Do-It-Yourself Surveillance Protects Home or Business

Webcams and IP cameras enable you to monitor your property as long as you’re away.

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Is that summer downpour flooding your basement? Did Rover enter the garbage again? Is your 50-inch flat-panel TV still set up? Find out from anywhere through the use of your personal computer to create an inexpensive home surveillance system that you may access online, and even over your cellular phone. A professionally installed surveillance system costs at least $2000, nevertheless, you can create an uncomplicated USB-connected Webcam such as for example Logitech’s QuickCam Chat for $30, a radio camera which can be placed almost anywhere for under $200, or a complete PC-based monitoring system at under $1000.

A simple surveillance system requires three things: a camera; motion-sensing software to activate the camera also to store its video or still images; and software to send the images online. Adding a wired or wireless network expands your home-surveillance capabilities.

If you’re with limited funds or you do not want to handle installing remote cameras, a cheap Webcam can serve as a bare-bones surveillance device. Many Webcams include motion-sensing and remote-access software, but paying extra for a full-featured program could be worthwhile, especially if you intend to use several Webcams of different makes (for just two software recommendations, see "Cameras With Swivel").

The largest drawback of a Webcam, of course, is that it is tethered by a USB cable to your personal computer. Powered USB hubs and USB active repeater cables permit you to double or triple USB’s 5-meter length limit. Or you can await the capability of wireless USB products, that ought to arrive soon. Actually, Belkin’s CableFree wireless USB hub could be available by enough time you read this.

IP cameras, alternatively, could be placed anywhere there’s a network connection, making them perfect for homes or offices that curently have a wireless network. Given that they connect right to your router instead of through your PC, you don’t have to keep the machine to view the camera’s image in a browser. Charges for cameras with such features as night vision, remote-control positioning (pan-and-tilt controls, for example), and zoom lenses can easily escalate past $1000, but less costly wireless cameras like D-Link’s DCS-5300G (about $500 online), Linksys’s Compact Wireless G Internet Video Camera (about $100 online) and 4XEM’s WLPTG Wireless Pan/Tilt IP Network Camera (about $390 online) have several extra features.

Cameras With Swivel The pan-and-tilt capacity for the 4XEM and D-Link units i want to monitor my living room, kitchen, and yard (through a window) with one camera whose view I controlled remotely, instead of having to use several stationary cameras. In case you have pets, attach a speaker to let them hear your voice from afar.

I installed three different wireless cameras on my wireless network, and even though I struggled with the setup, after 5 hours I was monitoring my dog’s water bowl, my entry way, and my vegetable garden from my cousin’s house anywhere.

Of course, your network camera is only going to be as useful as the surveillance software that runs it. If the program bundled together with your camera is difficult to use, has too limited a couple of features, or is impossible to set up, you can ditch it and try among the many third-party alternatives, such as for example DeskShare’s $50 WebCam Monitor or iCode’s $79 i-Catcher Sentry. I came across both apps easier to configure and more useful compared to the programs that was included with many of the cameras I used.

Before you get a camera-controller app, make certain its codec works together with your cameras. IP cameras typically support either the MJPEG or the MPEG-4 codec, while some newer cameras support both. MPEG-4 cameras produce smaller video files, but at lower resolutions than MJPEG.

Here answers for some common questions about remote surveillance cameras.

How do you power a remote camera? If you would like to put a camera somewhere without quick access to a power outlet, search for a camera that supports Power over Ethernet (PoE). PoE cameras can draw power from the CAT5 ethernet cable used to transmit data, eliminating the necessity for another power line. Some cameras feature built-in PoE support, while some, such as for example D-Link’s $45 DWL-P200, need a PoE adapter.

What else may i monitor? If you want a lot more than audio or visual confirmation that your house or business is secure, Digi’s Watchport Sensors monitor temperature, moisture, and motion. Each sensor connects via USB to a PC and includes software that sends alerts via e-mail or cellular phone. The sensors cost between $130 and $180 online.

Alternatively, Motorola’s Homesight Wireless Easy Starter Kit HMEZ2000 monitoring system offers a turnkey security system with modules for wireless cameras, window and door monitors, and wireless (however, not Wi-Fi) temperature and moisture sensors. The starter kit costs about $250. Water, temperature, and window/door sensors cost between $40 and $80 each.

Where do I choose help? Don’t waste a lot of time with a troublesome installation. Call tech support; 4XEM’s excellent support line made my setup a breeze, while one hour with a D-Link support tech convinced me to try WebCam Monitor rather than keeping D-Link’s software. My most significant lesson: If one quick call to tech support doesn’t solve your trouble, return your camera for just one from a different manufacturer.

Establishing an external connect to the Internet could be challenging on any camera. Browse the overview at and discover several useful tips for installing and running an IP camera.

Print, But Save Green In the event that you print something each day, you probably waste something every day aswell. The GreenPrint Home utility enables you to lessen wasted paper and ink by rendering it fast and easy to recognize and delete unwanted pages, text, or graphics on the net jobs. GreenPrint installs as a printer, if you designate it as your default, it automatically arises every time you print. At $35 (with a free of charge 30-day trial), this program certainly isn’t cheap–but given the cost of ink and paper, it could purchase itself pretty quickly.

Send your tips and questions to [email protected] . We pay $50 for published items. Kirk Steers is a contributing editor for PC World and is writer of PC Upgrading and Troubleshooting QuickSteps from McGraw-Hill/Osborne Press.