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Best Video Surveillance Systems of 2021

By Kiely Kuligowski,
Business News Daily Staff
| Updated
Feb 19, 2021

Learn how to choose a video surveillance system for a small business, and read reviews of Business News Daily's best picks for video surveillance systems.
Best Overall
24/7 professional monitoring
Multiple location viewing
Remote management
Best Budget System
Plug-and-play functionality
Wireless system
Outdoor and indoor cameras
Best Hybrid System
Works with IP and analog cameras
Allows gradual upgrades
Offers multiple storage options
Best for Self-Installation
Multiple camera types
Wide view and 4K resolution
Wired and wireless options
Learn how to choose a video surveillance system for a small business, and read reviews of Business News Daily's best picks for video surveillance systems.
  • Video surveillance systems are critical to on-premises security, including as a deterrent against crime or as evidence in insurance claims.
  • When choosing a video surveillance system, consider how many cameras you will need and what models. This is a major factor in overall cost.
  • Internet Protocol (IP) cameras and network video recorders (NVRs) offer digital monitoring and playback capabilities over a network connection.
  • This best picks page is for small business owners considering purchasing and implementing a video surveillance system.

Video surveillance systems have advanced to the point where many of them function like miniature computers, capable of motion detection, intelligent zone identification and smart alerts. Some systems even automatically contact law enforcement or integrate with other security systems. 

There are many options for video surveillance systems out there, built for every business need. Some businesses need advanced functionality and multilocation cameras, while others only require a basic system to capture and record footage. 

Choosing a video surveillance system can be tough. To help businesses of all sizes, Business News Daily conducted thorough reviews of more than 45 of the most popular video surveillance systems to find the best ones on the market today.

Find the Right Video Surveillance System for Your Business

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How We Decided
Our team spends weeks evaluating dozens of business solutions to identify the best options. To stay current, our research is regularly updated.
47
Considered
14
Researched
4
Selected

Compare Our Best Picks

  Alibi Blink Protection1 Arlo
Price Contact dealers $99.99 for indoor/outdoor one-camera system $54.99 a month for video package $2.99 a month and up
Type IP and analog Wireless IP Wireless
Pro Installation Yes No Yes No

Our Reviews

Protection 1: Best Overall Video Surveillance System

Protection 1 offers a large selection of hardware, including cameras and storage devices.
You can choose from four pricing plans.
You must sign a three-year contract.

Protection 1 is our best overall pick for video surveillance systems because it offers a wide range of hardware and software options, making it a great fit for many different types of businesses.

Protection 1 offers 24/7 professional monitoring supported by ADT, giving you an additional layer of security. You won't be left on your own to monitor your surveillance system. However, if you do prefer to take a hands-on approach, you can access your system through Protection 1's mobile application, which allows you to control, monitor, and configure your video surveillance system from your smartphone or tablet.

Protection 1 requires professional installation; the vendor offers an installation team that will come set up your video surveillance system for you. Pricing is based on the size of your system and other circumstances, ranging from $34.99 to $54.99 per month.

Read Review
Blink is easy to use, offering centralized management from the app.
There are no monthly fees or contracts.
The system depends completely on Wi-Fi to work.

Blink is a competitively priced and user-friendly security option that still offers the most important elements of a video surveillance system. It has both local and cloud storage options for video recordings, as well as an integration with Amazon's Alexa.

As an Amazon subsidiary, Blink also integrates seamlessly with AWS products and software. Additionally, it offers the Home Monitor mobile application, which makes it easy to manage your video surveillance system from afar.

Blink offers three main types of cameras, ranging in cost from $34.99 to $79.99 each. All cameras offer 1080p resolution and a 110-degree field of view, as well as night vision, motion detection, and a two-way audio communication feature.

Read Review

Alibi Security: Best Hybrid System

This hybrid system lets you work with both analog and IP cameras.
Alibi offers multiple storage options.
You must contact dealers for pricing information.

