Church system dilemma

tigerwillow1

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I found a few related threads, they're pretty old and don't address my primary concern. Context is a small church, wants camera coverage for 3 buildings separated by 80 feet or so, knows I have a camera system, therefore I volunteered to get it done. From my experience with my own system I'd have no problem getting a bunch of cameras from Andy and setting them up with an NVR or BI. My concern is that after I'm unavailable to maintain that system for whatever reason, it's going to become an unusable brick. Kind of like a broken car that nobody knows how to repair. This is a seriously computer illiterate congregation. If there was something like a faulty camera cable, IP address conflict, or crashed BI system, there is nobody else who would even know where to start. Many of the members are smartphone gurus. With computers or networks, everybody but me is scared to get near it. I see three high-level approaches:

1. Professional installation with ongoing support. Probably won't fly because of the cost.
2. Dahua cameras with NVR or BI.
3. Packaged system.

They'd get the best bang for the buck with choice #2, but I can't help thinking a packaged system is the better choice because it will have a more user-friendly manual and I'm assuming the manufacturer can be called on for support and troubleshooting assistance. For starters I peeked at a Swann system manual and it looks a whole lot easier to follow and decipher than a Dahua manual. With a packaged system they have all the info in one place, instead of having to find a camera manual, NVR manual, smartPss manual, and so forth. I realize some of the obvious disadvantages of older firmware and less choice in camera specs, but a less capable working system is better than a higher capability system that isn't working.

I'm looking for any experience here that a packaged system is indeed the best way to go. Then I have to start learning about them, starting from scratch.
 

mattp

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Sorry I can't give you the advice you are seeking. I bought a packaged system. That was the biggest waste of money in a long time. I have replaced all but one of those cameras and went with a BI setup. I'll be replacing that camera this weekend and selling the packaged system...Oh wait a minute...Want to buy my packaged system?
 

fenderman

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Unless you die, you can support a system remotely. The chance of a full system crash is low and if that happens they would just have to hire a local pc guy to get windows and teamviewer installed so you can completely the setup.
I dont care how user friendly the manual is, it doesnt sound like they would be able to solve any problem on their own. Regardless of what you end up doing you can train the most tech literate person in the group to do basic trouble shooting.
Keep in mind that with #1 it is possible the company wont be around in 2 years.
The advantage of #3 is that if you buy from costco and it fails they can just bring it back anytime - assuming the church has its own membership. Costco also has their own concierge tech support though I have no idea how capable they may be.
 

Holbs

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go BI. If you get ran over by a steam roller, the next person can jump right in and figure BI out. It's not that difficult as compared to a NVR. Unless you get down & deep such as email alerts, spotter cameras, etc.
 

tangent

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I found a few related threads, they're pretty old and don't address my primary concern. Context is a small church, wants camera coverage for 3 buildings separated by 80 feet or so, knows I have a camera system, therefore I volunteered to get it done. From my experience with my own system I'd have no problem getting a bunch of cameras from Andy and setting them up with an NVR or BI. My concern is that after I'm unavailable to maintain that system for whatever reason, it's going to become an unusable brick. Kind of like a broken car that nobody knows how to repair. This is a seriously computer illiterate congregation. If there was something like a faulty camera cable, IP address conflict, or crashed BI system, there is nobody else who would even know where to start. Many of the members are smartphone gurus. With computers or networks, everybody but me is scared to get near it. I see three high-level approaches:
What you probably need to do is to put together some documentation about the system. At a minimum, this involves a diagram of network topology, locations of devices, ip addresses of devices, models of devices, notes about special configuration settings, user names / passwords. Put another way a binder you could hand to someone competent and they could figure out what to do.

The next tier of documentation would be trying to train the luddites to use and manage it. It's up to you if you want to put this together or not.

I'd try to mostly keep the cameras separate from the rest of the churches network (2 NICs on the BI PC, one camera LAN and one for accessing BI). The tricky bit is multiple buildings, were you planning to use an existing wired/fiber link between the buildings or point to point wifi? If existing how much bandwidth capacity is available for the cameras? Is there a need to improve networking for other uses in the other buildings?
 
