Home video surveillance recommendations

For consumers: What to consider before deploying cameras in your home


At the same time, there are 3 features that are commonly needed in professional applications that are not crucial for most homeowners:

  • Long term storage: Business frequently store video for 1 month or longer. This is important because claims are often made by customers or employees weeks after an incident occurs. In your house, this is rarely the case. If there is an issue, you almost always know about it after the first few days or week.
  • Continuous storage: Because of liability concerns, many business record video continuously. This can dramatically increase storage use (300% to 800%) compared to recording on motion only. For most homeowners, as long as you get 1 or 2 representative images, that's enough.
  • High resolution: Businesses often need coverage of large areas and for large numbers of strangers. In these conditions, higher resolution (like megapixel cameras) can be useful. In homes, this is generally not the case.

Recommendations
Assuming you want to (1) spend less than $1,000 USD, (2) need less than 4 cameras and (3) are not technical, here's what I recommend:

  • Use IP cameras: You can find IP cameras for $100 to $200 USD each. While similar analog cameras are even less, the total cost and complexity for IP is cheaper. With IP cameras, the recording/viewing software will be provided for free and you can use your home PC [Note: you have to leave that PC on all the time so it can record]. IP cameras provide for transmitting the feeds by WiFi or using network cabling that can be bought at any computer supply store. By contrast analog cameras usually require you to make or special order cabling.
  • Use Cube cameras: Cube cameras, so called because they look like a cube, are the lowest cost IP cameras on the market. The downside is that you cannot change the Field of View of the camera (e.g., zoom the camera in) and these cameras generaly come with little intelligence. While professional applications usually avoid these cameras (for those reasons), they are a solid choice for the home.
  • Use cameras that provide managed remote access: You really want to avoid setting up remote viewing yourself. It's not simply that it's time consuming, it's likely that you will not get it to work or that it will stop working after a few months. Offerings in this space are starting to expand - for instance, examples include StarVedia's 'plug n play' cameras, D-Link's release of MyDLink, Alarm.com's video service and Secure-i's Hosted Video (the first two are free with purchase of the camera, the latter two require a monthly fee).

Conclusion
These recommendations will help you specify an inexpensive system that does the basic in an easy to deploy way. It's not going to be Hollywood nor will it even be close to what your bank uses but it should fit the budget and make it easy for you to see what's going on in your house.