As a hybrid surveillance system, Alibi offers the perfect solution for businesses looking to upgrade their current system while staying within a budget. It allows you to connect your existing analog surveillance system with more modern IP cameras. Another plus is that you can gradually upgrade your system as your security needs change.

Alibi offers full plug-and-play systems as well as individual products like cameras and recorders. Storage options are similarly varied – you can choose from cloud-based services (Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive) or traditional NVRs and DVRs.

Alibi's additional features include customizable displays, device grouping, and alarms and notifications. You can even search and log events, and detect IP-enabled cameras.

Read Review

Arlo: Best Video Surveillance System for Self-Installation

Arlo has easy DIY installation and setup.
It offers competitively priced packages.
The new camera models are incompatible with old base stations.

Arlo is an extremely user-friendly video surveillance system that doesn't require professional installation. It's easy to set it up yourself and start monitoring your surveillance system quickly.

Arlo offers a variety of hardware packages, ranging from $399.99 to $599.99. These packages include everything you need to get started. They are scalable as well, letting you add more cameras to the packages as needed.

Arlo also offers two cloud recording plans, ranging from $2.99 to $14.99 per month, depending on the size of your system and the video quality you require.

Although Arlo is a DIY installation, it doesn't leave you to figure it out on your own. The company maintains a vast library of online resources and a community center where you can connect with other users, ask questions, and seek guidance.

Read Review

Pricing

Because each business has different security requirements, your costs will depend on your security needs and the provider's options.  

You must also consider how much you need your system to do for you. For example, you should expect to pay more for an advanced video management system with analytics and centralized management, and less for a system that has limited viewing and control only from an app. The number and type of cameras you plan to use will also contribute to your cost – if you have a large facility with many places you want to surveil, your costs will go up compared to a business with smaller premises. 

The cost of a video surveillance system ranges widely from $100 to $5,000, depending on the type, quality, and number of cameras you require, as well as the amount and type of storage you use. 

Here is an example of how much a surveillance system can cost. If you have a small business with two doors, one main room, a parking lot, and a stairwell, you will want a camera at each door, one in the parking lot, and one in the stairwell. Ideally, you want 30 days' worth of footage stored in the cloud. For a four-camera system with cloud storage, expect to pay roughly $600 upfront for the cameras and $30 a month per camera for storage.

Many companies offer plug-and-play cameras, which you can install yourself and start using right away. But for advanced systems, be prepared to pay for professional installation, which can cost $1,500 or more if the process will be complicated or there are several cameras to install. All told, hardware and installation costs could top $2,100, and your monthly fees would then be $120, which comes to $1,440 annually.

You can save money by choosing a system that you can install yourself, but this is only advisable for a smaller business with simple security needs. If you have several areas you wish to surveil and require advanced management features, it will probably be more beneficial to have your system professionally installed.

Key takeaway: A video surveillance system can cost anywhere from $100 to $5,000, depending on the cameras you choose, the size of your building, how much cloud storage you want, and how the system is installed.  

Features to Look for in a Video Surveillance System

There are several aspects that make up a good video surveillance system, including camera type, image quality, camera functions and motion detection. The exact features you look for will depend on your business and its needs, but here are some of the most common and important video surveillance features.

  • Storage: You should have an idea of what kind of storage you want your video surveillance system to have. The main options are DVR, NVR and cloud storage. (Learn more about these storage options under "Types of Surveillance Systems" below.)

  • Night vision: Night vision allows you to have clear images and video even when it's dark.

  • PTZ: PTZ, which stands for "pan, tilt, zoom," allows more flexibility and video coverage than fixed cameras offer. PTZ cameras can identify and follow action, ensuring you don't miss anything important.

  • Motion detection: You can set your system to send you an alert when it detects any motion in a certain area. Some cameras even have smart motion detection, which can identify nonthreatening motion, such as a curtain moving or an approved person entering a door, and know not to send an alert.

  • Emergency alarms: Some systems can integrate with fire, flood, intrusion, and other alarms to alert authorities and record activity.

  • Weatherproofing: If you require outdoor cameras, ensure they are weatherproofed, which means they are equipped to be sturdy and withstand rain, snow, ice, cold and other extreme weather conditions.

