Comparison Of Professional IP Camera Systems And Home Camera Systems: What Is The Difference?

If you do a search for Internet Protocol (IP) camera systems, you may see low-cost IP cameras advertised by Amazon, Costco, BestBuy and other consumer sellers. You can find IP cameras starting at under $40, but are these IP cameras right for your business, school, hospital, government organisation or commercial organisation? The answer is no. They are not designed for professional applications. One of the most important things to understand is that commercial IP camera systems are systems. They consist of an IP camera, video recording system and infrastructure that includes the network, video management software and display system. The consumer surveillance camera is primarily only a camera.

Quality versus Price of Professional IP Camera Systems

Commercial IP camera systems, while costing more than home cameras, provide more capability and better quality and reliability than consumer cameras. Consumer cameras are available for under $100, with some selling as low as $39.99. These cameras advertise 1080p resolution. That is equivalent to 2-megapixel camera resolution. Think about this price. Have you ever purchased a good lens for your photo camera? I bet you had to pay $200 to $500 for the better lens. Now imagine what type of lens is included with the $39.99 camera. These low-cost lenses reduce the clarity of the video. This means users will not be able to identify a person’s face in the video or see a licence plate number.

The other day, I was walking down the street, and I passed a guy selling watches. There was one watch that looked just like an expensive Rolex, but it cost only $50. What a deal, I thought. I think everyone tries to find the best deal. Unfortunately, we sometimes forget the old maxim, ‘you get what you pay for’. I know I do. How many times have we been burned by this? Better IP cameras are reliable and rugged. They are designed to last for many years of operation. The professional IP cameras that are designed for business applications provide much better video, can see areas that are further away and can operate at night.

Reliability of Commercial IP Camera Systems Versus Consumer Camera Systems

Commercial camera systems have better reliability than the low-cost consumer cameras. Imagine installing a camera on a pole and then having to replace it after a few months of operation. The labour cost alone will make the cheap camera much more expensive than the professional IP camera. The commercial IP cameras from Hanwha have a five-year warranty. This almost guarantees trouble-free operation for at least that long. Take a look at our article, What is the Best Price for Your IP Camera System? for more about this topic.

Security Provided by Professional IP Camera Systems versus Home Cameras

The professional IP camera systems that are designed for schools, business, government and other organisations provide much better protection from hacking and malware than home cameras. The consumer home cameras are much more vulnerable to hackers. The setup of home cameras usually consists of a small number of cameras connected to Wi-Fi. These Wi-Fi connections and their ease of use make them more vulnerable than the sophisticated network-attached IP camera systems used for business. The consumer-grade IP cameras include nice features for personal use, such as viewing the video on a smartphone, but these features are not safe. They should not be used in a business IP camera system. Professional systems also have mobile apps, but these are connected to the video management software (VMS) or the network video recorder rather than the camera, which provides better security control.

Video Recording for Professional IP Camera Systems

Commercial IP camera systems are designed to record video from large numbers of network-attached IP cameras, which could range from a few cameras to enterprise systems with thousands of cameras that are located in many different geographic locations. The VMS provides sophisticated IP camera management tools that make it easy to install and maintain the camera system.

A home-type IP camera system is designed for a small number of cameras – the IP cameras record to a memory card in the camera or to a cloud system, which can be costly. The memory cards have limited capacity, and it is difficult to track the recording over multiple cameras. If a cloud recording system is used, it must be connected through the home internet connection to a remote server. These systems usually have limited bandwidth, which means that only a few cameras can be used in the home.

Consumer IP cameras have simple motion detection that triggers video recording. This means that the home video system may record quite a lot of video that is of no interest, making it difficult to find the important recorded video.

Professional IP cameras have secure connections to dedicated video recording systems. The video data stream is encrypted, and the recording system can handle hundreds of IP cameras. These systems have effective alarm detection that only records critical video. The recording system can be set to record video if something is a certain size, or if a person crosses a pre-set line. It can also detect an object left in a lobby, or trigger an alarm when a laptop is removed from a desk. The recording systems include search features that allow users to find relevant video quickly.

Performance of Professional IP Camera Systems Versus Consumer Cameras

Professional IP cameras provide advanced features and functions that are not available in consumer cameras. One important aspect of commercial IP camera systems is that they can be adjusted to reduce false alarms, which controls the number of notifications to the security centre and reduces the recorded video. Professional IP cameras are also available with intelligent video capability. For information about all the features provided by intelligent IP video cameras, look at our article The Intelligent IP Camera.

There are also high-performance PTZ cameras with extended range that allow users to see objects that are miles away. These special cameras include infrared (IR) illumination or are teamed with thermal imaging cameras to create systems that can see during day and night. Users can select from professional off-the-shelf PTZ IP cameras or custom-designed PTZ IP camera systems that allow them to see things that are over five miles away.

Integration of Professional IP Camera Systems and Other Security Systems

Commercial IP camera systems can be integrated with door access control, IP paging systems and IP intercom systems to help control who enters a building, thereby increasing security. They can also be used with licence plate recognition systems, gate control systems and biometric access control. To learn more about how to integrate security systems, take a look at our article How to Integrate Door Access and IP Camera Systems.

Summary of how Professional IP Camera Systems Compare to Consumer Home Type IP Cameras

IP camera systems that are designed for professional applications provide better quality, reliability and functionality to users such as required by businesses, schools, hospitals, government and commercial organisations. They are designed to support large numbers of cameras,  are more secure and allow users to easily identify security problems. Although consumer IP cameras are inexpensive, they are not right for commercial applications.

Bob Mesnick is President and owner of Kintronics. Kintronics specialize in providing network attached IP camera surveillance and security systems, optical storage systems and network-attached storage. For more articles like this one visit