Because I need to keep a very close eye on my cats, they are just that shady.
July 19, 2012 8:36 AM   Subscribe

Recommend a Decent Home Security System with the following features:

So I have googled and googled until my fingers are numb and my eyeballs sore, and it might be a case of me looking in the wrong places, or there being too many choices. But a lot of security sites seem to leave out the practical details of how to actually set up a decent home security system, while other sites assume you want only certain features, (capture on motion detection, for example) or are willing to use a monthly service.

I am left with many questions. I made a dream list of all the things my ideal security system would have. I would prefer not to break $1,000, but recognize this might be unrealistic. I am willing to go higher. Don’t be limited by that number in recommendations, I need to know what the options are.

What I would like, in my fantasy dream-world security system that probably only exists on CSI:

1. Between 4-6 cameras

2. At least 2 of the cameras must be outdoor cameras, capable of handling getting wet and cold, and hopefully, some night vision.

3. Remote monitoring capacity, through computer (ipad/iphone would be nice as well).

4. Similarly, it would be nice if, when home, you could see the outdoor monitors through the tv (to see if that really is the pizza guy).

5. Decent resolution, since a system is useless if you see nothing but a fuzzy blur.

6. Storage of the video, not just live time viewing.

7. It would be nice if I didn’t have to rip out my walls to put in wiring, but if I did have to, what is involved? How do people power these things they stick to their ceilings, and how do they do it in a way that isn’t easy for someone breaking in to just snip? This question goes double for outside cameras. Is hiring an electrician necessary for a system that isn’t just knocked together?

8. Storing video footage is no good, obviously, if the thief picks up your computer and walks off with the footage. How do people handle this? A server that stays on all day in a hidden location? I’d prefer not to have to pay a service monthly. Owning the equipment myself would be nicer.

Am I being unrealistic? What's the next best thing? I have stared a lot at the Lorex cameras in Costco, but reviews tell me their "outdoor" cameras should not get wet. This seems unrealistic to me.
posted by instead of three wishes to Technology (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
When I was going through an X10 phase several years ago, I used to get the SmartHome catalog, which is also chock full of home security products. Not sure if you'll be able to put together everything you're looking for for under $1000, but all of the parts are there to give it a go.
posted by jquinby at 8:50 AM on July 19, 2012

One alternative, in order to get educated on feasibility, is to call ADT and talk to a local salesperson. It might be painful, but you will learn what is available and for what cost. I think they make most of their money on the ongoing home monitoring and calling the police thing so the system may be reasonable. (I had a 20 minute conversation with a rep two weeks ago. Learned a lot, but you have to ask the right questions. He was not volunteering a lot.)
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:09 AM on July 19, 2012

Just about any off the shelf security system can do what you want.

As for outdoors, cameras are usually installed under the eaves, they can take moisture, but not soaking. They sell enclosures if they need to be exposed.

It's also easy to run the wires into your attic if the cameras are mounted just under the roofline.

As for wiring, the cable usually includes video and power, so as long as you have a power source where your DVR/control unit is, you are fine.

Mount the cameras high enough so it's hard to snip the wires or just have enough coverage where your system will capture anyone snipping wires.

As for securing storage, have offline backup and get a security cage.
posted by wongcorgi at 9:51 AM on July 19, 2012

6. Storage of the video, not just live time viewing.

Is there a timeframe for how long you want to preserve this stuff? Video, particularly if you want audio and good motion, eats up a lot of space.

I bet you could pull this off for $1000 if you're willing to do a lot of the heavy lifting. You can find weatherproof IP cameras for about $100, indoor-only ones for notably less. USB only ones which you can use with USB-over-ethernet cable even cheaper than that. You'll find a number of old AskMe and Lifehacker posts with pointers to different software you can use.

As far as the preservation, I think the most sensible solution is to put the storage device inside a locked security box. They make them in a variety of sizes for computer gear that has to be left in semi-insecure locations. Think cheap gun safe with holes for cables.

Hell, but a cheap gun safe and drill some holes in it. Just be sure to bolt it down so the whole thing doesn't walk away.

As far as keeping outdoor cameras dry I guess it depends on how finely you define 'dry.' I suspect those outdoor cameras would do okay under an overhang where they don't typically get water dripped directly on them. If not you can buy plastic bubbles.

Do you have a particular problem you're looking to solve here?
posted by phearlez at 9:51 AM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You can do this pretty easily with a Mac Mini, a PoE switch, some number of PoE cameras and SecuritySpy software.

I specify PoE cameras because then you just have to run one cable to each camera, though Security Spy supports a lot of different cameras.

SecuritySpy will FTP to a remote server for retention, and there are apps which will let you monitor via iDevices.

If you positioned the Mac near your TV, you could use the TV as your monitor.

The software also does motion detection and can send e-mail alerts. It's very comprehensive.

I did this for my company, but it cost substantially more than $1k, because I wanted at least 720p resolution, weatherproof fixtures and a couple of PTZ cameras.
posted by tomierna at 11:08 AM on July 19, 2012

Response by poster: The SecuritySpy system looks like it is something that could really work for us. Do you mind my asking which PTZ cameras and fixtures you went with?
posted by instead of three wishes at 12:44 PM on July 19, 2012

Best answer: I went with Vivotek IP8332 fixed cameras, and Toshiba IK-WB16A PT cameras (one is outside, and so has the appropriate weather housing)

It looks like Vivotek and Toshiba are using the same OEM, or that one OEMs for the other, since the web interface for them is identical excepting logos.

I also have a couple of USB cameras connected to machines inside which remain on 24x7, and am using the RemoteCam app to get them into SecuritySpy.

Without the PoE switch, which we had already, I spent about $3500.
posted by tomierna at 12:51 PM on July 19, 2012

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