  • Vandal proofing: Similar to a weatherproof camera, a vandal-proof camera is equipped to withstand heavy blows and other attempts to damage or disable the camera.

  • Tamper detection: With this feature, the system sends you a notification if your camera is attacked or vandalized, the power to the camera is cut, or if the camera view is obscured.

  • Compression: Compression is a storage feature that eliminates unnecessary data from the footage that is transmitted to your video recorder in order to save space.

  • Mobile alerts and notifications: Mobile alerts allow you to stay on top of your surveillance from anywhere, at all times. You can set your surveillance system to send updates and alerts directly to your mobile phone.

Key takeaway: Before you narrow down your preferred security systems, decide if you want features such as tamper and motion detection, compression to automatically save storage space, and tough cameras that can withstand harsh weather and vandalism.

Types of Video Surveillance Systems

There are two main types of cameras to choose from for your video surveillance system: analog and IP.

IP

Internet Protocol cameras are the most common type in use today. They have high image resolution, offer a wealth of features to choose from, and require few wires and cables. IP cameras tend to be more expensive than analog cameras, and they can be susceptible to hacking if your Wi-Fi network is not properly secured. If you go with an IP camera, you need a strong, reliable and secure Wi-Fi network to support it. Many IP cameras have their own encryption and cybersecurity features to supplement the Wi-Fi's protection.

Analog

Analog cameras have lower image resolution, require cable connections, and may be limited in how far they can be from the DVR storage or how many camera ports the DVR supports, so they are often less flexible than IP cameras. They may also have a limited field of vision and grainy image quality. Analog cameras tend to be less expensive than IP cameras, but they are losing popularity because of these limitations. If you have an analog system and want to slowly transition to a digital system, you can select a hybrid recorder that supports both camera types.

There are also three types of storage systems: DVR, NVR and cloud.

DVR

DVR stands for "digital video recorder," meaning the system processes data within the recorder. DVRs are wired systems and most often used with analog cameras.

NVR

With NVR, which stands for "network video recorder," the system works by encoding and processing data within the camera, then streaming the data to the NVR, where it is stored and reviewed. NVRs can be wired or wireless and are most often used with IP cameras.

Cloud

A system with cloud storage, as the name suggests, stores all video data in the cloud rather than in a physical recording device. Cloud storage has the benefits of easy scaling and more manageable security, because you can review and manage your data from wherever you have internet access.

Key takeaway: Modern video surveillance systems offer IP or analog cameras; generally, IP cameras are more versatile, and analogs are cheaper. You'll also need to choose how the system stores footage: in a DVR, by streaming to an NVR, or in the cloud.

How to Choose a Video Surveillance System

Before you start contacting surveillance system companies, you should know what you want your system to do for you. You can start by asking yourself these questions:

  • How many cameras will I need?
  • How do I want my video footage stored?
  • How long do I want to store video footage?
  • How do I want to manage my surveillance system?
  • Do my cameras need to be weatherproof, vandal-proof, and able to pan, tilt, or zoom?
  • Do I want to integrate my video surveillance system with other systems?
  • Will I ever need to scale my system?

Once you have a general understanding of the specific features you need in a system, you'll want to determine the type of cameras you want and how you will place them. Cameras in plain sight can deter intruders, while hidden cameras can help you build up evidence or catch an incident in real time.

Next, decide which type of storage you would prefer. There are several options for how your footage is stored, how you access it, and how long it stays in storage. The cloud is a popular form of storage, and many services provide cloud storage along with an NVR.

The last consideration is your preferred mode of managing the system. The most common method is by mobile app, which most services provide with the purchase of a system. The app allows you to control your cameras, review and share footage, and manage your storage.

Key takeaway: When choosing a video surveillance system, start by thinking about hardware. Quantify cameras and identify specific models you will purchase. Don't forget about the video recorder!

Video Surveillance System FAQs

What equipment do you need for a video surveillance system?

A basic video surveillance system requires at least one camera, either wired or wireless, and a way to store your video data. If you want more advanced features or have several cameras to manage, you can add a remote management system.

