UNDERSTANDABLY, THOSE WHO own a home
or run a small business (or both) want to protect
their property. Video cameras are a popular—
and relatively inexpensive—way to keep an eye
on your space. Many of these systems allow you
to replay and share archived footage in the event
of an incident. Internet-connected cameras let
you access the video anywhere and anytime.
Since September is National Preparedness
Month, it’s a fitting time to discuss how to find
the right camera system, whether it’s to be used
personally or professionally. (See page ;; for
more preparedness tips.)
Q How many cameras do I need?
A One of the ;rst things you need to ;gure out
is how many cameras you need. Cameras are
sold individually or as part of a set, which can
cover multiple areas in and around a home or
If it’s a multiple-camera system you need,
you can go with static cameras that don’t move or
opt for ones that pan, tilt and zoom to help cover
Also, it’s always a good idea to consider a surveillance system with extra channels so you can
add more cameras, should you want to, in the
future. For example, it may not cost much more
to buy a ;;-camera system, even though you
might need only eight cameras right now.
Q Where do I want to place the cameras?
A You’ll need to decide whether you want indoor-only cameras or indoor and outdoor cameras,
based on the areas you are monitoring. You
might have to pay more for weatherproof outdoor cameras, which often have small domes on
top to protect the lens.
A related consideration: Do you want wired
or wireless cameras? Generally speaking, wired
cameras are more reliable and aren’t dependent
on Wi-Fi reception, but you might need to fish
cables through walls and floors. With a wireless
system, you simply plug the cameras into a power
source, and they communicate back to the main
unit, without the need for a long video cable.
Q What are the recording options?
A The last main choice is how you want the
video to be stored. You can go with a digital video
recorder (DVR) backup; many o;er a couple of
terabytes of footage (that’s a lot). A DVR is ideal
if you have multiple cameras, as you’ll need a
big hard drive to archive all that video—and
keep in mind that the higher the video resolu-
tion, the more hard drive space it’ll take up. For
example, 4K video takes up more space than
high-definition, which takes up more space
than standard de;nition.
If you don’t think you’ll need massive
amounts of storage, consider a home monitoring
system with SD (flash) memory cards, a smaller
pre-installed hard drive or a network video
recorder (NVR). One advantage of a networked
camera solution is Power over Ethernet, sometimes called PoE, which allows the cameras to
operate without an additional power supply.
These cameras transmit video and power on a
single, in-wall, fire-rated Ethernet cable and get
their power directly from the NVR.
Access to your cameras when you’re away, so
you can peek in at any time on your smartphone,
tablet or laptop, is a great feature. Some camera
systems support cloud backup, which is convenient as you can log in from virtually any device
and from anywhere, but keep in mind you might
have to pay monthly for cloud storage.
Q What else do I need to know?
A Here are a few other considerations that can
help you choose the best system and get the
most out of it:
• It’s quite easy to set up and use many of
these camera systems. For example, the camera
wires (if there are any) are color-coded to match
the ports on the back of the DVR or NVR. You’ll
likely need professional help only if installation
requires ;shing cables through walls and ;oors.
• With many of these Internet-enabled
cameras, you can set up motion or sound alerts.
You’re immediately notified if the camera is
triggered, via an app on your smartphone. You
probably won’t need to pay monthly fees, as this
uses your existing Wi-Fi.
• Night vision is a handy feature, for obvious reasons. It will be listed on the box.
• Some camera systems come with a monitor to see what the cameras see, while others are
designed to connect to a TV or PC monitor via
an HDMI cable. Most work with apps, too. C
Protecting your pad
The benefits of video surveillance
Marc Saltzman, a leading
high-tech reporter, contributes to more than three dozen
appears on radio and TV,
and is the author of more
than ;; books. He’s on
Saltzman will answer selected
questions in this column.
He regrets that unpublished
questions cannot be
Please include “Marc Saltzman
Q&A” in the subject line.
Q&A with Marc Saltzman
The Costco Connection
P.O. Box 34088
Seattle, WA 98124-1088
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