Understanding Bandwidth and Bitrates for Security Systems

How can IP based systems record in higher resolutions and do more than older systems? Well, the answer actually lies within the cable and the technology behind it all. Let's start with the cable: CAT5E is the cable of choice because of its reliability, familiarity and its capability of not only transmitting data across the cable, but power as well.

Next up is the technology: IP Cameras and NVR's utilize the network technology in order to communicate with one another. This is an incredibly powerful environment where a lot can be accomplished. There have been standards in place for many decades which translated to give these systems an easy understanding on how they communicate and work. An IP camera system operates in the same manner that your home network allows your computer to access the internet, just on a much, much smaller scale.

Why is any of that important? Because it gives you an easy way to tell a good quality system from a sub par or cheaply made recorder by looking at the available incoming bandwidth of the system and comparing that to what the camera is outputting. This tells you if you're getting what you're paying for.

Manufacturers communicate their specifications in “bandwidth” and “bit rate”.

Bandwidth is the total amount of data that can be taken in at once by the system. Think about a typical garden hose; the more bandwidth there is, the bigger the hose is. The bandwidth is measured in “Mbps”, which stands for 'Megabits Per Second'.

Bit rate is the amount of produced data by the camera (video feed) measured down to the bits. Going back to the garden hose analogy again; if bandwidth is the hose itself then the bit rate is the water. They didn't make it the easiest thing in the world to understand or convert by measuring the NVR's in megabits and the cameras in just bits. Luckily some easy math lets you figure this out quickly. (Megabits = bits ÷ 1,048,576) So 40Mbps is 41943040 Bits.

Something that can impact the bit rate is the method of compression that's utilized by the camera. When you compress an image it makes it smaller, which seems great because you are able to fit more within the same amount of space, however the downside to this is that if done improperly it can result in the image quality suffering greatly. The most popular compression method on the market right now is H.264, this is a relatively old compression method and is rather inefficient. Our systems utilize H.265 which is the newer, more efficient compression method that is actually able to compress the image even more than H.264 without losing any image quality whatsoever. It quite literally is 'having your cake and eating it, too.

There are plenty of tricks that many manufacturers use to make it appear that their systems are capable of recording in a higher resolution than they are actually capable of doing. Many of them will claim full HD recording when in truth not all of the cameras can be recorded in that resolution.

With all that you now know, go take a look at a system for sale that says it can record in full 4K HD for 4 cameras. While that sounds great, check the bandwidth on the NVR. Many manufacturers try to be sneaky and say it can record in full 4K, but they don't mention that it can only record one camera in 4K, and in order to add more, you would need to lower the resolution of them all.

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