It's an unfortunate part of the society that we live in, but a fact that security camera systems are becoming more necessary for the average parent, business owner or homeowner. With an array of options available to pick from ranging from the simple stand alone door alarm to the sophisticated remotely monitored security camera and microphone network, there are a number of factors to consider when selecting the right solution for your home or office. A wide array of high quality security camera systems have entered the market recently and are available on-online or at big box retailers leaving the consumer to evaluate which one is appropriate for the application they have and then decide how to get it installed.
Security Camera System Types
One distinction among security camera systems is the ability to record to a local device, usually a DVR with a Hard Drive. The higher quality systems available now have all the components ready to plug and play and all the owner has to do is mount the hardware, assemble the cabling to the security cameras, run the wires and configure the recorder and monitoring equipment. Piece of cake, right?
Well not necessarily, but hopefully I can provide some ideas that will be of assistance. The first consideration is how many security cameras you are going to need, if they will be indoor or outdoor, and if you want the sound recorded as well. Some security cameras offer limited night vision, some are for inside only and some are for outside, some require cabling to the security cameras, some run on your home wireless network, or WiFi.
I have tried more than one type so far and found the wired versions to be reliable and cost effective. So let's focus on the wired cameras recording to a DVR for this session and perhaps we can look into some of the other options in a subsequent installment. The first consideration is the number of security cameras, keep in mind that the optics are fixed on most of the inexpensive security camera kits so depending on the distance and application you may need more than one camera to cover a given area.
Security Camera Communications Requirements
While you can run the cameras as described in this article as a local only closed circuit monitoring system, most users now want the ability to monitor the system remotely. In order to accomplish this you will need to have internet access. In addition, you will need to have at least a computer and the security camera system on the same network with an addressable DVR including a local Hard Drive. Again, this is only if you want to record and remotely monitor activity with the security camera system.
So let's assume you have a small network with at least 3 devices, your computer, your DVR for your security camera system and the modem or router provided with your internet connection. The address of your modem or router is key for those who wish to remotely access the security camera system because it is the device that we will be addressing from abroad, out on the internet. Also important is that the connection from the modem or router to the DVR will need to be direct as the device will not be easily addressable through another piece of networking hardware.
Security Camera Wiring
Most security camera kits come with fixed lengths of wire that provide both power and communications for the attached devices. It is recommended that you first determine where you want the DVR located and remember that the monitor and mouse are most likely going to be attached, at least initially for configuration. If you are going to be viewing the security camera monitor on the same premises as the security cameras keep this in mind so you have enough space to accomodate the hardware needed. When you have decided on the location of the DVR and monitor consider the path of the wire to the desired security camera locations. I have found in my own home this involved crawling around in the attic, my least favorite place to spend time. In order to get this job done with minimal time up there, I improvised an item that was very helpful during the wire-running phase which I will share with you.
Mounting the Security Cameras and Pulling the Wire
For reaching security camera mounting spots such as the soffit area, I straightened out 2 wire clothes hangers and with about 6 inches of overlap, used electrical tape to fasten one to another. On the end of this 6 foot monstrosity I curled a “hook”. I then taped an 8 inch piece of bright orange surveyors tape, so I could easily see where the end was. On the other end, I taped the security camera wire that I was pulling from the location back to the DVR.
After using a hole saw attachment on my electric drill to make the opening, I sent the cloths hanger wire, surveyors tape first, up into the opening making it easier to find in the dark uncomfortable attic crawlspace. I would bring a long fishing gaff (a pole with a hook on the end) with me so I only needed to get within about 15 feet of the opening to be able to hook the clothes hanger wire and pull my wire into the attic space to its destination.
Most of the security cameras come with the mounting hardware already attached to the cameras so they can be attached to wood or other standard building materials, and screws are provided for concrete or block mounting.
Security Camera Communications
This is really where all the magic happens. The wired security cameras have power in the cabling and are capable of being run over 100 feet so local power is not required. Once back to the DVR the camera video can be displayed locally on a monitor and recorded per the user specifications and settings on the hard drive. But my favorite part is the remote monitoring which can be done from any internet PC or internet capable cell phone.
The Technical Part of Security Camera Monitoring
If technology scares you or when someone starts talking about bits and bytes your eyes cross, do not panic! What I am going to attempt to explain here may not be as bad as it sounds at first.
The settings here are very specific and dependent on the type of internet connection hardware you have. Internet connections have a piece of hardware that distributes the signal referred to as a modem or router. This device has software inside it that will allow you to configure the specifics which we are about to discuss. While the particulars of your device may vary, they all generally work the same way.
When it comes to internet connections it is easier to have a static or fixed IP address with your internet service. Most residential connections use a changing address scheme called Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol or DHCP and the address of your modem or router will periodically change.
The problem with this is that if you program the address in or save it somewhere to view your security cameras at a later date, it will no longer work after the address changes. One solution to this requires the use of a service called Dynamic Domain Name Service or DDNS.
What the DDNS provides is a way for people with a changing internet address at the location of the cameras to be able to find those devices over the internet by providing an addressing scheme that points to whatever your address currently is. There are free websites that provide this service and some security camera manufacturers provide this service as well.
Another detail that needs to be addressed is configuring the router or communications device provided by the internet service provider to allow someone access to devices on the location network. This function is called “port forwarding”. What this does is allow a user from anywhere in the world to address your router and then address a device on your network. The router would normally not allow this type of addressing from an outside source for security reasons, but you are programming it to allow this exception and giving it the address of the DVR. This is usually going to be a 4 digit number, like 3050.
So if you have a fixed, or static IP address you can program that IP address with the ":port#" extension into your browser and bookmark it. If you have a home account with a DHCP address instead of putting the IP address of the local router in your browser, you will use a DDNS service to setup your own Domain name that points to your router regardless of the current address, and to the DVR device connected to it. The ends up looking like a concatenated website name with a ":port#" stuck on the end such as "http://yourname.providername.com:port#". With that done you can bookmark this in your browser and get to the cameras at any time from any location in the world.
Security Cameras and Smart Phones
After you get the remote monitoring working from a PC you are going to want to start monitoring from your smart phone. This is accomplished by one of a handful of free apps available on Andriod or iPhone platforms. The application "asee" is the one that worked for me on my Andriod phone. Once you find an application that runs correctly on your smart phone, you enter the DDNS name for your router and the port number, user name, and password for your DVR and you are off to the races. The interface allows you to view each camera separately, up to 16.
Finishing the Job and Hiding the Wires
Once the install is complete and the system is working, it is good to have minimal clutter and distraction from the cabling involved both inside and outsite. For this reason I recommend using wire conduits to hide any exposed cables.