There are many types of cameras within the overarching categories of IP and analog. These are the main options:

  • Box: This is one of the most common camera types. Box cameras are practical and cost-effective, with minimal features. 

  • Dome: These cameras also have minimal features, but they have a compact, discreet shape and are well suited for dirty environments, like kitchens or warehouses. 

  • PTZ: These cameras have pan-tilt-zoom capability, meaning they can move and survey a wide area. 

  • Bullet: These cameras work well in low-light environments; they require little maintenance and have a small footprint, making them ideal for small spaces. 

What is the difference between NVR and DVR?

Both NVRs and DVRs record video captured by your surveillance cameras. The difference is how those systems process video and which cameras they pair with.

DVRs are used primarily with analog cameras; they are always a wired system and process video data within the recorder.

NVRs are used with IP cameras; the cameras process and encode the video data, then stream it to the NVR, which is used for storage and remote viewing. NVRs can be wired or wireless systems.

What type of storage is best?

DVRs cost less than NVR systems, but analog systems are quickly falling out of use as image quality and storage capacity for NVRs becomes more advanced.

NVR systems provide greater flexibility in scaling, applying updates, and new technology. They also offer more features and customization options.

What types of businesses could benefit from video surveillance systems?

These security systems are often associated with retail stores, banks, and other businesses with a lot of inventory or cash on premises. However, any business looking to protect its assets and prevent theft or fraud can benefit from a video surveillance system. Often, the mere presence of cameras can be enough to deter thieves (including internal ones, such as disgruntled employees) and vandals.

Which is better: wired or wireless security cameras?

Neither system outperforms the other, but one system may offer certain benefits over another, depending on your needs. Wired video surveillance systems tend to be more reliable, but they can be clunky and difficult to use with modern technology. Wireless systems are easier to install and come with user-friendly software.

How do wireless security cameras get power?

There are two ways for wireless security cameras to get power: batteries or a wireless transmitter. With a wireless transmitter, the camera will be powered as long as it is within range. Most battery-powered cameras use a lithium-ion battery, which is long-lasting and durable.

How long do the batteries last in a wireless security camera?

On average, the lifetime of a lithium-ion battery is 10 times that of a traditional lead-acid battery, which is five to 10 years.

How does a surveillance system help improve a business's safety and security?

A video surveillance system can deter intruders just by being placed in a visible location. If your business is broken into or experiences another type of incident, a surveillance system can provide valuable information.

A surveillance system can help protect your business in these events:

  • Theft or burglary
  • Fire
  • Flood
  • Injury or accident
  • Intrusion
  • Vandalism

Video surveillance captures evidence and provides the peace of mind that you can see what's going on in your business at any time. Some systems automatically alert emergency responders if they detect an incident.

Where is the best place to put security cameras?

This will depend on your business and which areas you feel need surveillance. Most experts recommend placing a camera above the main entrance to your building and off-street windows, above a back door or garage, and in the basement or storage room if you have one. Try to avoid placing cameras behind glass, because the glare will distort images.

What should you ask your security camera installer?

As you compare various installers, ask about internet access requirements, recording time and ability, and the warranty length on camera parts and labor. Also, ask the installer for references or sample work before you hire them.

What is the difference between surveillance cameras and security cameras?

The main difference between a security camera and a surveillance camera is their purpose. A surveillance camera is there simply to surveil and capture goings-on, whereas a security camera is there to actively help protect your business, so it may include features such as intrusion alerts and motion detection.

Can you mix and match security cameras?

Yes, you can use different types of cameras in your system, as long as they are all compatible with the type of recorder you are using.

Do you need Wi-Fi for security cameras?

Typically, yes, you will need Wi-Fi for wireless security cameras, though some cameras are battery-powered. Internet Protocol cameras connect directly to an IP network to send and receive image data, so these cameras require an internet connection.

What is an IP camera?

