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How to Use CCTV Without a DVR

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Muhammad Baballe Ahmad, Mehmet Cavas, Sudhir Chitnis, and Zhen-ya Liu.

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A step-by-step guide on how to use CCTV without a DVR.


Closed-circuit television (CCTV) technology is used to monitor activity in any commercial building or residential premises. A DVR (Digital Video Recorder) is often used for long-term storage of CCTV data, but there are ways to use a CCTV system without one. This guide provides an overview of how you can set up and use a CCTV system without a DVR.

When setting up a CCTV system, it’s important to consider the type of camera that would best suit your needs and the environment where it will be installed. Types of cameras include fixed body cameras, domes, pinholes, and pan/tilt/zoom cameras. Depending on your requirements, you may need one or more types of cameras installed.

For security purposes, the positions in which you install the CCTV cameras should be kept discreet while they should be installed at strategic positions with clear lines-of-sight in order to provide maximum coverage. It’s also important to make sure that you have appropriate lighting around the camera particularly during night time hours as this reduces graininess in recorded footage as well recording area must be correctly determined so that image quality is optimized for analysis purposes.

The camera outputs should then be connected to a monitor or display device such as an LCD (liquid crystal display), LED (light emitting diode) or plasma television so that recorded footage can easily be monitored from within your premises or even remotely from an external system connected over the internet or other network connection. You may also need some kind of alarm input device that connects with your security alarm systems for control purposes.

What is a CCTV System?

A CCTV (closed-circuit television) system is a surveillance system where video is transmitted from the cameras directly to a dedicated security monitor or even to your own smartphone or computer. The video feed is usually via a wired connection, enabling you to review footage remotely and store it securely on your device or on a dedicated recorder. These systems are often used in homes, businesses and public places as they provide an added layer of protection and allow you to keep an eye on the property 24/7.

With a wired CCTV system, users don’t need to rely on an internet connection, which gives them complete control over their recording process. There are two components in a CCTV system; the cameras and the recording device, also known as Digital Video Recorders (DVR). A DVR is required for digital recordings but some users may opt for using only IP cameras without any additional recording hardware. This article will explain why setting up a CCTV system without DVR may be beneficial for some uses, as well as how to go about doing it.

What is a DVR?

A Digital Video Recorder (DVR) is a device used in closed circuit television (CCTV) systems that capture, store and display footage from numerous surveillance cameras. It essentially acts as a hard drive for your CCTV system, recording data which can be accessed at any time. While having a DVR is ideal for monitoring and storing your footage, it is possible to use CCTV systems without one. With just a few additional components, and possibly some software updates or replacements, you could still make use of your existing cameras without the need for a DVR.

Essentially, once the camera has captured the footage, it needs to have an output to communicate with another device or display so that the footage can be monitored or stored. In the absence of a DVR, this role would be taken up by either an NVR (Network Video Recorder), computer or monitor depending on what other components you have available. Before taking this route however, one should first inspect their network’s bandwidth and storage requirements so that they can purchase suitable hardware accordingly.

How to Use CCTV Without a DVR

It’s possible to use CCTV without a DVR, although it’s not as easy as it would be with one. If you’re looking to save money, or don’t want the hassle of setting up a DVR system, then you can set up a CCTV system without a DVR. This article will go through the steps you need to take, and the pros and cons of running a CCTV system without a DVR.

Use an NVR

An NVR, or Network Video Recorder, is an extensive software-based system that enables you to record, manage and store digital video recordings with or without a DVR. An NVR consists of network cameras connected with an Ethernet cable. Instead of saving the video recordings directly to hard drives like a DVR does, your NVR streams the content via the network and saves the recordings to its onboard storage units (like flash disks and SD cards). This eliminates the need for any other additional hardware such as a DVR.

NVR’s can manage multiple cameras simultaneously and more efficiently than any other CCTV system saved on hard disk drives. Additionally, you can access all recorded videos from any computer connected to the same network as your NVR. The best part about setting up an NVR for CCTV-viewing purposes is that it’s comparatively low cost and easy to install as well as maintain in comparison with digital video recorders (DVRS). Some of their advanced features include motion detection on live video streams with alerts generated via text message or email alert when triggered, remote monitoring capabilities through mobile apps, intelligent search capability which helps identify objects or people instantly within recorded footage using powerful algorithms etc.

