What is an NVR and do I need one for my CCTV?

Are you wondering just what is an NVR?

The acronym ‘NVR’ will crop up when you research your home CCTV surveillance system.

It stands for ‘network video recorder’.

If you are building a custom security camera system for your home, you may need an NVR.

Where the recorder sits in your home CCTV system

Wherever you decide to place surveillance cameras around your home, whether its indoors or outdoors, the video streams need a destination.

Monitoring can be either active (someone sits and watches the video stream) or passive (you record and review footage as needed). Software can assist with active monitoring, sending you an alert to your phone when motion is detected by a camera. And passive monitoring is useful after a crime, for collecting evidence.

Either way, your security cameras need a destination for their footage. Since modern cameras are recording digital image data, this destination for your video will be a hard drive. The hard drive will often be housed in a dedicated device called a recorder.

And one type of recorder for CCTV video works as part of a network of IP cameras operating across a system of routers, switches, ethernet cables and Wifi signals.

These recorders are NVRs or ‘network video recorders’.

The Good Old Days Of DVR

Old-style CCTV systems would stream video from cameras to a DVR or ‘digital video recorder’.

An unassuming black box or PC built for video recording purposes, DVRs consisted of software, a storage target and a video capture card.

Camera streams from analog or digital cameras passed through cables directly wired to the DVR. It could be a hassle running new cables from each camera back to your DVR. The DVR would run this video data through the capture care, and record the footage to a hard-drive.

DVRs did offer smart security monitoring systems with like motion detection and user alerts.

DVRs were a significant upgrade over geriatric VCR systems. They are still commonly used in video surveillance systems today.Network video recorder from D-Link

What is an NVR for?

NVRs freed CCTV security systems from the requirement to run cables directly between cameras and recorders.

Internet protocol or IP cameras connect to computer networks using ethernet cables or WiFi. These computer networks pass IP camera video streams over protocols to a recorder with NVR software situated anywhere on the network.

Via network switches, NVR can record video from IP cameras situated far away from the recorder. NVRs can potentially be situated off-site for extra security.

These days, cloud-based services even offer video recording without any onsite recorder. The IP camera simply streams video data straight to the Internet, and on to a cloud recording service.

FOSCAM Mini NVRAn NVR-based surveillance system streams encoded video directly from IP cam to NVR software. The camera itself handles the video encoding, so the recording device doesn’t need a video capture card.

NVR software looks much like DVR software. The camera control features are similar. The units housing NVR software can be less-resource hungry and act like a low-poweed NAS. They chug away continuously saving video data from your camera direct to a hard drive or flash storage.

Do I Need NVR For My CCTV?

If you answer ‘Yes’ to any of the following questions, consider purchasing an NVR:

  • Do you want to store and review the footage from your home CCTV system?
  • Do you want to record large volumes of video data with your home IP cameras?
  • Do you want to keep local copies of your surveillance footage on your own storage?
  • Do you have existing hardware like a NAS or old PC that could act as an NVR?
  • Do you want the flexibility to use different surveillance capture software to review your CCTV footage?
  • Are you worried about relying on cloud-based services to access your old footage?
  • Are the subscription plans for cloud video recording services too expensive for the number of IP cams you will use?
  • Do you think it would be fun to administer your own NVR?

Recommended NVRs for any budget


The Expensive One

At over £300, the D-Link DNR-326 2-Bay NVR doesn’t come cheap.

However, for the money you’re getting a very tidy, low-power consumption unit with Gigabit ethernet, 2-bays for your hard drives of choice, and a USB port for firmware updates.

D-Link’s own D-Viewcam Pro software is baked into the unit and the D-Link software is well-supported.

For an easy life, and a high-quality dedicated NVR solution, the DNR-326 is a convenient choice.


The NAS One

For simple, NVR-like performance and oodles of extra functionality – including a fully-fledged NAS, get a Synology with Surveillance Station.

Pick the right camera to complement something like a DS215J for less than £130 and you’ll have network recording sorted for your camera.

Beware though – Synology charges a license fee for extra cameras, so if you have a multi-cam setup, you may pass on the NAS option.


The Mini One

This tiny Foscam FN3004H is a budget option if you have external hard drives kicking around spare.

For less than £50, add it to your network, add up to a 4TB external hard drive, and point multiple IP cams to the unit.

As a simple network recording solution, it doesn’t get much easier.


The Big One

Got the space, cash and time to manage you’re own CCTV surveillance kingdom?

Build or re-purpose your own desktop PC devoted to recording your CCTV footage and manage it all with Blue Iris software.

Add a monstrous CPU, oodles of RAM and endlessly expand the storage.

Great Blue Iris user support on the internet and you can stream up to 64 cameras to the one computer.

That’s a lot of cameras.

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