One of the principal responsibilities of any school or university is to provide a safe and secure environment where students can further their intellectual growth. Likewise, the faculty and other staff whose work is essential to day-to-day operations should be able to focus entirely on their duties rather than their safety. The violent incidents at our nation's schools and universities over the last decade have driven home an ugly reality. Schools now must secure their facilities and campuses against not only external dangers, but also those found from within. These dangers require security strategies that are innovative, sensible and affordable.

Today, digital video recording (DVR) technology has revolutionized the security and surveillance field, and expanded the options available to education institutions. VCRs with videocassettes once were the standard, but they required a lot of maintenance and delivered unstable results. The grainy, black-and-white pictures produced by obtrusive cameras and multiplexed VHS recording are being replaced with high-resolution digital surveillance systems.

Fed by discreet cameras, the crystal-clear footage recorded on a digital system enables school security personnel to observe even the most inconspicuous details — such as a small object changing hands between two students. With strategic placement of cameras, schools and univerisities can observe individuals continuously as they make their way around campus.

Commensurate with advances in recording is the progress in camera technology. Digital security cameras typically include such high-tech capabilities as infrared recording with day and night settings, pan tilt and zoom (PTZ) positioning, and vandal-resistant domes. In addition, digital recording now is performed on computer disc drives capable of storing data for many years.

Software-based solution

Many digital security systems are available. One cost-effective network video recorder (NVR) solution is Internet protocol (IP). An NVR runs on a standard PC or network server and records video from one or more network cameras or analog cameras. These systems can be integrated into any existing IP data network. Given the prevalence of the Internet, most schools already will have such networks in place.

NVR software applications connect to digital network closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras that work with local area network (LAN) cables, which already should be installed in places with high-speed Internet access.

Security personnel can view live feeds from these cameras or review stored footage from any computer with access to the server. NVR software even can work with existing analog cameras when used with a video encoder.