IP, or Internet Protocol, cameras run on a digital video system that transmits data over a network. (IP cameras are also called network cameras or webcams.) An IP system works with mobile devices, making it easy for you to view your security feed anytime, anywhere, as long as you have an internet connection.

How can you keep your video safe and secure?

You can do several things you can do to protect your security footage from hackers:

  • Choose a router with Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) or WPA2 security, which encrypts your video data.
  • Utilize your camera's built-in firewall, which monitors and controls any information that passes to and from the camera.
  • Use a password on your cameras.
  • Use a different password on your Wi-Fi router.
  • Turn on two-factor authentication, if it's an option.
  • Regularly update your camera's firmware.

How long does surveillance footage last?

How long your surveillance footage lasts depends on your provider and service plan. Some plans allow you to store footage indefinitely; others automatically delete footage after a certain period, usually between 30 and 90 days.

Which security cameras work without Wi-Fi?

There are options available if you cannot use Wi-Fi-to connect your cameras. Some providers, like Blink, offer battery-powered cameras. However, these cameras typically have limited features and capabilities.

You can also use hardwired cameras, which offer security equal to Wi-Fi cameras. The downsides of hardwired cameras are that they can be difficult to install and don't offer access to live remote footage. 

What is good video image quality?

There are two main factors in security video quality: image resolution and frames per second (FPS). Resolution is the number of pixels that make up the image, and you can think of FPS as how many back-to-back still images each second of video footage contains. Generally, the higher the resolution, the better the image quality of the camera.

A security camera with a resolution of 720p to 1080p and a frame rate of 30 FPS will give you smooth, high-definition video. Anything higher than that will probably be unnecessary and take up too much storage. It doesn't have to be crystal clear, but you need the camera to produce images with recognizable details. The exact resolution will vary from camera to camera, so ask the surveillance provider if you can see a demo before choosing a camera.

What is video surveillance used for?

Businesses mainly use video surveillance to help protect their buildings and offices against theft, burglaries, and other crimes; to monitor a facility and its day-to-day operations; to protect their assets and employees; and to deter vandalism with visible cameras around the property.

Community Insight

These are the video surveillance systems that some of Business News Daily's readers are using.

Blink

"When it comes to surveillance systems, a simple one that works without hassle is the best option – and Blink XT2 caters it all to me," said Israel Gaudette, founder of Link Tracker Pro. "It has both an indoor and outdoor camera that you can use without the need for sophisticated wirings, and it has a battery that lasts for two years."

Gaudette's favorite aspect of the Blink XT2 camera is its motion detection, though he did note one drawback to the system. "It's accurate, and I can easily change its motion sensitivity to my liking. What's more amazing is that it automatically alerts you with a video clip. With it, I am assured that everything is in order. The only flaw that I found annoying is that you can only use your tablet or phone when logging in to the camera. There is no option for using a web browser." Gaudette called Blink XT2 "the perfect fit" for small businesses on tight budgets. "With just less than 100 bucks, I'm already equipped with a wireless and waterproof camera. And most of all, I've armed my business with a video surveillance system that has a 110-degree field of view that's wide enough to see most of the area that I need monitoring."

Eagle Eye Networks

"Their system is easy to set up and configure without professional help," said Stephen Light, co-owner and CMO of Nolah Mattress. "Eagle Eye Networks gives businesses the ability to do both proximal and far surveillance using its IP video camera features. Doing so allows authorized personnel to view and access recorded footage through the Eagle Eye Networks web platform."

Another aspect of Eagle Eye Networks that Light appreciates is its scalability through the cloud, though the online interface isn't perfect. "Since Eagle Eye Networks relies on cloud on-demand architecture, clients no longer need to worry about scaling their storage limitations. When near their limit, businesses can upgrade their storage plan or delete older footage. However, I'm not too fond of their web platform sometimes because it's buggy. It rarely happens, but the company's customer support is phenomenal in troubleshooting our concerns when it does happen."

What to Expect in 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in several changes in the video surveillance space. Many consumers sought pandemic-specific solutions such as video doorbells and touchless security features. Some of those trends may continue in 2021, while others will likely wane as the world moves on from the worst of the pandemic post-vaccine.

