LAST year, I reviewed a hard-wired CCTV system complete with a range of day/night cameras and a specialist recording unit.
Upon my recommendation and partly on my review, my father-in-law purchased the same model I had tested and with me being the ‘expert’ in this field I had the pleasure of installing a full seven-camera system and television monitor.
There’s nothing wrong with the system I installed and I’d still recommend it today, however, times have changed and now there may be an easier method of achieving the same level of protection.
Internet cameras offer the same — if not better — quality of vision, can record to a physical hard disk the same as a traditional system and are available as indoor as well as outdoor cameras complete with infra red night vision LEDs.
Where internet cameras differ, is that you don’t need a separate digital disk recorder, you don’t need an additional television or monitor and installation can be as easy as a single cable.
Internet camera installation can be split into two sections — the physical wiring and the online set-up of the camera.
The physical wiring at its most complex is two cables, one is a mains supply from a plug-in transformer and the other is a CAT 5 / Ethernet cable which you run to your router or network switch.
If you own a network server which offers Power over Ethernet (PoE) then installation is just a single cable as the CAT 5 / Ethernet cable will also carry the power as well as the data signal.
On the rear of the indoor camera I tested was an audio input and output socket — so if you wished, you could add a 3.5mm microphone and connect an external speaker for audio.
Also on the rear of the camera unit is an SD memory card slot — this is your physical hard drive.
As you can access the contents of this card remotely and you can set the card to rerecord from the start once it is full, you don’t need to worry about it again once installed. My tip is to opt for a high-capacity card (I bought an 8GB card online for around £5) as this will hold a couple of weeks’ worth of footage if the camera is set to record only upon motion detection.
Installing the camera is relatively easy, however, because the fixing holes are on the base of the unit you have to remove the dome cover and the camera assembly within to gain access to these holes.
A fixing template makes this process a little easier but you still need a steady hand while balancing the camera inwards as you fix the base unit in position.
With camera connected it’s time to install the driver software on the computer.
The included software is impressive as it can handle multiple cameras — however, for a single camera installation, programming and use is easier by accessing the camera’s in-built operating software through its IP address.
You soon learn that this IP address (a nine digit number sequence in the form of 192.168.1.30) is your best friend as you can soon use this number to view and alter settings on your camera from multiple devices.
Armed with my IP address, I was soon viewing footage from the TV-IP262PI camera on a computer and on my iPod and iPad by downloading the free TrenDnet SecurView Mobile App.
My biggest hurdle was trying to access the camera remotely from a different address.
The IP address which was once your best friend can cause you a few headaches as this address is only valid when you are within your own home.
To access the camera remotely you need to establish a static IP address or subscribe to a DHCP system.
Sound complicated? It is, but this isn’t the fault of TrenDnet, this is the way all IP addresses work due to the increased need for extensive firewalls and router security systems.
If you’re happy with just being able to view the camera within your own four walls, then nothing could be easier. You can have the camera installed and programmed within the hour.
As this is an internet camera, all of the settings are altered by using the software packages.
You can set detection zones, programme omission areas, overlay your own titles and set recording formats (AVI, MPEG or H.264).
You can programme where you want your footage to be stored — network or SD card — and you can set yourself personal alerts for when movement recording is activated.
What this means in reality, is that you can programme your camera so that it only records when it detects movement so you don’t have to wade though hours of footage to find the key moment.
So when Mr Burglar enters your home, the camera can be programmed to start recording to the hidden and inaccessible SD card while at the same time it has sent an email to your work address containing either a snapshot photograph or a four second video clip.
You can then determine what action to take — is it the dog creating a false alarm or is someone emptying your cupboards?
Whatever the outcome, when you get home you can log on to your camera network and download the footage previously recorded to the SD memory card.
This footage can then be played back on most common video computer software (Windows Media Player etc) or burned to CD.
Having now installed a full hard-wired system with DVR recorder and tested an internet camera, I think I prefer the latter.
Admittedly you may have to invest in a network switch for your router and a few memory cards but installation and use is a breeze.