How to design a small CCTV system

Do you want to design a CCTV project but have no idea were to start? If that's your case, you are in the right place. In this article I will show you the step-by-step process to a successful CCTV system design. Keep reading...  

Everything starts with the client. Before even start thinking about the CCTV design, you must understand what type of client your are working with and what are his/hers needs, expectation and budget for the CCTV project.

Let's start talking about the different type of clients...

Type of clients that invest on CCTV projects



They are private companies like banks, factories, shopping malls, restaurants, etc. Note that in this classification I'm including different types of activity, from manufacturing to education, trade and services.

Design a CCTV project to this type of client usually involves time and dedication, because most of the time you will compete with several other companies that just like also sell CCTV surveillance systems.

A corporate client will in most cases pay for a well-designed  CCTV project with higher cost project because they have a need for a high quality CCTV system and are willing to pay for the one that is most cost-effective.

Talk to the right people is essential for this type of project, because after analyzing a potential vendor's business proposition, decision-making is made by someone with a higher position in the company's hierarchy, so make sure the person you are talking to can take decisions or at least have your proposal endorsed by his/her boss.

A corporate client such as a bank, usually purchase CCTV cameras for the various branches spread throughout the country, I personally have already participated in projects where the bank purchased thousands of cameras and recorders to be installed in different branches of the country (Brazil).

Have you ever imagined your company participating in a project of this level where someone will decide to buy, let's say... 30,000 IP cameras?

This decision does not occur overnight, and the buyer wants assurances that he/she is making a really good deal that is cost-effective.

In this case, it is necessary to have a good commercial representative who knows how to present the proposal to the client in a clear and objective way, the idea is to show why the client should invest in the CCTV project offered by your company and not another project offered by the competition.



They are small clients that need a CCTV system in their own home or small businesses. For this type of customer most of the time you have direct access to the person who is the decision-maker.

People who need to install CCTV cameras in their homes or small businesses, are generally more easy to talk to. They can usually have a quick decision about a commercial proposal, in most cases without the need to consult other people.

This type of CCTV projects most often have low price and the client does not expect to have too cameras monitoring their home or office.

Just be careful not offer a cheap but bad solution to your customer, because it can be more susceptible to possible problems that will lead to excessive technical support and customer dissatisfaction.

Please use devices from vendors that can support you with your CCTV design and also pickup the phone when you need some assistance.



They are customers who demand a high level of dedication from the supplier, as there will be a lot of process and paperwork involved. Decision making depends on several factors, the main one being compliance with technical specifications at the lowest possible price.

To sell a CCTV project to the government, there is a long way to go, just as in the corporate world, the decision-making process is also time-consuming and there is a lot of red tape involved.

In most cases, to sell any product or service to the government, it is necessary to participate in public tenders where there will be a great competition that is very aggressive, after all, the projects are usually big and deal with considerable amount of money.

For this type of CCTV project it is necessary to have a team that knows the bureaucratic procedures and also the technical support from engineers who must analyze the specifications to make sure that the products meet the customer requirements.

CCTV Design example

Let's start drafting a basic CCTV project for a small client, so the concept will be much easier to understand since the technical details are simple.

Imagine a scenario where an entrepreneur owns a small movie rental store and wants to install cameras to monitor the place. (yeah I know your are thinking Netflix is going to crush this business, but that's just an example).

You must provide a solution by designing a CCTV project that meets the needs of that potential customer at the best possible cost.

Is necessary to understand what the customer wants and what are the expectations about the CCTV project for the small store.

Well, let's say the businessman of this story is called Mark. He is worried about some DVD and Blu-ray theft that occurs inside the store, the idea is that the cameras can prevent or at least reduce the theft problem.

What Mark is asking is simple, but as a CCTV professional you must explore more about the real customer need to meet his/her expectations.

Question to ask for a CCTV design project

Let's ask some questions to clarify what will be best solution for the CCTV project of the movie rental store:

1. Where he/she wants to install CCTV cameras?

The client usually indicates the locations he/she would like to monitor, it is likely that he/she has had some experience that has led believe that a camera at that location would solve the problem.

So ask him/her his opinion about where would be the best places for installing the security cameras, and what are the reasons for that. 