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tigerwillow1

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The tricky bit is multiple buildings, were you planning to use an existing wired/fiber link between the buildings or point to point wifi? If existing how much bandwidth capacity is available for the cameras? Is there a need to improve networking for other uses in the other buildings?
I'm surprised by the total panning of the packaged systems, but I asked for advice , and got what I asked for. To answer the networking question, think of 3 buildings in a row. The recorder would likely be in the center building. There's already a cat5 between the center building and one of the end buildings used for Internet browsing. I wouldn't expect a problem running a few cameras over that line. Connection to the other building would be new. It's too short for an RF link but I'd have to decide wire vs. fiber for lightning protection. Lightning is rare, but we did have a hit on a power pole a few years ago that took out all of the A/V equipment and a few other things. I've got a couple of spare cameras and the church has an old PC. I guess I could set up a 2 camera BI system to see how a few of the other people get along with it.
 

tangent

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I'm surprised by the total panning of the packaged systems, but I asked for advice , and got what I asked for. To answer the networking question, think of 3 buildings in a row. The recorder would likely be in the center building. There's already a cat5 between the center building and one of the end buildings used for Internet browsing. I wouldn't expect a problem running a few cameras over that line. Connection to the other building would be new. It's too short for an RF link but I'd have to decide wire vs. fiber for lightning protection. Lightning is rare, but we did have a hit on a power pole a few years ago that took out all of the A/V equipment and a few other things. I've got a couple of spare cameras and the church has an old PC. I guess I could set up a 2 camera BI system to see how a few of the other people get along with it.
An NVR's fine too if you think it fits your needs better, but avoid the packages you'll get a lot of cameras that are poor selections. In some ways the NVR's without a PoE switch built in are more versatile. You can even use a PC with blue iris and an NVR if you use your own PoE switch (this does double the bandwidth as you're pulling two streams from each camera). If you're truly on a shoestring budget, then you can try to figure out what the least terrible packaged system you can find is but throw away the shitty CCA cables.

Churches can be tricky when it comes to cameras. Rarely will anyone want to spend enough to do it right and concerns ranging from vandalism, someone hiding in the building after hours, theft, to mass shootings. All the while you still want it to be a welcoming place.

It's rare to see a church that finds the optimal camera solution. Typically it's either woefully inadequate or over the top ridiculous (and still crappy, one church near me has 6-8 longsee / reolink cameras at every entrance). Try to think critically about assets at risk / threats and choke points. Locations like the church office likely need some cameras. This can get more complicated, but some churches try to use the people counting function on cameras for reports they have to file. While I wouldn't worry about trying to get the license plate of every car that enters the lot, it would be nice to be able to get a plate off a lone car after hours when the lot's empty, maybe an auto tracking PTZ or a Z12 trained on the entrance. Locations like a little mini dome on the ceiling of a staircase mid way up are always fun. The church I went to as a kid was vandalized by a church employee.

This likely goes beyond the scope of what you're comfortable with and their budget, but it's also worth pondering things like an access control system or alarm system. Unifi access is pretty sleek and has nice integration with their IP phones, but I wish their cameras were better.

Cameras are secondary to basic physical security. Things like fixing doors that don't latch properly, etc. Watch some Deviant Olam for some ideas.
 
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Griswalduk

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iirc Blue iris has a free trial period. If the PC is up to spec and as you have a few cameras besides some time and effort it would cost nothing to experiment. Good idea in letting the other members have a go you might form an idea if it meets your long term objectives of being "user friendly"

Option #2 Dahua NVR and cameras i am more familiar with. I have a 5216 and 8 x 5442 cameras. The NVR set up was literally pop a drive in, switch on, set password, select / deselect updates and upnp, set the time and date. Then plug the cameras in 1 at a time and let the NVR do its thing. All info is pushed to the camera. This set up is really just your option #3 packaged system on steroids lol

From personal experience I find the GUI on the NVR intuitive and easy enough to navigate. Basic camera settings can be done here but (this is ipcamtalk after all lol) more advanced settings still will need a PC / internet explore to access. User manuals are available and the most relevant sections could be printed out


The dahua 42xx NVR might be more user friendly but at a cost of features requiring a judgement call.

My final thoughts are with the cabling as you mention there is 3 buildings. The above assumes all wires run back to a central NVR. If this is not feasible poe switches, wireless links or powerline adapters will add some complication.

Good luck
 

tigerwillow1

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Question about the Dahua NVR: I realize that the POE ports do plug and play when a camera is plugged in. If you instead use a single POE port for multiple cameras on a POE switch, does the plug and play still work with them?
 

Griswalduk

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I'm not sure I'm using 1 camera per port on my set up. @bigredfish i think uses the NVR and maybe of help or @wittaj started out with a NVR though he's running blue iris now.

