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Data Doctors: Tips for buying DIY security cameras
The options for security cameras that are easy to install, set up and monitor via your smartphone can get overwhelming for even the most tech-savvy consumer.
Q: What should I consider when choosing a DIY security camera?
A: The options for security cameras that are easy to install, set up and monitor via your smartphone can get overwhelming for even the most tech-savvy consumer.
Several variables will help you determine the best fit for your situation, as there is no one-size-fits-all solution for this growing category.
Location and Infrastructure
The area of your home or business that you want to surveil may quickly narrow your search, as the available infrastructure may limit your options.
If there aren’t any electrical outlets in the area, you’ll likely want to opt for one of the many battery-operated units that can be mounted just about anywhere.
Similarly, if your Wi-Fi signal is weak or nonexistent in the area where you intend to mount the camera, you’ll want to shop for cameras that can connect to a cellular network or extend your current Wi-Fi network to allow for a reliable connection.
Replacing wired doorbells or floodlights with integrated security cameras eliminates the need to run electrical wires or go with a battery-operated unit.
Wired vs. Wireless
Any security camera that doesn’t require an electrical outlet and can connect via Wi-Fi is considered a truly wireless camera, but there can be some downsides.
As with anything that relies on a battery, it’s just a matter of time before you’ll have issues related to battery life.
Some cameras use special batteries that are designed to last a year or so, but ultimately the life of the battery will be determined by the amount of activity the camera senses.
All security cameras use motion sensors to alert you to activity, so if you point the camera in a direction with lots of activity, you could be replacing expensive batteries much more often.
There are cameras that have solar panels to help keep the battery topped up, but even those batteries have a finite life that can be shortened if you live in a very hot climate (heat is a huge enemy of batteries).
Generally speaking, wired is superior to wireless as it pertains to your power source because it eliminates a point of failure that will eventually require maintenance, especially if you have to install the camera in a place that won’t be easy to access in the future.
Cloud vs. Local Storage
Another consideration is how your security video is stored whenever an incident is recorded. Some systems allow you to store the video locally, while others push the video to the company’s servers via the internet (the “cloud”).
Cloud-based storage can be limited unless you pay a monthly or annual fee, so it’s important that you understand what your options are before committing to a specific device.
If you already have other ‘smart devices’ such as a thermostat or smart doorbell, the same company likely offers various security camera options that will allow your devices to be monitored from a single app on your smartphone.
If opening multiple apps for your various smart devices isn’t a deal breaker, the existing platform won’t be a factor.
If you want to extend your security monitoring to doors, windows and garage doors, you’ll want to explore the package options that most every company offers.
Ken Colburn is founder and CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services. Ask any tech question on Facebook or Twitter.
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