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Security vs Surveillance Cameras vs CCTV: What Are the Differences?

There are different types of cameras used to monitor different areas, and sometimes the names are used interchangeably. You might tell someone about your security cameras, while someone else is discussing their “surveillance system” or “CCTV System”. Are security cameras and CCTV cameras the same thing, though?

Although all these terms apply to cameras used to monitor and secure a given area, “CCTV” and “surveillance” cameras have different features and purposes than “home security” cameras, and they’re meant to serve different purposes.

If you want the right camera monitoring an area, you do need to understand the differences between the various types. It’s also helpful to know the purpose of each one so you know that you are using the correct camera and getting what you need out of your security system.

What are CCTV/Surveillance Cameras?

Various Types of Security Cameras - Smaller

Closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras (DHS definition) are self-contained. The images from the camera are sent over a closed network that is comprised of a single channel. There are a limited numbers of screens or monitors connected to the closed network where camera images can be viewed.

There are two types of CCTV/surveillance cameras: analog, and IP. Analog CCTV cameras are usually connected to a digital video recorder (DVR). The device stores the camera footage and converts it to a digital format. Afterward, the image files are compressed and stored on the camera’s hard drive, where you can view it on any monitor hooked up to the DVR.

Not all CCTV cameras are analog, some use IP systems. If you are monitoring your property with an IP surveillance camera, you’ll need to connect it to a network video recorder (NVR). The primary differences between analog and IP CCTV cameras are how you view the recorded footage and the type of network used.

Instead of the closed CCTV network that restricts you from viewing images on stationary connected monitors, IP cameras allow you to access footage from compatible mobile devices. Some surveillance cameras use radio frequencies, while others are connected to a computer monitor (how to connect an Xbox to your monitor in our guide). Even though it’s no longer a closed network, IP surveillance cameras can make it easier to keep an eye on your property when you’re away.

Whether you use a CCTV or a surveillance camera, both systems are capable of monitoring large areas. You’ll find these types of cameras in factories, industrial buildings, parking lots, grocery stores, and in other commercial or public places. They aren’t really designed for home security (although you can definitely use them that way if you’d like).

What are Security Cameras?

Nest Camera - Smaller

You’ve probably noticed the terms for monitoring cameras are used interchangeably, but security cameras are different from both CCTV and surveillance models. However, a security camera can only be a CCTV model if it operates on a closed network. Most home security cameras use an open network, most often the home’s Wi-Fi.

For example, the popular Nest camera (on Amazon) works with the home’s internet and is accessible via almost any device that’s connected to your Wi-Fi. You can use your smartphone, tablet, and other devices to access the cameras in real-time. You can also view previously recorded images that haven’t been copied over.

It’s an important distinction between the cameras and highlights the different purposes the devices were designed to perform. Using the wrong camera indoors or outside may provide inadequate monitoring. If you have a CCTV camera system installed, for instance, you won’t necessarily be able to monitor the cameras on your phone when you’re somewhere else (a feature that is built-in to the Nest system).

Purposes of CCTV/Surveillance Cameras and Security Cameras

CCTV/Surveillance cameras – such as the ANNKE 8CH which you can find on Amazon – are designed to perform some tasks better than security cameras which is due, partially, to the type of network they use. The closed network used by CCTV cameras is more difficult for hackers to breach making it better suited for surveilling areas that contain valuables or sensitive information.

CCTV/surveillance cameras are also designed to monitor larger areas and can be connected together as needed. If you need surveillance cameras at multiple points, including rooftops, an IP surveillance camera is the best choice.

You’re less likely to encounter the signal interference that is common when multiple CCTV cameras are connected. Surveillance cameras improve public safety and lower crime rates when people know they’re being watched, additionally, some businesses can reduce insurance rates with the addition of a CCTV camera system.

Purpose of Home Security Cameras

Home security cameras, whether alone or as a system, are often more discrete than CCTV surveillance cameras. Their smaller size makes these cameras ideal for use at home or in small offices. Most security cameras, whether 5MP or 8MP which we’ve talked about before, are fixed with smaller lenses, however, making them ill-equipped to monitor larger spaces.

While they’re not the best for large spaces, placing a security camera in a nursery will give you peace of mind when you’re away from your baby. You can monitor the babysitter discretely from any mobile device that’s connected to your home’s Wi-Fi. If you have more than one security camera, you can place one in every room.

At work, a well-placed camera can monitor your office space and other areas of your workplace. You’ll know who goes into your desk or files when you’re not at work. If you’re worried about minor theft, a small security camera can also help catch a thief, whether they’re stealing your lunch or office supplies.

Security cameras do use an open network, usually the internet. This can pose an issue because it can make it easier for hackers to penetrate the system and take control of the camera. While it can be a risk, it’s minimal if you use strong passwords that are difficult to break, especially if you regularly change them.


Understanding the differences between the various cameras used for monitoring is important. If you place a security camera outside, it won’t be effective. Not only does it have a limited range, but there’s also a good chance it’s not designed to be weatherproof. These open network cameras are best suited for the indoors.

Analog and IP CCTV/surveillance cameras use either closed networks or radio signals, and both are designed for outdoor use and large spaces. Their bulky size doesn’t work great in a home, and using one inside can be a waste of money. These cameras are designed to do more than monitoring a small living room.

When you have a better understanding of the purposes these cameras were designed for, you’ll find it much easier to make the right cameras to use in your security system, whatever your goals are.