What I'm more certain off is the camera limitation. I.e. 8 port nvr limited to 8 cameras even if you only use 1 poe port connected to a switch. Same for 16 port nvr. So more ports is better

I'm also just remembering when I was starting out @Flintstone61 helped to get me up and running. :)
 
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Smilingreen

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I found a few related threads, they're pretty old and don't address my primary concern. Context is a small church, wants camera coverage for 3 buildings separated by 80 feet or so, knows I have a camera system, therefore I volunteered to get it done. From my experience with my own system I'd have no problem getting a bunch of cameras from Andy and setting them up with an NVR or BI. My concern is that after I'm unavailable to maintain that system for whatever reason, it's going to become an unusable brick. Kind of like a broken car that nobody knows how to repair. This is a seriously computer illiterate congregation. If there was something like a faulty camera cable, IP address conflict, or crashed BI system, there is nobody else who would even know where to start. Many of the members are smartphone gurus. With computers or networks, everybody but me is scared to get near it. I see three high-level approaches:

1. Professional installation with ongoing support. Probably won't fly because of the cost.
2. Dahua cameras with NVR or BI.
3. Packaged system.

They'd get the best bang for the buck with choice #2, but I can't help thinking a packaged system is the better choice because it will have a more user-friendly manual and I'm assuming the manufacturer can be called on for support and troubleshooting assistance. For starters I peeked at a Swann system manual and it looks a whole lot easier to follow and decipher than a Dahua manual. With a packaged system they have all the info in one place, instead of having to find a camera manual, NVR manual, smartPss manual, and so forth. I realize some of the obvious disadvantages of older firmware and less choice in camera specs, but a less capable working system is better than a higher capability system that isn't working.

I'm looking for any experience here that a packaged system is indeed the best way to go. Then I have to start learning about them, starting from scratch.
For some unknown reason, I have found in the past, that technology and people in a church don't mix.

First. no one knows anything about technology until the technology quits working and it inconveniences them. Then all of the sudden, everyone is an expert and they all have a different opinion of what is wrong and how the church should spend their money on fixing it.

Secondly, that is where their expertise stops. They won't fix it themselves, they will wait on everyone else with opinions to jump in and show them how it's done.

Thirdly, when everyone else with opinions mimics the first guys response, they will search out a brand new member of the church that has changed the battery in their car all by themselves successfully twice in their lives and talk them into looking at it.....for the glory of God, of course.

Fourth, when the new member looks at it and has absolutely no idea where to even start troubleshooting and just dives in with both feet and totally hoses what is left of the technology to the point of it will never work again, they blame the new guy. Then they abandon the whole system because they realize that buying new color coordinated purple drapes and pew cushions is way more important than the now idle technology would ever be..........until another new member comes along that has more than one monitor connected to their home PC..........experienced fresh meat...............
 

tangent

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Fourth, when the new member looks at it and has absolutely no idea where to even start troubleshooting and just dives in with both feet and totally hoses what is left of the technology to the point of it will never work again, they blame the new guy. Then they abandon the whole system because they realize that buying new color coordinated purple drapes and pew cushions is way more important than the now idle technology would ever be..........
You left out the part where they rip everything out and put in a bunch of blink or arlo cameras and the pastor that demands to have a computer 2x more powerful and 5x more expensive than the video editor.
 

tigerwillow1

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I had a new idea and it sounds so simple that there must be a catch I don't see. Instead of a central NVR or BI machine, put a separate 8-port with POE NVR in each building, then connect each NVR to the network. Each NVR should auto-configure the cameras, and every camera would be accessible from anywhere on the network. Other than a few hundred $ extra upfront cost, what's the downside to this?
 
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tigerwillow1

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For some unknown reason, I have found in the past, that technology and people in a church don't mix.
(Editorial comment having nothing to do with my request for technical assistance)
I can see how any of the examples mentioned for this can come up, and have seen some of them in one way or another. Hasn't always been this way, but right now I've got full control of the computer and A/V equipment. Not because I bullied my way into it, or even want it, but because everybody else runs away as fast as they can when any of it comes up. Not meant to be putting anybody down. They're good people that can do amazing things I could never do. That's just the mix of the people right now. The easiest way to get me riled up about church interaction is to bring up the softball team. Things can get downright nasty over who plays what position and how important wining is.
 
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I'll call on @Flintstone61 :rofl:

I will say I've been there and done that. It can be a tough situation especially when something goes wrong. Proceed with caution but make sure you do lots of research and testing before installing any cameras just to make sure they'll actually do what you want them to do. Definitely read the Wiki in the blue bar at the top of every page here.
 

tigerwillow1

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My main question is how to set up a system to be used and maintained by extreme nontechnical people. If that's covered in the wiki, could somebody please point me directly to it?
 

tangent

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My main question is how to set up a system to be used and maintained by extreme nontechnical people.
The answer to that starts by defining their objectives.

Do they mostly want to watch a live view and occasionally review recordings if something's missing/damaged?
Do they want alerts for unusual activity?
Do they want to skip around the recordings on a daily basis actively looking for trouble?
 
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