Specific products, such as thermal cameras, which became popular during the pandemic to identify visitors with raised body temperatures, may remain popular. These products offer other uses as well, such as detecting intruders.

Many security systems have adopted deep learning analytics and provide AI-assisted notifications that alert businesses much more quickly to security concerns, such as broken windows or loiterers.

The video surveillance industry is expected to exceed $86.5 billion by 2027. That growth is driven in large part by business adoption of high-tech video surveillance equipment and supporting software. We, at business.com, expect both B2C and B2B businesses to continue incorporating video surveillance technology as part of their security in 2021.

In 2021, you can expect to see the following trends:

  • Demand for cloud-based solutions. Cloud-based video surveillance systems offer businesses numerous benefits, including cost savings, enhanced data security, easier remote access, flexible storage, and the ability to recover data and systems more quickly in the event of a disaster. 
  • Integrated compliance measures. As video surveillance continues to have more of a presence in everyday life, stricter regulations and compliance measures are expected. We expect that more video surveillance systems will be manufactured with built-in compliance measures to help companies comply with federal, state and industry regulations. 
  • Interest in open, integrated systems. With an open system, users can easily integrate other applications into their video surveillance system and manage them all from one place. Users are transitioning from systems that lock them into certain cameras and integrations and, instead, are seeking more flexibility in building custom systems.

Our Methodology

To help you find the right video surveillance system, we researched and analyzed dozens of options. Here's an explanation of how we arrived at our best picks.

Locating the Best Services

We began by compiling a list of vendors that offer video surveillance systems. We searched the web and consulted other lists and reviews of the most popular vendors. Our initial list reached 47 video surveillance systems.

Next, we visited the website of each vendor, comparing pricing and features. We scrutinized the systems companies offered, such as digital or network video recorders, and the variety of cameras available.

We approached our research on each system with a list of criteria. For example, does the system support IP cameras, mobile viewing and motion detection? Can you easily scale up the system? Does it cover multiple locations? We also watched product demos (if they were available) to understand each system's interface and how the surveillance system works.

At the end of this process, 25 candidates remained. 

Choosing the Best Services

We called all of the services we were considering (except for the few services that only offer email contact), posing as a potential customer. We wanted to experience how the companies handle these interactions. 

We asked all of the customer service reps the same set of questions about features, options, and pricing, and then we evaluated the overall experience. Company representatives who were friendly and forthcoming earned higher marks, and those who were less helpful or too pushy scored lower.

Researching Each Service

For our overall best pick, our decision came down to which company offers the best balance of affordability, desirable features, and ease of setup and use. We shied away from vendors that only offer extremely low-priced, off-the-shelf solutions that might not be as durable as other systems. We also ruled out expensive and specialized services that cater to one particular industry or provide more advanced capabilities than most small business owners need. Many of these services are great – and worth the investment for some companies – but our goal was to find the service that provides the best value and benefits for the largest number of small businesses.

From 25 candidates, we arrived at our winners for the best overall surveillance system (Protection1), the best budget system (Blink), the best for easy installation (Arlo) and the best hybrid system (Alibi).

Our Previous Winners

Business News Daily strives to find the best products and services for your small business. We invest hours into identifying and researching the best products and services so you feel confident about our recommendations.

We revisit our categories each year, evaluating changes in the industry and new companies. Our process involves revisiting our previous best picks to determine if they are still the best in their category.

In addition to our current recommendations, here are the companies we selected as best picks last year:

Best Overall Surveillance System: Eagle Eye Networks

Kiely Kuligowski
Kiely Kuligowski
Business News Daily Staff
See Kiely Kuligowski's Profile
Kiely Kuligowski is a business.com and Business News Daily writer and has written more than 200 B2B-related articles on topics designed to help small businesses market and grow their companies. Kiely spent hundreds of hours researching, analyzing and writing about the best marketing services for small businesses, including email marketing and text message marketing software. Additionally, Kiely writes on topics that help small business owners and entrepreneurs boost their social media engagement on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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