Don’t Get Snowed When Buying Security Cameras

We just finished with a bad winter and saw plenty of snow. Hopefully it will be the last of until the end of the year. In the mean time, I was hoping to prevent a different type of snow job from occurring to our customers and followers.

Unless you live under a rock, you have walked into many stores and seen nicely boxed DVR video security systems for very affordable prices. If you are a spec watcher, you may have noticed some nice features as well. H.264 for instance is the latest and greatest recording codec that allows you to record efficiently and clearly on your hard drive. It records more days at a higher visual quality that the old formats on the same sized hard drive.

You may also see included hard drives, IR cameras, power supplies, high lines of resolution, low lux and the list goes on. A friend of mine Scott asked my advice a couple of years ago when he was shopping for a system. He did not want to spend much but wanted a system for recording around his house due to several break-ins around the area. He was a member at a big box store and showed me the specs and price. Being in the business, I ran down everything one by one and told him that the deal was good but I was unfamiliar with the manufacturer.

The DVR picture looked familiar to me. It looked like a line of DVRs that we carried for a very short time until we realized that the cost of having to send them to repairs was costing us more time and aggravation than was worth the savings to our customers. In other words, the machine was not worth selling and was quickly running our reputation for selling good quality DVRs and cameras at an affordable price.

I warned Scott about the fact that this DVR could be the same one we sold before but he could not resist a deal. He purchased the 9 camera system for about $600 with free shipping. He received everything except a monitor which is typical in boxed sets. Being about as handy with tools as a newborn baby, we set the system up. We were surprised to see a good quality picture when we hooked up the monitor. But once we played back, we saw the recording resolution was not so good. Plus the interface of getting to anything was difficult and not well thought out. But he was happy for now with what he was seeing and was even able to see the cameras from work as we configured the remote access for him.

About one month later Scott called me and complained he was not able to see his cameras remotely or on the network. I went to his house and found that all the settings we had inside his DVR were gone. For some reason, the DVR reset itself back to the default settings. It erased everything we changed causing it to not be found on the network and causing it to start recording all the time and not by motion activity as most people desire.

So we again setup the DVR and this time it was 42 days later that the same thing happened. Then 23 days! The 10 days! Then 50 days. Needless to say this was an issue that needed to be repaired. Scott sent the DVR back and it was repaired. Or was it? Again the same issue occurred. He demanded and received a brand new DVR. Then it was about 63 days before the same thing occurred. Then a camera lost its IR light. Then the DVR was no longer recording. A bad hard drive was the problem. I checked and found they used an off brand hard drive. Not a good sign for hard drive longevity. Then another 2 cameras just stopped working. Good news is that the kit came with more cameras than Scott could use. Bad news is that eventually, all the cameras started having various issues. The picture degraded quickly. There was no specification as to the manufacturer of the chip inside the cameras. A good camera will use a Sony, Panasonic or even a Sharp CCD chip. My guess is that the anonymity of the chip maker was not by accident.

Eventually Scott called me and asked me to sell him a new DVR and a few cameras where he needed more detailed images. Since that time, Scott has been happy with the DVR and the new cameras. One of the original cameras still work after a little more than a year of purchase. The rest are toast. Some have been replaced by the company but Scott decided not to remount them and instead sold them on Craigslist.

Scott’s story is not unique. We have many customers with similar complaints. Of course the price looks great compared to the specs on the box. But I can tell you the old adage “You get what you pay for” really applies aptly here. For instance, Yugo car owners soon realized that buying a bargain car was not a bargain at all. Unless you enjoy being stranded on a highway, paying for mechanics work or trying to start the car when the temperature went below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
Now let me try to explain something that makes sense but being that home security is a new phenomenon, I feel it is my duty to explain. The following are vital components to your DVR purchase.

HARD DRIVE: A hard drive is not a hard drive. Buying a Seagate, Western Digital or other high quality hard drive is important. Buying a cheap hard drive almost ensures a short life. Especially when you are using it for a security system that requires round the clock activity.

FIRMWARE: It’s called software except that with standalone DVRs, we call it firmware. The program that runs the DVR needs to be written well. Bad code can cause the DVR to crash, reset or otherwise stop working as depicted in Scott’s experience.

HARDWARE: The components that make the DVR are also important. Overheating, broken components, lost functions and other issues can be related to the use of inferior design and hardware.

TECH SUPPORT: Try calling tech support from one of the big box or home improvement stores and see what you get. It’s so important to have someone know what they are doing when answering questions. At the U-Spy Store, you can rely on our experts to answer your questions as we all have used the products.

USER MANUAL: It may sound like a little thing but I have yet to see any DVR come with a user manual that is meant to be easily used and understood. What we do it to rewrite a mini manual with the basic needs written in easy to understand language. This not only saves time but limits the aggravation factor.

The moral of this story is that you do get what you pay for. While some of these cheap DVRs make excellent paper weights, you probably bought the DVR to actually work as such. So please see one of our reps and have them explain what it means to be secure and not get snowed!

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