2nd Home Surveillance
January 3, 2013 11:22 AM   Subscribe

I have been asked to set up an Internet-based surveillance camera at our weekend house. The catch? A somewhat limited DSL connection. Comments or suggestions for an easily set-up Internet surveillance system greatly appreciated.

We have a vacation home that we mainly use on weekends. My family would like to be able to occasionally view live video from the house, both inside and out - probably requiring two separate cameras. I have looked at Dropcam and Foscam options on Amazon and, while generally well reviewed, both seem to have some downsides - Dropcam with requiring heavy bandwidth and Foscam in the setup.

The only Internet connection available is Shentel's DSL, which maxes out at 5 Mbps. It works relatively well for Internet browsing and occasional Netflix streaming, but I don't think it (or Shentel) will handle the 60-70+ GB monthly streaming per camera that some Dropcam users report.

Is there a simple and affordable Internet surveillance camera (or system) that is easy to set-up and monitor that doesn't require massive amounts of bandwidth?
posted by flyingrock to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I have a Foscam camera. The software is indeed ugly, but I set it up once and haven't touched it in two years or more. It works fine. The hardware feels pretty flimsy. I wouldn't want it outdoors. It only consumes bandwidth when you're actively looking at it (so it won't be archiving or anything).
posted by primethyme at 11:32 AM on January 3, 2013

Does it have to be constantly recording? We have a Logitec Alert system and a regular cable modem. Indoor and outdoor cameras available, isn't too bad to set, and only streams when you connect. Works over your electric wiriring so not too much wiring, but can be tricky if you have wacky power setups. All motion is recorded and available for playback as well.
posted by snickerdoodle at 11:36 AM on January 3, 2013

I have two Foscam FI8918Ws at home. Right now, I'm seeing ~360kbps upstream while viewing one of them from work (640x480 still image, updating something like 10-15 frames per second.)

f you view it an actual video stream (with audio) this will likely be higher, but I never need to do that. I do record full videos with audio locally and have a script that deletes them after a couple weeks. You may want to do something similar so you have an archive of full audio/video if you need them.

I also like the option to have it email me on motion capture events. The mo-cap built into the Foscam is simplistic, but good enough for most uses. If you want more sophisticated stuff that's tolerant of frequent motion of trees, traffic, etc. you'll want to use something like Synology's Surveillance Station (bundled with their NAS products) or software like SecuritySpy for Mac, both of which I've used and can recommend highly.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:50 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the quick responses. We are looking for a system that only streams when we want it. That seems to be the major downside to the Dropcam system. Some users also note that the Dropcams get a bit hot, and that worries me a bit for a house that isn't usually occupied.

Primethyme: My hesitancy on Foscam is based solely on comments regarding setting up port forwarding on the wireless router. That really sees to be the prevailing negative comment. I guess I could try it to see if it works. Thanks.
posted by flyingrock at 11:52 AM on January 3, 2013

I have a few Foscam 8910W's setup (currently three). The software interface sucks, but works as advertised. The only downside with the setup of the Foscam is that you have to plug it directly into a router with an ethernet cable to access it the first time. Once you've signed into the camera you can then setup its wireless capability.

Each of mine is setup to email me through Gmail's SMTP server. My cameras are setup in highly trafficked areas, so over the last four months they have emailed around 1.5 gigabytes worth of images via the motion alarm. Apart from that, there is no internet bandwidth consumed unless you're watching the camera(s) remotely.

Additionally, I setup an old linux box on the same network so that I can record the video streams (as far as I can tell, there is no way to record streams with the provided software). Each camera saves between 5 and 8 gigabytes per day depending on the resolution and activity. The streams can be transcoded to save space.

As far as remote viewing goes, if you can connect via VPN or SSH tunnel into your router (or a computer at the residence) then you can remotely watch streams without port-forwarding.

I haven't tried the Foscam 8910W outside, but from what I've read it sounds like it will reduce the life of the camera; the main risk seemed to be exposure to moisture or extreme temperatures.
posted by trueluk at 12:06 PM on January 3, 2013

I really like my Foscam 8910W. The setup is definitely clunky, but it's not too bad (and port forwarding can be downright easy, depending on your router). I don't have any quantifiable information to share with you regarding bandwidth usage, but it seems modest to me. There are smartphone apps for viewing the camera(s) remotely that make the bad UI of the Foscam a non-issue (I almost never pay for apps, but I would happily pay for Foscam Surveillance Pro over and over and over again).
posted by Betelgeuse at 12:16 PM on January 3, 2013

The Logitech system goes through their servers, so there's no port forwarding needed. It's not as slick as the newer systems, but it was the right mix for us.
posted by snickerdoodle at 1:37 PM on January 3, 2013

I have a rebranded Dahua IP camera at my house. You can set the bandwidth and encoding level of the stream. It also supports dual streams. I have a full 720p stream for browser viewing and recording, and a secondary I use when I view it on my mobile phone. Port forwarding is also needed but it is pretty simple. The camera also has a built in browser to view. From the vendor I purchased it came with its own NVR software called PSS. Feel free to message me if you want more info.
posted by NotSoSimple at 1:52 PM on January 3, 2013

Port forwarding on a router is a piece of cake-- every major router will have guides online, made either by users or the manufacturer.

(by which I mean download speed). 5Mbps upstream DSL is plenty for compressed standard-def video, and generous for fractional HD. However, I'm wondering whether that 5Mbps is upstream or not. Based on what you haven't said, and what DSL companies do say, I'm guessing that the DSL they're offering is 5Mbps downstream.

With DSL, the upstream (from camera to internet) is usually a fraction of the downstream, around 1/6th to 1/10, so a typical (anywhere USA) account at 5Mb down would have something like 512-896k up. That's....low. Poor for any quality in streaming. Remember watching the news during the Egyptian riots? Those news folks were using a satellite-internet technology called BGAN which limits one to about 360k, and with two streams and 768k upstream, you're talking about the same quality level.

You can probably persuade Shentel to reverse the upstream/downstream so you get 5MB up, but that means your ~700k down will be frustrating when you're on vacation there.
posted by Sunburnt at 2:15 PM on January 3, 2013

Look up the iCam (for iPhone) and iCamSource applications. Can be used with multiple wired and wireless cameras and only triggers when viewed or when motion detected.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:43 PM on January 4, 2013

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