NVR vs DVR Pros and Cons: Which Security System Is Better?

Have you ever encountered a web of security camera jargon while trying to decide between a network video recorder (NVR) and a digital video recorder (DVR) for your business or institution?

Let's cut to the chase.

Unless you live in the 1990s or have a doorbell cam, you probably need an NVR. For everyone who wants to find out why, let’s drive in.

Too busy to read? Here's a summary:
  • NVRs offer superior quality, ease of use, and scalability—perfect for businesses.
  • DVRs may be cheaper than NVRs, but they lack flexibility and reliability.
  • For new installations, get an NVR. Existing analog wiring? Maybe a DVR. Maybe.

NVR vs. DVR: An Overview

NVRs are preferred over DVRs for managing today's surveillance installations because they use cutting-edge technology to record high-quality footage, enable easy additions to their network of cameras, and provide users with convenient features for accessing, viewing, organizing, and managing multiple video data streams from large camera installations.

DVR systems, on the other hand, are designed for old analog technology. They process video data from traditional analog cameras into a digital format for storage, but they're limited in their capacity to process multiple high-resolution video streams at once.

Just as importantly, DVRs lack an NVR's advanced management tools for effectively organizing and searching through recorded footage.

Now let's untangle more of the differences between NVR and DVR systems and see what makes them tick.

NVR: Network Video Recorder

An NVR system is all about directly capturing high-quality digital video streams from IP (Internet Protocol) cameras and storing them in an efficient and organized manner.

NVRs reign supreme over DVRs by providing greater audio and video quality, easy scalability as needs grow, and advanced management tools necessary for a large video surveillance system.

DVR: Digital Video Recorder

A DVR captures video from analog cameras and converts it into a digital format for storage.

But wait, you may be wondering why DVR stands for "digital video recorder" when there isn’t anything digital about the security cameras connected to it. They’re called digital recorders because they process raw video data into a digital format using a specialized encoding and processing chip.

While DVRs are satisfactory for most home installations, they lack the sophistication that most business video security systems require.

Comparing Image and Audio Quality


NVR system video data quality

When it comes to image and audio quality, NVRs leave DVRs in the dust with high-resolution IP camera video storage and integrated audio recording capabilities. In fact, an NVR system's resolution capabilities range from 2MP to 12MP or even higher.

The cherry on top? Integrated audio recording, which is a rarity in analog camera systems.

This means that NVR systems not only deliver crisp, clear video footage, they can also capture audio without the need for standalone devices. 


When compared to NVR systems, DVRs provide users with significantly lower video quality and much more limited audio-recording capabilities. 

Remember the 10 o'clock news with grainy convenience store footage from security cameras? That footage is from analog security cameras and had been stored on digital video recorders.

(While it’s possible to make video data stored on DVRs less grainy by compensating with megapixels, you can always tell there’s something off compared to IP camera footage stored on an NVR.)

Winner: NVR

Installation and Wiring Differences

One key aspect to consider when choosing between NVR and DVR systems is the wiring required during installation.

ethernet cable for NVR recorder

NVR Wiring

NVR systems are all about simplicity when it comes to wiring. NVR systems connect both their power source and their camera network via a single Ethernet cable.

Most importantly, they aren't restricted by the 1,000-foot limit of a DVR system’s coaxial cables.

NVR Installation

The cabling used by NVR systems supports significantly greater camera distances than those supported by DVR coaxial cabling. To connect cameras with NVRs, a single Ethernet cable can run up to 1,o00 feet without signal deterioration, and further distance requirements can easily be met by adding long-distance network switches at every 1,000-foot mark before extending the cabling further.

In other words, NVR systems can connect multiple cameras, each up to 1,000 feet away from the nearest network switch, to your surveillance network without signal deterioration.

For even longer-distance connections, our team at Mammoth Security uses fiber optic wire instead of Cat5. With fiber optic wire, it’s possible to transmit data for miles at a time between network switches without losing data quality.

DVR Wiring

Coaxial cables are used to connect analog cameras to DVRs, and two separate coax cables must usually be run to each camera for power and data transmission.


While some newer DVRs can do both power and data over coax wire, it's rarely worth the investment. Coax wire costs more than an NVR’s Cat5 and is much harder to install due to its size and rigid build.

Beware: if your coax is thin and flimsy, your installer used a subpar coax cable, and you will likely have future data-quality issues.

DVR Installation

DVR systems have a maximum cable length of 1,000 feet to reach cameras in their network, and network switches cannot help with that. Any cameras more than 1,000 feet from their DVR are likely to result in degraded footage. This limitation is one major reason that DVRs are rarely suitable for commercial video surveillance systems.

Winner: NVR


When comparing NVR and DVR systems, it's essential to consider the flexibility and scalability they offer.


Avigilon NVR recorder for CCTV cameras

NVR systems shine when it comes to scalability. Thanks to their IP network connectivity, they can seamlessly accommodate additional IP cameras as they're added to the system.


DVR systems, in contrast, are limited in their flexibility and scalability due to distance restrictions and strict limitations on the number of cameras they can accommodate. 

