This year, according to a recent National Retail Security Survey, you’ll lose 5% of your revenue to employee theft and shoplifting. So if you have $500,000 in annual sales, that’s a $25,000 loss.

You can avoid losing a big portion of it by equipping your store with a state-of-the-art video security system. With the latest advances in surveillance systems, small retail stores, service stations and mom-and-pop stores can take advantage of the same level of video security you might find in banks, casinos or government offices.

But that doesn’t mean all surveillance systems are alike. What’s more, it’s important to have a good technical support team behind you to walk you through placement, set-up and the latest upgrades.

In this article we’ll explore the latest advances in video security as well as costly blunders. Here are 9 mistakes many retailers make when choosing a system.

1. Buying a security system out of a box

These days you can walk into a lot of retailers and find a “complete” security system all in one box. It seems simple, but it can lead to a number of problems. First, these systems are not really designed to meet the needs of most retail businesses. Often they come with low-end, low-resolution cameras.

So, you may not get the sharp, in-focus picture quality you need to clearly identify a suspect. Additionally, they typically have cameras designed for a single purpose.

And that brings us to the second mistake…

2. Buying too few cameras or the wrong ones

Before buying equipment, take a careful look at your floor plan. Look at vulnerable blind spots and high-traffic areas. Consider where you’ll need coverage. Finding the right kind of cameras and knowing where to place them is perhaps one of the most important tasks when planning your security system.

Too often, first-time buyers purchase a four-camera boxed system and then discover they really needed more cameras. But they’re stuck because the video recorder that came with the system can only handle four cameras.

Plus, a good system will include a variety of cameras. Depending on your business, you may want indoor cameras, all weather cameras, even infrared cameras to cover dark areas. Buy too few or the wrong cameras and you may have to purchase a second system to get the coverage you needed in the first place.

3. Buying “proprietary” equipment

Picture this. You’ve got a system in place. But a camera breaks. Or you decide to add an infrared camera. It should be easy, right? Think again. Many system manufacturers, especially those that make all-in-one boxed systems, make equipment that’s not compatible with other manufacturers’ components.

So if you purchase the wrong equipment, you may not be able to upgrade simply because you started with proprietary equipment. Be sure to purchase equipment that has been developed to easily integrate and upgrade with other equipment.

4. Buying cameras with a fixed focal length

Fixed focus means that the camera lens can only produce a focused image from one distance length. Adjustable focus lenses allow you to adjust the focus within a range of distances. So you can identify a suspicious character up close or a license plate from far away.

We recommend cameras with an adjustable focal length of at least 8mm. This allows you flexibility in setting up your cameras to capture the image area you want.

5. Buying a system with a VCR

Stay away from surveillance systems that use old-fashioned VCR technology to record your video. First, VCRs have a lot of moving parts that commonly wear out. Second, videotapes can get stuck or break. And lastly, armed robbers look for videotapes that have recorded their actions.

Avoid these hassles and go digital with a digital video recorder. DVRs won’t wear out like a VCR. They’re far more reliable and there are no tapes to break or steal. You have to take care that you are buying technology that meets your needs. DVRs are top technology but don’t be guilty of…

6. Buying the wrong DVR

Recorders for security systems are designed to give the ability to view multiple cameras at once. But they are limited to the number of cameras they can handle. So again, buy a DVR capable of handling the number of cameras you need.

If you think you’ll add cameras in the future, consider buying a DVR that’s able to manage the additional cameras so you won’t have to replace the entire system when you expand.

7. Poor or no technical support

Camera placement is key to the overall effectiveness of your system. So you’ll want the support of people who know how to install a system properly. This does not mean you have to hire an expensive security firm that could cost an arm and a leg. Make sure that your sales consultant matches a system to your floor plan and walks you through the set-up process.

8. Spending too much for low quality

There’s a lot of equipment on the market today. Some of it’s good and some you should avoid. Make sure you’re dealing with a video security company that stands behind their equipment. Do they offer a price guarantee? Do they provide fast delivery? Are their products backed by a money-back guarantee? Do they provide free technical support?

So with all this in mind, don’t make this final mistake…

9. Not buying because you “can’t” afford a system

If you think that equipping your retail store or warehouse with a top-quality surveillance system is expensive — it’s even more expensive and dangerous not to. Losses from theft start from day one.

Too many retailers wait until they’ve been stung by shoplifters, employees or by an armed robber, to make the decision to put in a system. However, the time to do it is now, before you lose more money to theft. It is an expense of doing business.