Security Systems vs. CCTV

When it comes to home security, you have options.

You can go with the classic choice, a home security system. Sure, you have to pay monthly fees if you want professional monitoring. Yes, it’s a pain to get a city alarm license. But even if your alarm never goes off, just knowing that it’s there can give you a priceless feeling of security.

On the other hand, you can take a do-it-yourself approach to home security. We’re not just talking installation or self-monitored security; we mean self-monitoring through CCTV surveillance systems. A CCTV system lets you keep an eagle eye on your property without monthly fees or monitoring. However, you’re not only responsible for monitoring your system—you also have to manually call law enforcement when something goes wrong.

So which is better? More importantly, which is better for you? Let’s talk it out.

What is a security system?

A security system is a series of devices, including window, door, and environmental sensors that connect to a central keypad or hub (and usually your phone). The networked devices provide real-time updates on activity inside and outside your home.

Advantages of a security system

Woman with home security system hub

The most notable difference between security systems and CCTV systems is that security systems are more comprehensive. Many security systems include camera systems, or at least video doorbells. But they also track potential intruders through sensors and detectors, not just by sight.

Also, if you get a system with professional monitoring, you don’t have to give it your full attention. If you’re asleep or at a movie, you’ll know that if anything happens, the alarm will alert authorities right away. It’s basically hands-free security for your home.

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Home security benefit
Hot tip: some homeowners insurance companies offer discounts if you get a home security system.

Another advantage of security systems is that they send you notifications and alerts, usually via text or a mobile app. Although alert types generally depend on the system and its home automation level, some examples include motion, humidity changes, or temperature fluctuation.

Disadvantages of a security system

Many security systems are professionally monitored. Depending on where you live, you might need a permit to install one in your home. Both the ongoing monitoring and the licensing cost moolah. With all these fees plus the upfront equipment cost, security systems can be extremely expensive.

Top 3 home security companies

If you’re going to get an alarm system from a home security company, try one of our top three.

Top home security systems
Company nameVivintFrontpointADT
Monthly professional monitoring cost$29.99–$44.99/mo.$44.99–$49.99/mo.$36.99–$62.99/mo.
Contract length0–60 mos.NA36 mos.
Installation fee$100.00NA$99.00–$199.00
Read reviewFull reviewFull reviewFull review
Visit websiteView PlansView PlansView Plans

You probably recognize some of our top three. They’re well known and have consistently ranked on our best list for years. Each is a little different, but all are professionally monitored.

What is a CCTV system?

A closed-circuit television system is a camera network. Together, the cameras provide a comprehensive view of the areas in and/or around your home. CCTV is just the ticket if you want to look in on your home throughout the day (and if you want a record of everything going on).

Advantages of a CCTV system

CCTV feed

CCTV systems are more about surveillance than security. Sure, the presence of a security camera dissuades some thieves. But generally, video footage is more helpful after an event than during it. Unless you keep your eyes glued to the feeds at all times, you’re unlikely to catch an intruder in the act.

CCTV systems are the perfect safeguards against liability, though. If you have an incident on your property, you can refer to the video recordings as an unbiased source of truth. Such footage can be especially helpful during lawsuits or insurance-related matters. And with the rise of the mobile app, you have remote access to an incriminating recording with just a few swipes.

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CCTV and insurance
CCTV systems may also qualify for insurance discounts, but not always. Your insurance provider will have specific discount criteria. These requirements sometimes include sensors and other accessories that CCTV systems don’t cover.

You also don’t have to pay an ongoing fee for CCTV monitoring since you manage the system yourself.

Disadvantages of a CCTV system

A CCTV system is limited in scope. These systems lack extra precautions like open/close sensors, and they don’t have the professional monitoring that you get with security systems. That said, CCTV systems are ideal if you want to be more hands-on with your home security.

Top 3 CCTV systems

Here are our top three CCTV system picks.

Top CCTV systems
Camera1. Amcrest2. Annke3. Night Owl
Product imageAmcrest CCTV systemAnnke CCTV systemNight Owl CCTV system
Night vision distance98 ft.100 ft.100 ft.
Motion detectionYesYesYes
Video channels484
Max storage8 TB1 TB4 TB
Mobile appYesYesYes
View productView on AmazonView on AmazonView on Amazon

As you can see, these security camera systems all have motion detection and night vision. Night Owl also has two-way audio so that not only can you hear what an intruder is doing, you can talk to them. (We suggest something along the lines of, “What are you doing in my backyard?”)

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CCTV storage
For CCTV surveillance systems, you’ll need a device with enough storage space to record the footage. One TB is pretty standard, but you can expand some system storage by attaching extra drives.

Recap: CCTV vs. security systems

A security system makes more sense than a CCTV system in most instances. But the choice is ultimately up to you.

Just remember, a home security system allows you to take a proactive approach to your security but includes monthly costs for ongoing monitoring. A CCTV system is more reactive but saves you some money.


1. FBI, “Crime in the United States