Winner: NVR

Cost Comparison

While DVRs have a price advantage over NVRs, they come with fewer features, support fewer cameras, need exact point-to-point connections, and use separate wires for power and data transmission.

When deciding between NVR and DVR systems, cost is undoubtedly an important factor to consider. So let's dive into the costs associated with NVR and DVR systems.

NVR Costs

The price range for NVRs varies greatly depending on the brand, features, and storage capacity, but NVR systems generally come with a higher upfront cost compared to DVR systems. This cost difference is due to the greater capabilities required for high-quality data streaming, storage, and management.

That said, NVRs offer long-term savings in the form of management tools for workplace efficiency, which can make them the more cost-effective choice for any system monitored by paid staff.

DVR Costs

DVR systems usually have a lower upfront cost than NVR systems, making them an attractive option for those on a tight budget. However, it’s important to weigh the initial savings of a DVR system against the potential long-term costs that result from DVR functionality limitations. DVRs have fewer features, support fewer cameras, need exact point-to-point connections with their cameras, and use separate wires for power and data transmission.

Winner: NVR

Security and Remote Access

Another crucial factor to consider when choosing between NVR and DVR systems is remote access.

remote video monitoring via smartphone with Internet connection

NVR Remote Access

NVR systems provide users with easy remote access thanks to their Internet connectivity. This allows users to access their footage and manage their security system with a browser or mobile app from any location with an Internet connection.

That said, remote access can leave NVRs susceptible to hacking if they aren't properly safeguarded, so it's necessary to ensure that your NVR encrypts data before transmitting it over the Internet.

DVR Remote Access

DVR systems rarely support remote access because they aren’t built for Internet connectivity. While this can make DVR systems less susceptible to hacking, it also means that users, such as administrators and security personnel, must be on-site to access live streams and stored video footage.

Winner: NVR

Choosing the Right System for Your Needs

When choosing between an NVR and DVR, it's essential to consider factors like distance requirements for data transmission, camera compatibility, video and audio quality requirements, and your budget. 

For example, if IP digital surveillance cameras need to be installed more than 1,000 feet from your recorder, the longer-range data transmission capabilities of an NVR would make it a much, much better choice. And if you need wireless data transmission in certain hard-to-get areas, NVRs are your only choice.

If you need help choosing the system that's best for you, let us know, and we'll help you decide based on your needs.

Is a VMS What You Actually Need?

NVR camera system

Before committing to an NVR or DVR system, it's essential to determine if a video management system (VMS) is what you really need.

A VMS is a system designed for larger video surveillance installations (30+ cameras) with complex management requirements. Click on the link to learn more about the differences between NVR and VMS systems.


NVR and VMS systems are preferred for business surveillance storage and management due to their higher image and audio quality, greater wiring and data transmission capabilities, easy scalability, and superior management features. 

On the other hand, if you're satisfied with the analog and DVR technology in your current system and are simply looking for an upgrade, our team can leverage the coaxial cable infrastructure you already have for a DVR-based video storage system that suits your needs. 


NVR camera system

NVR systems are an excellent choice for businesses and properties requiring advanced surveillance capabilities. They provide higher image and audio quality, greater flexibility, and lower long-term costs. On the other hand, DVR systems are more budget-friendly in the short term and are suitable for most analog camera system upgrades. 

Ultimately, the best choice between NVR, VMS, and DVR security camera systems boils down to your specific requirements and the expectations you have of your surveillance system.

Mammoth Security and Your Surveillance Storage

Mammoth Security team

You can trust the team at Mammoth Security to find the right security solutions for your commercial property. From alarms and access control to cameras and devices for video storage, the expertise you need is just a few clicks away.

Just fill out the simple form at the bottom of this page and we'll quickly reach out to schedule a complimentary site survey and security consultation with a friendly expert from our team. Don't be shy! We're here to answer your questions and make sure your property has optimal protection.

Frequently Asked Questions

Unfortunately, there are some downsides to an NVR: it can be expensive to install and difficult to configure, and superior footage quality may require considerable storage space.

That said, NVR technology is a great asset, and the crew at Mammoth Security can install and configure an NVR for you.

Yes, NVRs and DVRs can work together! As long as the cameras are compatible with both types of recording devices, your security system can leverage both.

Yes, you can use an NVR without an Internet connection. It's quite simple—connect the device to a display and power source, and the NVR will have its own integrated network built into its PoE switch. No need for an external LAN. Easy!

If you’re serious about keeping your commercial property or institution secure, investing in an NVR for IP camera footage is a no-brainer. With an NVR security camera system, you'll have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your footage is securely stored and easily accessible when needed.

No, hardwired systems are better for commercial installations. Wireless IP cameras are more convenient during installation, but they aren't as reliable as hardwired systems. In fact, a wireless security camera is only as reliable as its Wi-Fi connection. (If you have experience with Wi-Fi at your home, you can imagine the massive blind spots to your security that will result from dependence on wireless data transmission.)