Home Video Surveillance Recommendations

Author: John Honovich, Published on Aug 09, 2009

In this report, we offer recommendations for selecting and deploying video surveillance in your home. Though technologically simpler than systems used in businesses, figuring out the right solution for one's home can be tricky. Most video surveillance equipment is designed for use in business. Even when you do Internet searches for "home video surveillance," most of the results are more appropriate for business, than they are for home.

There are 3 questions I recommend you keep in mind:

  1. How much do you want to spend?
  2. How hard will it be to set it up?
  3. What features do you really need?

How Much to Spend

Cost is usually the most important factor for home systems. There's generally not a history of repeated thefts or security problems with high value items (unlike businesses). As such, it's hard to justify spending thousands of dollars on security.

On the professional side, most security integrators are used to specifying systems that are $5,000, $10,000 USD or more - and that would fall more on the 'cheap' end.

Today, it's possible to deploy an acceptable security system for no more than $500 - $1,000 USD. [We'll make recommendations at the end]

How hard will it be to set up?

Most homeowners will install the systems themselves or with the help of a friend. This usually means that the IT or electronic skills are modest at best (if you are strong in these areas, this section does not apply).

This is reasonable given that most professionals will charge at least a few hundred dollars to come out for only a single visit.

The two hardest aspects of home video surveillance that I see are: 
  • Setting up remove viewing of the system: Almost every homeowner ranks remote viewing of their house as a top priority (for peace of mind, make sure their house or pet is ok while they are away). Doing this can be very difficult (also problematic to maintain if you replace your home router). The same tactics that your Internet provider takes to make Internet access easy makes remote access of your video surveillance hard. You'll need to setup port forwarding, DDNS and change ports on cameras (if you have more than 1 camera). Each brand of home office router has different setup options and naming conventions making this even more difficult to accomplish.
  • Connecting your cameras to a recorder/recording PC: Cameras often come with cables that are 6 feet / 1.5 meters (or less). If you need longer (and you often do), then you need to make or buy your own cables. Most people do not have the tools to make cables so buying is your best bet. The other option is wireless, though if you need to go through multiple walls, it frequently will not work.

What Features Do You Really Need?

This is a critical question because the range of options in video surveillance are significant - analytics, multi-month recording, integration with alarm systems, audio monitoring, low light viewing, super high resolution, etc.

The reality is that most homeowners need is only a small fraction of the features available in the professional market. Here are a few features that are commonly requested by homeowners:

  • Remote viewing: Basically all systems support some of form of remote vieiwing over the Internet. The most important differentiator is how difficult it is to view over the public Internet (i.e., when you are away from home).
  • Audio monitoring: This is often important for people with elderly parents, children or pets. Audio provides a way for homeowners to see and hear what is going on. The only practical (cost-effective) way to do this in a home is to use IP cameras).
  • Low light viewing: Most inexpensive cameras do really poorly in low light. The cheapest way to handle this is for the camera to have a ring of IR illuminators around the lens. This has big drawbacks for professional security applications (uneven illumination, limits in distance) but is cheap and ususally good enough if you are simply trying to illuminate a room.

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.

Related Reports

Covert Cloud Camera Service Launching (KJB) on Jun 22, 2017
Cloud IP cameras, for consumers, has become increasingly commonplace. However, covert cameras, lag there, with few options. Now, North America's...
45 Drives 'Lowest Cost' Enterprise Storage Company Profile on Jun 21, 2017
45 Drives claims the "lowest cost per Hard Drive Slot in the industry." But who or what is '45 Drives'? What started as a product design to...
Axis P3225 Mk II Tested Vs. Original on Jun 20, 2017
Axis has released a number of 'Mk II' versions of their cameras, which are the same fundamental camera but with specific improvements. We tested...
VMS UI - Light vs Dark Preferences on Jun 16, 2017
Several VMS manufacturers have the ability to choose a user interface with either a light or dark color theme. 150+ integrators told us which they...
Axis 20MP Q1659 Camera Tested on Jun 13, 2017
Axis has joined the super high resolution camera trend with their Q1659, a 20MP model equipped with Canon's APS-C sensor. We tested the Q1659...
Camera Course Summer 2017 on Jun 08, 2017
Learn video surveillance and get certified. IPVM provides live online classes, recorded videos, personal help, cutting edge education and...
Samsung SmartCam A1 Totally Wireless System on Jun 06, 2017
Hanwha is keeping the Samsung brand alive in consumer cameras with the SmartCam A1, a new offering combining an autotracking 1080p camera with base...
Security Yard Signs and Stickers Guide on Jun 05, 2017
Many security integrators use signs or stickers with their company name and logo. Posting these in front the homes of residential customers...
ShotSpotter To IPO, Facing Low Revenue and Losses on May 17, 2017
A rare event for North American security manufacturers is upcoming. ShotSpotter is planning to IPO on the NASDAQ, aiming to raise $34.5...
Blink XT Outdoor Totally Wireless Camera Tested on May 11, 2017
Running wires for cameras outdoors is one of the biggest challenges, especially for consumer or DIY installs. Now, Blink has released an outdoor...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Importance of Sales To Integrators - Statistics on Jun 23, 2017
One of the top trends in the industry over the past few years has been the rise of across-the-board sales (e.g.: Hikvision Sales, Dahua Sale,...
Deep Learning Surveillance Startups Deep Problem on Jun 23, 2017
The undeniably good news for the video surveillance market is that we are seeing the rise of more startups than in many years. The cause of this...
Avigilon Announces RADAR-Based Presence Detector on Jun 22, 2017
RADAR is gaining momentum within physical security. Two months after Axis announced a network radar detector, Avigilon has announced a RADAR-Based...
Covert Cloud Camera Service Launching (KJB) on Jun 22, 2017
Cloud IP cameras, for consumers, has become increasingly commonplace. However, covert cameras, lag there, with few options. Now, North America's...
Manufacturers Shipping Unlicensed H.265 Products on Jun 22, 2017
While H.265 support in video surveillance is growing, IPVM's research shows that most surveillance manufacturers are shipping H.265 products with...
Uniview Low-Cost Bullet PTZ Tested on Jun 21, 2017
Uniview is offering a HD zoom bullet camera, the IPC742SR9-PZ30-32G, with an integrated pan / tilt positioner, for the price of a low-cost...
QSR Video Surveillance Best Practices on Jun 21, 2017
Fast food restaurants or QSRs (quick service restaurants), are frequent victims of crime and fraud. Because they are open late, deal with cash, and...
45 Drives 'Lowest Cost' Enterprise Storage Company Profile on Jun 21, 2017
45 Drives claims the "lowest cost per Hard Drive Slot in the industry." But who or what is '45 Drives'? What started as a product design to...
No Hack, Still Liable, Court Finds ADT on Jun 20, 2017
Recently, ADT has been in the news for a $16 million settlement for a cyber security vulnerability class action suit. One of the most important...
Resolver / PPM 2000 Incident Management Platform Profile on Jun 20, 2017
You might have seen the company whose employees wear hockey jerseys at trade shows and wondered "what do they do?" PPM 2000 has been active in...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact