To People Who Want To Understand IP Cameras – But Don’t Know Where to Start

Dome type wall mounted IP cameraChoosing a single camera (standalone) or full system setup for home security can be an overwhelming task for many people. There are just so many options to choose from. They come in all shapes, sizes and prices too; from the simple to the complex. Even the jargon doesn’t make much sense to the new buyer. In this article we answer one commonly asked question:

What is an IP home security camera system, and why should you consider it? [1]

NOTE: You can jump to any part of this post by clicking the links in the table of contents

Table of Contents

  1. What an IP Security Camera Is Not
  2. IP Security Camera’s – Defining Characteristics
  3. The Convenience of IP Cameras
  4. Centralized Vs Decentralized

What an IP Security Camera Is Not

Old fashion CCTV cameraThe camera systems most people know about, or know of, are the old closed-circuit television cameras or CCTV. Not so long ago they were the only options available for home security surveillance. An IP home security camera is NOT a CCTV. The CCTV systems do still have their uses. For home security, though, they’re from the Stone Age compared to the choices of today. CCTV systems can be either wireless or hardwired, but they don’t have the capability to send data from the cameras to elsewhere. You often see CCTV systems in public places like town centers or on industrial estates. There is usually a central control facility from where security personnel monitor CCTV footage in real time.[2]

IP Security Camera’s – Defining Characteristics

There are a few defining characteristics of an IP home security camera that you need to know about:

  • It uses your home WiFi or Ethernet to operate (send its signals)
  • Each camera is a node (unique connection point) on the network
  • The cameras can plug into an Ethernet cat5 network jack of a wireless home network

IP Cameras Use Internet Protocols (IP)

Here’s where things can get a little confusing. I won’t go too deep into internet protocols as it’s not necessary, but product descriptions do refer to them. I will attempt to explain the internet protocols (IP) in non-technical terms.[3], [4], [5], [6]

Protocols (communication language): The way to describe a protocol is as a set of technical rules. Not all internet technologies are the same and different types of home security surveillance cameras use different protocols (rules) to operate. What protocol they use depends on which set of rules allows them to function to best effect. An IP home security camera can use HTTP (web), TCP/IP, and FTP. So whenever your security system communicates, it follows a set of rules based on its protocol.

IP Address: An IP address stands for “internet protocol address.” It’s a unique kind of number separated by dots or periods. An example might be: All you really need to know about IP addresses is that they’re an advanced way to enable things to happen online (interactions). They make two-way communication fast and easy, irrespective of the device or the distance between devices. In short, the Internet Protocol lets devices ‘talk to each other’ over the network.

HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol): A set of rules used for transferring text, video, sound, graphic images and various other multimedia files on the internet.

TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol): This is the basic communication protocol of the internet. It’s a protocol that private networks use, i.e. intranet (totally private network) or an extranet. The extranet allows some access to authorized users outsider its network).

FTP (File Transfer Protocol): Transfers (uploads & downloads) data between computers on a network (remote server to local computer and local computer to remote server). It’s more robust than HTTP. Academic and corporate settings often use FTP, as do webmasters to upload and download files to and from their websites.

The Convenience of IP Cameras

One of the major plus points for the IP security cameras is that any authorized user can view it from any computer. Many of the newer systems even allow remote access (outside your home network) via the internet. The beauty of this feature is that you could be on holiday and still check in on your home.

Centralized Vs Decentralized

Another important consideration when choosing IP home security cameras is whether to opt for a centralized or decentralized system. The centralized options are the older technologies, and decentralized are the way forward in newer systems. To keep things simple, a centralized setup relies on a single box, or brain, as some refer to it. This is the central processor, the main part of the system that controls and executes various operations. The central processing unit (CPU) stores all the data and delivers it to the devices that need it to function, in this case the cameras.

Here’s what a typical centralized Setup consists of:

  1. Video cameras
  2. Lenses
  3. A computer network
  4. A dedicated personal computer PC/Server
  5. Attached storage
  6. Recording software
  7. Weatherproof housing for outdoor cameras

The Disadvantage of a Centralized Platform

The main disadvantage to a centralized platform is that it relies completely on the central processer (brain) to store all its data and carry out all functions. If the central processor freezes up or malfunctions for whatever reason, it can no longer talk to your cameras.

Decentralized Video Surveillance System

The major advantage of a decentralized IP video surveillance system is that it doesn’t rely on a single box like the centralized setup. Each of the IP cameras is VMS-enabled. VMS stands for Video Management Software, and it’s inside the actual individual cameras. This means the cameras can record independently of a centralized platform, direct to hard disk. You can record to PC, Network-attached storage (NAS), SD Card or the cloud. These systems are also operating system (OS) agnostic. This is a term that means the ability to record to either Windows or LINUX.[7]

Here’s what a typical decentralized IP video camera setup consists of:

  1. Video cameras
  2. Lenses
  3. Attached storage
  4. Computer network

The advantages of decentralized systems may seem obvious, but you still need to weigh up the pros and cons to meet your own security needs. Just remember that there can be no central point of failure with decentralized systems as each of the security cameras operate independently. There are also no video management software (VMS) licences to worry about. Click the link to read about all your video storage options.

You will also need to consider other features before you make a decision. These are the standard considerations that apply to all kinds of modern home camera systems.

Main features to consider in an IP home security camera system include:

  • PTZ (pan/tilt/zoom) functionality
  • Video compression
  • Wireless/wired options
  • Motion detection
  • Alarm functionality

You can click the links above to read about what these features are, how they work and what you need to consider.



About Mark Bickmore

Hi, my name is Mark Bickmore. I'm an Engineer, who has a keen interest in home security and keeping my family, property and valuables safe from burglars. This website was set up to help me explore the research, facts and myths about burglars and burglary. Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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