Home » Security Camera Guides » Security Cameras vs Alarm Systems: What’s the Difference and Which Do I Need?

Security Cameras vs Alarm Systems: What’s the Difference and Which Do I Need?

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Alongside security systems, the most important security measures you can take to protect your home, business, or office are installing security cameras and alarm systems.

But with more integrated security technologies available at increasingly more affordable prices, it can become a little difficult to understand the difference between security cameras and alarm systems. Not to mention, which should you prioritize for your space?

Learn more about security cameras and alarm systems below.

What are Security Cameras?

‘Security cameras’ can look like a lot of different things, from large traditional analog CCTV you would find in public to small, Wi-Fi-enabled devices that look like webcams. Generally, security cameras can be described as video cameras designed for the purposes of surveillance.

As such, many incorporate additional features, like motion detection and two-way audio, to make them better equipped at surveying a space. Some of these features overlap with those of alarm systems; namely, built-in sirens can now be found in some security cameras available on the market (like the ones provided by AlfredCamera).

The CCTV security camera operating in home.

Though the name would suggest otherwise, security cameras can be used for different purposes, something the AlfredCamera team has increasingly come to recognize as the user base grows. Baby monitoring, watching over your pets, and even bird watching are all great ways to make use of a security camera other than just monitoring your property.

What are Alarm Systems?

Alarm systems are a more conventional home security measure that’s been around for longer than security cameras. Alarms detect movement through doors or windows via sensors, which, when set to activate upon sensing motion, will then trigger a siren (sometimes called a bell).

As straightforward as they are compared with security cameras, you can find burglar alarms with a number of varying features; bell-only alarms simply create a loud noise, whereas dialler alarms can automatically contact homeowners or local authorities once the alarm sounds.

Security Alarm Keypad With Person Disarming The System With Remote Controller

Other variations include pet-friendly alarms, which incorporate PIR (passive infrared) detectors capable of ignoring the movement of pets. Passive infrared is used in motion sensing to measure the heat signature of objects passing by. Pet-friendly alarms will ignore heat signatures that indicate a weight or size under a certain amount. This is a great help in preventing false alarms.

Security Cameras vs Alarm Systems: What’s More Important?

Whether you’re moving into a new space or simply want to start overhauling your existing security, it helps to know what types of devices should take priority. Here’s some things to consider.

1. Affordability

We’re firm believers that a person’s financial circumstances shouldn’t be what determines whether they are able to implement security measures or not. With that in mind, it’s always better to do what you can rather than nothing at all. 

Simple alarms are super affordable, but alarm systems can be expensive to buy and have installed. Conversely, affordable security cameras are increasingly popular options among homeowners. Expect to pay between a minimum of $150-$250USD for a complete alarm system without monitoring support, compared to $20 for a standalone burglar alarm.

2. Accessibility

Likewise, the accessibility of each of the products is another factor to consider when deciding which to prioritize. Inexpensive IP cameras are widely available online and in hardware and general stores across the world, making them super easy to access for most of us. 

Alarms can also be bought at places like Amazon, but full systems are a little less accessible, both financially and physically. They will take longer to set up than a simple IP camera, since they are usually hardwired throughout the home and require professional installation.

3. Ease of Installation

Installation is something many of us can overlook when buying any kind of tech products, let alone security ones. A difficult installation can be particularly time consuming, expensive, or even prove impossible to do without the help of a professional. 

Again, simple products will make for easier installs. Alarm systems are more time consuming and costly to set up than IP security cameras, but a simple standalone alarm shouldn’t be too demanding either. That being said, simple alarms won’t be nearly as effective at improving your space’s security if isn’t able to contact local authorities.

4. Different Uses

The onset of smart technology, including all those that fall under the umbrella of the smart home, has introduced more powerful products that are capable of carrying out multiple tasks, or able to be put to different uses. IP cameras are usually marketed as security products, but also make great baby monitors, for instance. 

Alarm systems generally achieve one purpose: make a loud noise and, hopefully, discourage intruders. If you want more out of your products, it might be wise to prioritize a camera first, since it will cover more of your bases. Indeed, many have sirens built in.

5. Cost to Run

The affordability of the product upfront is just one financial concern to consider when knowing what to buy first for your space. You’ll find that most home security cameras actually require monthly or annual fees, or a subscription service, to effectively run the product should you be looking for a long-term solution. This can be to pay for cloud storage or more advanced features, like night vision and face detection, that are locked behind paywalls. 

Alarm systems also often require fees to run if they require regular maintenance and upkeep, or if they can contact authorities, though standard burglar alarms are generally free to run once you have bought the product.


Both security cameras and alarm systems are what we would consider essential security products: they are both vital for security in your space, whether that’s a store, a warehouse, or an apartment.

Our advice is in line with our ethos of doing what you can with what you can, so there’s no easy answer as to which to prioritize. Ideally, any building should be protected with both, so working towards this can help better protect your property and the people and valuables inside it. That being said, security cameras nowadays offer far more features than regular alarms do, making them more useful in different contexts.