and IP cameras.

Amount of storage

Video quality and duration determine your storage quantity needs. For example, if you plan to record and archive high-quality footage, you must allot significant storage space for your system.

You must also determine if you’ll store the footage locally on the camera’s internal storage drive, on a hard drive or externally via cloud storage.


Most vendors allow a high degree of customization, which allows businesses to easily tailor video surveillance systems to their specific needs. Whether you need a widespread system to cover multiple locations or a few cameras to watch your storefront, there’s a solution for everyone.


Myriad features are available for video surveillance systems, including night vision, smart motion detection and pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ). Evaluate which features your business needs and select your cameras and surveillance system accordingly. For example, if you need a system primarily to monitor your business at night, choose a system with robust night vision and 24/7 alerts.

Areas of business that need protection

It’s crucial to know exactly where you want to place your surveillance because this will determine the camera type — or types — you need. For example, if you need to keep an eye on your back door, you’ll probably want a weatherproof outdoor camera with PTZ functionality and motion alerts.