My neighbor recently asked me for advice on security cameras. Lately when anyone asks me for tech recommendations, I just send them to The Wirecutter. However, in this case their suggestions won’t work because every option they recommend requires decent Internet access.
I live on a 21 acre farm 10 miles from the nearest gas station. I love where I live but it does suffer from a lack of Internet access options. Basically, there is satellite, which is expensive with high latency, or Centurylink DSL. I have the latter and get to bask in 10 Mbps down and about 750Kbps up.
Unfortunately, with limited upstream all of The Wirecutter’s options are out. I found a bandwidth calculator that estimates a 1 megapixel camera encoding video using H.264 at 24 fps in low quality would still require nearly 2Mbps and over 5Mbps for high quality. Just not gonna happen with a 750Kbps circuit. In addition, I have issues sending video to some third party server. Sure, it is easy but I’m not comfortable with it.
I get around this by using an application called Surveillance Station that is included on my Synology DS415+. Surveillance Station supports a huge number of camera manufacturers and all of the information is stored locally, so no need to send information to “the cloud”. There is also an available camera application called “DS-cam” that can allow you to access your live cameras and recordings remotely. Due the the aforementioned bandwidth limitations, it isn’t a great experience but it can be useful. I use it, for example, to see if a package I’m expecting has been delivered.
Surveillance Station is not free software, and you only get two cameras for free. If you want more there is a pretty hefty license fee. Still, it was useful enough to me that I paid it in order to have two more cameras (for a total of four).
I have the cameras set to record on motion, and it will store up to 10GB of video, per camera, on the Synology. For cameras that stay inside I’m partial to Netgear devices, but for outdoor cameras I use Wansview mainly due to price. Since these types of devices have been know to be easily hackable, I set up firewall rules to block them from accessing the Internet unless I expressly allow it (mainly for software updates). The Netgear cameras move which is cool, but I haven’t found an outdoor camera with the same features.
The main thing that prevented me from recommending my solution to my neighbor is that the DS415+ loaded with four drives was not inexpensive. But then it dawned on me that Synology has a number of smaller products that still support Surveillance View. He could get one of those plus a camera like the Wansview for a little more than one of the cameras recommended by The Wirecutter.
The bargain basement choice would be the Synology DS118. It cost less than $200 but would still require a hard drive. I use WD RED drives which run around $50 for 1TB and $100 for 4TB. Throw in a $50 camera and you are looking at about $300 for a one camera solution.
However, if you are going to get a Synology I would strongly recommend at least a 2-bay solution, like the DS218. It’s about $70 more than the DS118 and you also would need to get another hard drive, but now you will have a Network Attached Storage (NAS) solution in addition to security cameras. I’ve been extremely happy with my DS415+ and I use it to centralize all of my music, video and other data across all my devices.