Use Cloud Storage

For those looking to use CCTV without a DVR, cloud storage is an option to consider. Cloud storage is a modern surveillance technology which supports the recording and storing of video footage without restriction. By using cloud storage, there is no need for physical DVR’s to be installed. Instead, the CCTV footage can automatically be uploaded to the cloud for easy access both in the future and on demand whenever needed.

The cloud provides multiple functions which are beneficial for users of CCTV systems – from monitoring and data collection to instant alert notifications and user access from locations across multiple computers. Furthermore, when combined with physical CCTV systems, cloud storage systems are able to support large scale surveillance projects – such as home security systems and retail business store protection – eliminating nuisance false alarms caused by other traditional alarm based periphery such as motion sensors or vibration detectors.

Cloud services require an internet connection; however most businesses that operate these types of CCTV systems will already have one due to operational requirements. Using robust internet security protocols, data stored in the cloud can also remain secure against online threats such as hacking attempts while providing ease-of-accessibility along with full control at all times regardless of geographic location upon login via any web enabled device (phone tablet etc.).
In summary, using Cloud Storage for storing and monitoring your footage provide several benefits over traditional DVRs such as cost saving on hardware costs like buying hard drives plus being able increase surveillance activity through increased scalability with no additional hardware requirements plus GEO tagging capabilities for pinpointing exact location information attributed which associated footage time stamps provides considerable value add when compared against physical DVRs found historically in most security system setups today.

Use a Computer as a DVR

Not all CCTV systems need a dedicated DVR (digital video recorder) to operate. In some cases, it is possible to use a computer as a makeshift DVR by installing security-related software and connecting the CCTV components directly or indirectly to the computer.

When using a computer as a makeshift DVR, there are several things that should be taken into consideration:

1. The processor speed – Make sure the processor you are using is powerful enough to handle the demands of recording and storing security footage without slowing down other tasks.
2. The operating system – Your system should run on a modern operating system such as Windows 10, macOS, or Linux.
3. Connectivity – If necessary, arrange for additional storage space since your main computer hard drive may not have enough room for long-term recordings. You can use external hard drives for this purpose or expand your current storage with cloud-based services like iCloud Drive, Google Drive, Dropbox, or Box.
4. Video Compression – Compress the video streams in order to maximize connected storage space and reduce file sizes when archived onto CD/DVDs media discs or USB sticks/drives for portability purposes and easy access away from home/office .This allows you to archive large amounts of footage without having to invest in large capacity removable media devices such as external hard drives or NAS devices (network attached storage). Popular video formats include MPEG-2/MPEG-4 (AVI) and H264 (MP4).
5. Security – Make sure your connection is secure by employing Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption for web access and Wi-Fi connections and strong passwords whenever possible. Also lock down ports on your router to help prevent malicious actors from gaining access remotely over an open port on the internet connection side of your network . Consider implementing network level active directory authentication which allows users named logins & individual security policies can be applied directly at user level rather than an entire network by saving policy files directly onto user machines which apply when they login data levels range from public with no authentication needed & increase up password entry when required per device connection request policy set & applied at server end via Domain Controller options depending upon size of business/environment setup required where administrator access allows further developments/customizations per user preference.


CCTV without a DVR is an affordable solution for small to medium businesses that do not require continuous and extensive surveillance. With the right security camera and software, you can access real time images and recordings both remotely and on-site. Connect your security cameras directly to your device through wire or wi-fi connections, while also allowing remote viewing of your footage. Without the extra costs associated with a hard drive and DVR setup, CCTV without a DVR can be used as an efficient yet cost-effective surveillance solution.

Whether you’re setting up your own home CCTV system or outfitting an entire business with video security, use this guide to make sure you select the right equipment and software for reliable surveillance without the added cost of a Digital Video Recorder (DVR).

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