John Kingsley-Hefty is a professional architect who has been involved in building security design for more than 28 years. He retired from 3M's Corporate Security Services Department where he was responsible for integrated security systems and specialized in security design. In 1997, he formed Secure Environments, which helps clients design security and integrated business systems. He answered readers' questions about video surveillance.Q: What new video surveillance technologies are on the horizon? A: Digital technology will go through improvements in speed and compression standards. Within the next two years we will see the elimination for the need of digital video recorders (DVRs). I expect that central servers will be able to service most customer sites worldwide. The key will be the customers and their willingness to invest in or upgrade their communications paths in terms of speed and bandwidth.Q: Are there any digital video solutions for small businesses?A: We are seeing the digital video industry continue to simplify its products to reduce costs and improve performance and features, following the same progression that we have all seen in the PC world over the past 10 years. For example, GE has just introduced a new product, which is a minimal four-camera device that is very well priced with basic operating features. I expect that the other players in the industry have or are about to release similar solutions.Q: I don't have the budget to redo my aging system, and I need to transition to newer hardware and technology. How do I go about that for access control, digital video and alarms?A: For access control, watch the trade shows for new Web-based systems that will offer significant savings; in many cases you will be able to reuse your readers, door wire and a bridge to the Internet. You may also avoid the ownership of software and replace that expense with a very modest user fee. For video, if you are currently using multiplexers and switchers, the new "stripped down" DVRs will give you the opportunity to upgrade your front end into the digital world, without forcing you to upgrade your entire system.Q: What are the best practices for handling and storing CCTV tapes?A: The key is building a tape swap and storage schedule that rerecords the tapes equitably. Tapes will wear, over time, to the point of failure. Color-coding by day and\/or shifts, and numbering by week works well. The key is designing your system around your required video storage retention schedule. To ensure that tapes are rerecorded according to the proper sequence and schedule, shuttling tapes per day or week to a separate secure areaor in some cases, offsiteworks well. Q: I see organizations converging their physical and information security departments. Do you see the departments sharing alerting and monitoring resources? A: Sharing resources is possible. The key would be the human resource standard required, followed by the training, orientation and procedures to support this integrated service. I see this question as a definite trend; all organizations are looking for efficiencies and staff reductions. This will definitely affect the guard services industry in terms of the types of officers required.Q: Our video equipment is old. Can you make any recommendations for a system that won't bankrupt us and will give us 90 days of storage?A: This is a loaded question, as we need to define the quality of the video to be recorded in terms of frames per second, the number of sites included in the system and how that calculates with the overall data-storage space required to retain a 90-day schedule. With a digital system, you will have the ability to store locally and offsite. Most companies prefer to store locally. If the camera views may be configured to take advantage of video motion detection, motion activated activity is very effective in reducing the volume of video needed for retention. This significantly reduces the storage capacity requirements, which will reduce the costs for the retention portion of the system. Again storage may be local or in combination with offsite servers and services. The key is optimizing the volume required for retention.