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NVR vs. DVR: What’s Best For Security Camera Footage?

When shopping for a business security camera system, you might have the option to choose a digital video recorder (DVR) or network video recorder (NVR), both of which record and store video files. They perform the same function—recording security camera footage and allowing you to play it back—but differ in how they do it and what cameras can be connected.

Let’s look at the differences between DVR and NVR and break down the capabilities and features you can expect.

NVR records video data to a server and is commonly used in commercial security.

NVR cameras store video footage on one or multiple digital storage devices, such as hard drives, solid-state drives, and flash drives. These drives can be stored on-site. However, for businesses with more complex security concerns, NVR drives can be stored off-site as an extra measure to prevent an intruder from gaining access to the server.

Key Features:

  • A single Ethernet cable that provides power, video, and audio.
  • Power over Internet (POE). No power splitters or wall sockets are required.
  • Digital Internet protocol (IP) cameras process video. Each camera comes equipped with a processing chip that streams the video to the NVR system for storage. This is more efficient than a traditional video recording.

NVR systems encode and process the video data from the camera, then stream it to the NVR, which is used for storage and remote viewing. Because data is being transferred from the security camera to the storage drive, the security cameras must be connected to the Internet. As such, NVR drives are used with IP cameras that have internet connectivity. As long as the cameras and recorder share the same network, the system can record and save files. Cameras do not have to be physically connected to the recorder, nor is there a need for power splitters.

NVR is a newer technology that provides enhanced video recording capabilities and more features, such as audio recording, compared to more traditional DVR systems.

DVR has long been useful in recording and storing video, but it lacks some key capabilities compared to NVR.

DVRs require the use of power splitters and wall sockets. The cameras used by a DVR system must be analog, which is not connected to the Internet. In a DVR system, the analog cameras stream an analog signal to the recorder, which then processes the images. Cameras must be connected to the recorder via a coaxial cable—one limitation of coaxial connections is that they do not provide power, so an additional connection for power is needed.

Key Features:

  • One coaxial cable and one power cable per camera required.
  • Coaxial cable is typically larger and takes longer to install than a single Ethernet cable.
  • All security cameras require a power source. This is often accomplished through a power splitter.
  • Analog cameras and DVR are not connected to the Internet. The DVR processes and stores video footage.

While there is less flexibility in what type of camera you can pair with your DVR system, cost savings are to be had, as CCTV and DVR setups are less expensive than IP cameras paired with NVRs.

The major difference between DVR and NVR comes down to Internet connectivity. IP cameras offer a range of benefits.

Every security camera setup is different, and some—IP cameras with NVR, in particular—are more expensive than others.

So, you might wonder, do you need IP cameras? Won’t analog work just fine?

Those are great questions! Those are the exact questions you should ask yourself, and it’s probably what your security provider will ask when shopping around for quotes. For example, a hotel owner who needs a dozen security cameras that record in high-definition will probably lean towards an IP camera system. It might be a different story for a small business owner who needs only two or three cameras and does not need to surveil long hallways or outdoor areas. (Here is our guide on what to look for when buying a security camera system.)

Let’s get into more detail about IP cameras, beyond what is discussed above. Compared to analog cameras, IP cameras:

  • Can store footage at a higher frame rate
  • Can produce better image quality
  • Support an unlimited number of NVRs
  • Allow users to remotely access and view camera footage
  • Are cloud compatible

Businesses that use IP cameras can store video locally and to the cloud. Saving footage to the cloud makes for quick access—you can log in from anywhere to watch the footage. However, some security providers charge an additional fee for cloud storage. Cloud storage capacity is limited, too, so if you need more storage, expect to pay a premium. The good news: cloud storage is not your only option. NVR systems can record and store footage locally through an SD card, a good storage option for those who do not want to pay extra.

How much storage do you need?

Whether you’re using a DVR or NVR setup, saving footage locally or to the cloud, there’s no way around it: you need ample storage space. To figure this out, consider the size of your organization (in terms of square feet, number of employees, annual revenue, insurance premium cost, etc.) and whether or not the cameras should record continuously. It makes sense for a retail store to record 24/7, but a construction site might benefit from recording only during non-work hours.

The more your cameras record, the more storage you need.

As an example, if your IP camera setup consists of:

  • Six cameras
  • 2 MP resolution at 18 frames per second
  • 8 hours per day of recording, and
  • 30 days of storage before the system’s memory resets

You will need at least 750 gigabytes, or 0.75 terabytes of storage—if that seems like a lot, well, it is! However, that amount of storage is pretty common. Want higher-resolution or more than six cameras? You’ll need even more storage space. Use this calculator to estimate how much storage you might need.

If you want to talk to a security professional about your security camera storage options, contact Bay Alarm! Our expert agents can discuss your needs and design and implement a security system with the perfect amount of storage. Get in touch today!