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Security cameras on the stone wallSuljo/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Growth in the video security industry is expected to reach $20.5-billion by 2016, according to IMS Research, and a significant portion of this growth will be the small to medium-sized business market, as business owners take advantage of the decreasing costs of high-tech surveillance equipment.

There are many reasons for a company to invest in surveillance technology: staff safety, to deter crime, monitor traffic and improve operations. However, missteps to installing a new surveillance system could alienate your staff and lead to a wasted investment. Here are 10 tips for every business considering installing a video security system:

1. Communicate constantly. Even if you have the purest of intentions, your employees' knee-jerk reaction to surveillance cameras could very well be, "Why are they spying on us?" It's your job to make them clearly understand exactly why you're installing cameras. In a recent survey of Canadian retailers, more than 44 per cent of companies cited employee safety as the number one reason to install cameras; reducing theft was second. Make sure employees understand cameras are there to protect them and have an open dialog about the areas the cameras will be monitoring and why.

2. Ask for employee input. Employees often have the best ideas about where cameras would be most effective for security reasons. For example, they may recommend a camera be placed by an unofficial shortcut to the parking lot or poorly lit area used for cigarette breaks that the security installer won't even know exists.

3. Establish clear policies. Before any cameras are installed, create a clear and concise written policy on how the video solution is managed, how it will be used and how long recordings will be stored. Brief employees on the policy and ensure it is available for them to review.

4. Stick to the policy. If the policy states cameras are only for security purposes, managers should not use them to monitor how many personal calls or trips to the bathroom an employee makes. If the cameras are being installed to improve operational efficiencies, employees need to know that anything caught on camera is fair game. Breaking your own guidelines erodes employee trust and could even land you in front of a Privacy Commissioner for violating your employees' reasonable expectations of privacy.

5. Restrict access . Not everyone should have the same level of access to the video footage. Password-protected accessibility should be restricted based on an employee's responsibilities and business need to view the images. For example, store and regional managers may be granted full access to the system while a sales associate can only login to the back alley camera to monitor deliveries.

6. Create no-camera zones and use privacy masking . This really should go without saying, but sometimes poor judgement is shown in camera placement. People have a reasonable expectation of privacy, so bathrooms, gyms, locker rooms, personal offices and aimed directly at someone's desk are never acceptable locations for cameras. Today's intelligent IP-based surveillance cameras even allow users to configure 'privacy masks,' which block out certain areas of the scene, such as a neighbor's window if outside or the bathroom entrance if the camera is in a hallway.

7. Aesthetics matter. Consider how the cameras will be perceived by customers in your store or clients visiting your offices. The system should not be overly intrusive unless you want it that way. You may opt to hang a small, low-profile dome camera in the middle of your quaint lobby, while you point a larger, quite obvious fixed box camera at the cash register to let potential thieves know that you are watching.

8. Ask for vendor input. Vendors and installers should know their products backwards and forwards, so take advantage of their expertise. Make sure to clearly communicate your goals and ask which products and technologies will best suit your needs. You also need to properly set expectations about what can be accomplished in the real world as opposed to what we see on TV and in the movies. After a detailed evaluation process, select three vendors and ask each to provide a proposal for the best solution customized to meet your goals.

9. Set smart installation schedules. Once you have chosen a supplier, devise an installation schedule that will minimize work disruptions. Tell employees about the schedule, because it could be embarrassing to book a boardroom for a client meeting and walk in to discover a technician setting up a ladder in the middle of the room.

10. Re-evaluate. Surveillance products typically have a shelf life of seven years, but you don't need to wait that long to evaluate your system. After a settling in period, assess whether your concerns around personal security, protection of property, operations or productivity are being met, and once again get staff input as well. This allows you to fill in any gaps from your original plan.

Robert Moore has spent more than a decade providing thought leadership and consultation in the area of surveillance technology. As the Canadian country manager for Axis Communications , Mr. Moore is responsible for all business operations in the region, including new business development, training and sales team leadership.

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