If you are considering placing your home or second home under video surveillance, you are probably asking yourself a lot of questions. Especially if you are not especially gifted in computer science, or an ace in security. We have therefore compiled the most legitimate questions in the form of a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions). And when you’ve taken the next step, you’ll be able to view our IP camera comparison.
1) What is an IP camera used for?
An IP camera is a device for monitoring a location. Like a webcam except that it works autonomously on a network, local or remote. Live video streams can be viewed from a web browser, via a NAS server interface, or sometimes on a mobile application. Most importantly, the camera can be programmed to detect motion and thus trigger video/photo recordings that it stores on micro SD card or sends (FTP, email, NAS, cloud platform, etc.), as soon as an intruder enters its field of vision. Day and night thanks to the regularly implanted night vision.
2) What features should I look for when choosing my IP camera?
There are at least seven technical issues to consider before making a choice.
- Indoor or outdoor: models for outdoor use are quite different from those for indoor use. They are of course weatherproof and are designed to be fixed to the wall or ceiling. But never posed like the indoor ones (which can also be fixed to the wall or the ceiling, by the way).
One outdoor camera and one indoor model
- Fixed or motorized: an IP camera can be fixed (it does not move) or motorized. The latter is called PT (or PTZ for Pan Tilt and Zoom). The motor moves the lens to scan the horizon on remote instructions. Motorized cameras are more efficient in surveillance (they cover a wide field) but they are also more cumbersome and therefore less discreet.
Motorized or fixed
- SD or HD resolution: the bulk of IP cameras adopt a standard resolution of 640 x 480 pixels. That’s enough, but barely. If you have the opportunity, prefer an HD camera (720p), which will allow a better recognition of the subjects thanks to a more detailed definition. These models are beginning to become more democratic but are even more expensive, with equivalent specifications.
SD vs HD
- Night Vision: Most IP cameras allow you to see in absolute darkness, thanks to infrared LEDs. It’s a plus, but beware not all are the same. Care must be taken to ensure that the maximum night vision distance is comfortable enough (10 m).
- Wi-Fi or wired: all cameras are wired (Ethernet), many are Wi-Fi as well. If you don’t want to manage a wired installation, make sure you choose a Wi-Fi model, preferably 802.11 n standard.
The camera can be connected via Ethernet or Wi-Fi (the antenna is clearly visible).
- Microphone and sound output: see is the primary function of the IP camera, but it can also hear and speak. This can be a plus, especially when the manufacturer allows audio detection in addition to traditional motion detection. And if an audio output is present, it is possible to send a remote sound, talk, etc. to scare off the intruder.
- Alarm link: if your home is equipped with an alarm (or if you are planning to add one), please note that some models are equipped with a four-pin connector for communication between alarm and camera.
Alarm socket, green
- Memory card reader: this is not the safest method to record its surveillance flows, but it can be an interesting complement (storage capacity, insensitive to network hazards).
3) Where to position your IP camera?
The objective is to monitor a dwelling against intrusion, so the camera must be oriented towards the potential access points to the dwelling. The front door first. But be careful, the camera must not be the first thing the intruder sees when he breaks in. A little high (so as not to be too easily accessible) and slightly off-center, you will save observation time. If you can melt it into the decor, it’s even better (in the middle of trinkets or in a well-stocked library for example). The other option is to place the camera in front of or in the rooms where valuable things are located, always following the same instructions. The ideal is to combine several cameras to cover multiple angles and leave no chance for the intruder to escape the video surveillance. In any case, the IP camera will have to be located close to an electrical outlet. An obvious fact that complicates the task a little.
4) Do you need to connect your camera by wire or Wi-Fi?
Wi-Fi is more convenient and aesthetically pleasing. If your home is not wired for Ethernet and the location where you intend to install the camera is not near the router, Wi-Fi is required. However, depending on the IP camera model, you should not go too far from the network source (router or box). The Wi-Fi modules of IP cameras have a sometimes limited range: the signal strength, responsiveness and sometimes the quality of the video encoding of the camera are directly affected. If you want to remain 100% serene, wired remains the preferred choice.
5) Does my computer need to be turned on for the camera to work?
