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What Are Channels When It Comes To Security Cameras?


Security cameras have a lot of features and learning what those features are can make a big difference in being able to plan out your security system. One of the terms that you will hear whenever looking at a security system is channel. This will typically be listed in the title of the product. For example, a 16 channel security system.

What is a channel? What does it mean? How does it affect your security system? Let’s take a look.

What Are Channels On Security Camera Systems?

A security camera system typically runs on one of two systems, a Network Video Recorder (NVR) or a Digital Video Recorder (DVR). These devices are how security cameras connect to the system. The box converts the data into an image that can be viewed on the device or with a remote device. On these systems, a security camera’s cable connects to the back of the device.

Each possible plug for a camera is a channel. So a 16 channel security system is capable of having 16 different cameras connected. Think of each input as a television channel that you are plugging in.

Your typical security camera system comes in a variety of channel numbers:

  • 4 Channels

  • 8 Channels

  • 16 Channels

  • 32 Channels

Systems can be purchased with various other numbers of channels but those tend to be out of industry standard. You can even buy systems with 100 channels, that is more cameras than most business properties need.

While you can have a camera system with more channels than you need, most people choose to pick a system with the channel numbers that they need. In general, the more channels that you add, the more expensive the recorders are.

What Kind Of Inputs Do Channels Use?

Since security camera systems were invented there have been a number of different methods for connecting a camera to the channel on a DVR or NVR. For analog cameras, the most common connector is coax cable. These cables screw onto a post on back of the recording device. Some camera systems still use proprietary camera connectors but this is becoming rare.

Network cameras don’t work exactly the same. Not all network cameras require a recording device. When this happens, these devices connect to a network over the internet for recording and viewing. For network cameras that have a Network Video Recorder, ethernet cabling is used to connect cameras to the NVR.

For network camera systems that do not require a base station, there is still typically a limit to the number of cameras that you can connect. These systems connect to a manufacturer website (typically) and you view them there. This is where the limits are set and the limit depends on the company.

Can You Expand The Channels On A Security Camera System?

Many want to know whether or not you can expand a security camera system to have additional channels beyond those on the back of the recorder. Almost all camera systems are unable to be upgraded. Advanced systems that run on commercial networks can be expanded but these are far more complicated systems that require professional installation.

It is important to mention that the number of cameras that your system comes with does not necessarily correspond to the number of channels. Some security camera companies sell DVRs or NVRs with a smaller number of cameras than channels to leave room for expansion. That being said as we mentioned above, it is still often more expensive to do this as opposed to getting just the number of cameras that you need.

Channels is a relatively simple technical term but not all of them are. Security camera systems require several different parts in order to work, that means there are plenty of terms that can quickly get confusing. If you have more questions about security camera systems, make sure you take a look at some of the other articles to get your questions answered!

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