How to Choose an IP Security Camera

by Mark Applegate Google

    Originally an expensive and complex product found mostly in department stores and banks, security cameras have found their way into many homes, offering property protection and peace of mind. Many wireless home security models no longer require substantial wiring and setup skill and can be installed by a home user. Modern IP cameras are relatively simple and can be monitored using any available computer or smartphone. There are, however, several important factors you should consider when buying this equipment to be sure it meets your needs.


    IP cameras are available in indoor and outdoor models. These cameras come in wired and wireless models. Wired IP cameras should be placed within 100 meters from your primary viewing console. Likewise if you use a wireless model, it must be placed close enough to an access point or sending unit that it can receive the signal. This distance varies based on the frequency or wireless protocol that the camera supports. You should consider Wireless N cameras if your wireless network supports this protocol due to range and relative lack of interference. Outdoor units come in either a domed unit or a standard camera with a weatherproof shield to protect it from the elements and glare. Power is an important location consideration. You need either a power outlet or Power Over Ethernet for every camera to operate. POE uses either a power injector or a specialized Ethernet switch to facilitate this, but only works on certain cameras and is designed primarily for business use.


    Security cameras are designed to cover a specific area. Choosing the right video camera helps you avoid dead areas that an intruder can slip by without being noticed. PTZ cameras are those with options to pan, tilt and zoom the camera so you can cover any area and move as needed to inspect something suspicious. These typically cover an arc of up to 300 degrees while panning and up to 90 degrees at tilt. This coverage can prove invaluable when covering a wide area such as a back yard or an outbuilding.


    While it is important to be able to see a person or object, you must also consider in what detail you need to be able to see it. To use camera footage in court, you must be able to clearly see who is in view. VGA cameras provide a basic look at an area, but to capture the detail needed to identify a perpetrator, consider a megapixel or HD camera. These factors are even more important as you choose between color or black and white versions. IR LED options on a camera allow for night viewing but reduce resolution and color during this application.


    Some IP cameras can be integrated into an older, analog system that must be monitored through a television monitor. For convenience, however, most will allow you to access your camera on the Internet from any computer or smartphone using its management software. This software is typically included with a camera, but you should verify it is both able to handle multiple cameras and encrypted to be sure it cannot be viewed by unauthorized parties. More advanced systems allow you to utilize the PTZ functions to further investigate a concern as long as the camera allows for this feature. Many camera systems also allow you to record in time-lapse or real-time fashion to a DVR sometimes included in the package. This allows you to record externally from your computer for use later. The amount you can record can be enhanced using a camera with motion-sensing technology to record only when motion is detected.

    About the Author

    Based in Bolivar, Mo., Mark Applegate has been a professional writer since 2003. He earned a Master of Business Administration from Colorado Technical University and currently serves as the information technology director at a local public school.

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