No, and that’s the whole point of these cameras. In the vast majority of cases, a computer is required to configure the camera. But once everything is set up, the computer can be turned off, unless of course the camera is set to save its streams on the PC in question. In addition, it is possible to schedule the IP camera’s operation so that it automatically switches to surveillance mode in defined time slots based on a specific event.
6) Is it complicated to configure an IP camera?
An IP camera is relatively simple to install but can become complex to configure if you want to go into detail. It takes a minimum of network skills and computer aplomb to master your camera at your fingertips. The main uses that require advanced parameterization are remote viewing and recording of streams on remote media. In the first case, it is necessary to go through a dynamic DNS service and make sure that the router’s ports are properly opened/forwarded. In the second, see question number 8.
The Zavio manufacturer’s interface is reserved for advanced users only…
Now, manufacturers are tending more and more to simplify the operation of their products by relying on cloud services, which for example avoid the need to use a dynamic DNS provider. We advise you not to use the dynamic DNS offered free of charge by some manufacturers, hosted by who knows where. The TrendNet TV-IP762IC is a good mix between total freedom of settings for advanced users (classic web interface) and ease of use for beginners (cloud service). Models such as Belkin’s NetCam or the solutions from myfox and Kiwatch are based entirely on the cloud and are therefore within everyone’s reach.
…Kiwatch’s full cloud-based service is much more affordable…
7) Are they compatible with all boxes and routers?
The two requirements for an IP camera to work with a box or router are to have a free Ethernet port (at least necessary for the first installation of the product) and a box or router with Wi-Fi (if you want a wireless installation). It’s also better to make sure before you have access to the box or router’s configuration interface, it could be useful to configure your network.
8) How to ensure the integrity of the recorded content?
The recorded streams are of several types (video, photo, sound) and can be stored on different media in different locations. On the memory card of the IP camera if it has such an attribute, but we do not recommend that you limit yourself to this solution. A thief, if he spots the camera, will probably have the idea to destroy or steal your video surveillance equipment, and in any case to get rid of the memory card. The use of NAS is more recommended: there is no (or almost no) storage limit and you remain in total control of the hosting. But then again, if the SIN is in your home (which is usually the case), we cannot exclude the risk that a burglar will also steal this asset from you (even if it is less discreet than a micro SD card).
Synology DS713+ NAS
Also, the solutions of the mail, remote FTP server or cloud service may seem the best. Some cameras send video by email, as a warning, but there, the maximum capacity constrains short rushes. On the FTP or cloud side, storage is less limiting but the content is hosted by a third party. One, there’s a chance that it will pay off, and two, you don’t know who this third party is and what they can potentially do with your images. In short, there is no miracle solution, the best being to combine several forms of storage to deal with a maximum of unexpected events. However, if the thug cuts the power supply to your home before entering, all your protection will be neutralized.
With Belkin’s solution, recordings are hosted on a cloud platform.
9) Is there a user fee for an IP camera?
Not technically. The only expense insured is the purchase of the camera. Now, models based on cloud platforms, such as Kiwatch, myfox or Belkin, come with a monthly subscription, ranging from a few euros to around ten euros per month depending on the nature of the services, for individuals (with or without commitment, it depends). A not inconsiderable expense.
On the more classic cameras, you may have to pay for the Dynamic DNS service (there are free ones like No-IP.biz, just make sure your hardware supports them). And for remote storage, you will also have to finance the third party host, unless you go through a free space of the type provided by the ISPs with the boxes.
10) Can you use your smartphone to view your camera remotely?
Manufacturers often offer their own mobile application to extend the means of access to the IP camera to nomadic devices. At the very least, the application allows you to view live feeds from the camera. Often you can capture instant views and hear, if the camera is equipped with a microphone, what is going on. And when the application is complete, you can access advanced camera settings remotely, trigger recordings (which will be recorded on the smartphone) and view previously made recordings stored in the cloud. Paid services even add SMS alerts.
If the manufacturer does not offer an application or if it is not satisfactory, it is always possible to install a third-party application, such as IP Cam Viewer Pro from NibblesnBits (Android and iOS), compatible with a multitude of models. Please note that these third party applications may be subject to a fee. Note however that there is a Lite version of IP Cam Viewer, free of charge.