Home Security Cameras
March 12, 2009 9:00 AM   Subscribe

Home Surveillance Help…general system setup/personal preferences

So it looks like we are going to go the nanny route. #2 is due in May and we really cannot swing 2 kiddos in daycare; so now we are looking into outfitting the house with some cameras and I have no idea what I’m looking for. I’ve spent some time searching the internet for guidance but that only goes so far. Does anyone have experience/suggestions on inside surveillance cameras?

I (think) need: multiple cameras, dvr storage, online access, and it would be great if I could install myself to save a few bucks.

Any product/install suggestions?
How does online access work? How do I get live video from the dvr online so I can view at work??
posted by doorsfan to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Costco has bundled solutions like this one that seem right up your alley (one with monitor included). The basic premise of online viewing is pretty much like using products like PC Anywhere. You should also let your nanny know that your house is wired.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:02 AM on March 12, 2009

The easiest and most cost-effective systems for this are the ones that use a single smart DVR and web-server box and any number (usually 4-12) "dumb" cameras that can be connected by regular coax cable. That lets you use the right kinds of camera -- color, black and white, high-quality, cheap, camouflaged, weatherproof, etc -- for each place you want a camera, letting you mix and match generic commodity cameras (some of which are like $4 from Hong Kong mail order, others of which will provide very high quality for $100's or even $1000's per unit) rather than lock you in to some certain technology. As long as the network DVR box is getting a video signal, it doesn't care what kind of camera.

I have worked on a few commercial projects that used Axis products, such as the very reliable 2460, an industrial strength beast that just never fails, ever. I inherited a spare one for my house and love it too -- it's been online for 4 years without a single downtime... but I notice cheaper "consumer" versions that follow the same general idea at Costco and other such places for like $499 or so. I am sure the cameras they come with are crap, but see above. There's also a huge (and scam-filled) market online from outfits that "custom build" the same thing for you from a cheap PC, Linux and some video cards. If you're technically savvy and don't mind configuring the hell out of things forever, I'd go that route.

If you'd rather it "just works" then term you're looking for is "network DVR" and the factors that matter are the number of video inputs (usually 4,8,12 since they use 4-plexing cards) and the access method. Generally one configures one's router to allow world-viewing access via a certain port number, then view that port from a web browser anywhere in the world (with a password, presumably.)

You can also do this with a collection of "network cameras" each of which have their own IP address and such, but then getting recording to work is a massive pain.
posted by rokusan at 10:08 AM on March 12, 2009

Oh, and watch out for bundles that REQUIRE Windows and special drivers, since they usually require a dedicated or semi-dedicated PC, and don't make their cameras visible from any PC, just other PCs that have special browser plugins added. That might be fine for your PC at work, but it's very limiting: The first time you wish to look at your house from an internet cafe, your iPhone, or some other PC that you can't add software to, you will HATE this solution very much.

Be sure to choose one that has its own web server built-in that is not Windows-specific.

(Yes, I have a nifty shortcut on my iPhone that shows a pic from the four cameras in my house when I click it.)
posted by rokusan at 10:12 AM on March 12, 2009

Burhanistan - Amazing find. I'm having my mom (who has a costco acct) order tonight!

rokusan - Excellent info! I was worried how to get the video online but you eased that concern. Also good to know about the interchangeability of the cameras, I'll definitely keep that in mind down the road.

Another MeFi success story!!!
posted by doorsfan at 12:31 PM on March 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

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