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Keep watch: 5 cloud security cameras for your home

Robert L. Mitchell | June 26, 2013
If you want to make sure nobody's making off with your valuables — or that your dog isn't chewing up the furniture — try one of these cloud-based cameras

When you do get alerts, they generate either one or more still images or a link to a video clip that typically lasts about 30 seconds. There are several ways to view and/or store these images, and different devices offer different combinations of these features.

Most cameras offer a Web portal, which effectively acts as a personal closed-circuit TV monitoring service for your camera; some vendors offer a feature that lets you view multiple camera streams simultaneously on a single screen. (Keep in mind, though, that while it's possible to install 10 or more cameras in your home, too many video streams can bog down a wireless router and degrade the performance of the cameras, your Netflix account and any other service or device that's connected to the Internet.)

Some camera models can store recorded video on a microSD card (which is great, unless the burglar steals your camera).

Some let you view images on the hard drive of the computer that's running the vendor's monitoring software.

Finally, a few devices let you store images in the cloud. While some vendors require a monthly subscription service for the use of a storage option on their Web portals, Samsung allows you to upload video clips and images from its SmartCam camera directly to your personal YouTube or Picasa account.

For security, all cameras require a user account name and password, and some require an additional password to access each device. Two-factor authentication, however, is not an option. That means less protection against security flaws that could put your home video streams at risk— such as those recently discovered in D-Link's cameras.

Making the connection
The challenge for cloud security camera makers is how to get you in touch with your cameras when you log in to your Web portal account. There are two approaches.

In the first, all video streams from your cameras go through the portal before arriving at your mobile device or personal computer. The Web portal acts as the intermediary, relaying video feeds and in some cases storing video clips to its own servers. Because the Web portal sends out the email alerts, all you need to do is supply the email address to which you want the alerts sent and you're done.

In the second method, the portal acts as a connection broker, a kind of switchboard operator that connects your mobile phone or personal computer directly to your cameras and then steps out of the way. Theoretically, this approach should improve performance, but it can also add complexity to the user experience.

Why? First, since you're accessing each camera directly, the "direct connect" method requires that you log in once to access your Web portal account and then present an additional password for each device you've registered to your account before you can access it.


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