Let the client know that you want to understand his perspective of the problem, so you can design a CCTV project to offer the best solution.

2. What is the purpose of the CCTV cameras ?

It's necessary to understand what Mark wants from his new CCTV system, does he just want to know if there are people in the store corridors without too much detail about those people or to identify exactly who they are? 

A CCTV system just to show people around has different specification compared to one with resolution and quality enough to recognize faces. 

It is very common for the customer to be dissatisfied later when deciding to see the video of an event to try to identify someone's face but the cameras don't have resolution enough. Believe me, they will blame your for that.

3. Preventive or reactive system ?

Does Mark want to prevent the thefts from occurring or does he want to record the videos for further evidence?

Make sure your are offering what the customer wants, if he wants to record everything that's happening to watch the video later, please don't offer him a system for real-time monitoring. 

4. How many days to record?

You should listen to what Mark has to say to understand what he has in mind, but don't be alarmed if he says he would to record video for a year.

Sometimes this happens because the customer doesn't know that this is not a  common situation and that can raise too much the costs.

5. Who will have access to the CCTV system?

Does Mark want his employees to have access to the CCTV system to monitor and export videos? Or just have the privileges watch live videos?

This point is quite critical, many people accessing the system can bring inconveniences, such as using images improperly or even destroying evidence or changing the system configuration.

This can be even dangerous, just imagine if an employee exports a video and upload it to YouTube just because he thinks it's something funny.

6. Is remote viewing required?

If Mark wants to access the system remotely, he will need to have the appropriate infrastructure to do so, such as an Internet link and the correct configuration to properly send the videos over the Internet.

Designing the small CCTV project

Based on the questions you asked Mark, you could start a draft of the project, with a site survey to study the details before proposing a solution. 

Deciding where the CCTV cameras will be installed is up to you, with the initial questionnaire you have only got an idea of what Mark has in mind, but you must decide where to install them and explain the reasons for that.

Choose the right camera and lens

For the video store, it would be more interesting to use cameras with varifocal lenses to adjust the angle and zoom level, it would also be more interesting to have high resolution cameras to recognize people.

To learn more about cameras read: How Security Cameras Work

Having a preventive system is also more interesting in this case, although it is not feasible to let a person monitor the cameras in real time, it is possible to place monitors that show some of the store's images and signs indicating that the place is being recorded. This causes a natural effect on people's mind who will think twice before committing a theft.

How many days to recording?

For this project it is interesting to record for 15 or at most 30 days. Mark can access the CCTV system remotely and have the privilege of exporting videos for evidence and backup. The employees have access to the CCTV system only for live viewing and search (can't export videos).

If you want to learn more about bandwidth and storage calculation, read:

Bandwidth and storage for CCTV

CCTV Storage calculation with formula and example

CCTV remote viewing

For remote viewing, is necessary to have some specific rules in place. Change the CCTV recorder default password and if possible use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to raise the level of security.

What CCTV system is better?

Analog or IP CCTV system? That's the question.

There's no right or wrong answer, because every system has pros and cons, but for this specific CCTV project, I would say that the analog system is OK/ 

The solution for the small CCTV project

A basic analog CCTV system with a DVR and domes cameras with varifocal lenses. Full HD resolution (1920 x 1080) can have the necessary quality with to better identify people.

The DVR can be connected to the Internet to allow remote viewing.

A inexpensive KIT can be found on Amazon. Just like the one below which comes with a 8 Channel DVR + 4 cameras, so you have extra input for future cameras you can buy later. Just click here to visit the Amazon store and see this and other options that may be good for your project.

Note: If you purchase something on Amazon by clicking on the link, I get paid a small commission as an Amazon affiliate. I just want you to know that I am as transparent as possible with this information and you are not paying any extras for that.

Swann 4 Channel DVR


For a small CCTV project with cameras installed in a store, an analog CCTV system would be enough. A surveillance camera KIT with the necessary number of cameras (4, 8 or 16) can be used for such project.

If you want to have more information about CCTV system read the articles:

Want to become a better professional ? 

If you want to become a professional CCTV installer or designer, take a look at the material available in the blog. Just click the links below:

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