It’s a sad state of affairs that you can’t leave on a break without worrying that some scoundrel will steal your prized possessions. What can you do to soothe your paranoia while you lounge on the beach? Just set up an IP camera and stop wondering if everything’s OK.
In this short guide, I’m going to go over the basic steps involved when you set up an IP camera. Here’s what I’ll be going over:
- What’s an IP camera?
- Choosing an IP Camera
- Setting It All Up
So let’s get right to it and go all Big Brother.
Table of Contents
What’s an IP Camera?
You can buy IP or “internet protocol” cameras all over the web these days. Unlike traditional CCTV cameras, IP cameras are digital.
These cameras connect to your home network and (if you want) to the internet. This means that you can view them from other network devices such as PCs, tablets and smartphones.
By using the right software and services, you can also watch them from anywhere in the world. That makes it the perfect solution for people who have to be away for extended periods of time, like vacations.
Of course, before you can set up an IP camera, you need to pick one first.
Choosing an IP Camera
IP cameras come in a number of different forms. The less expensive ones are just a low-quality security cam with WiFi and ethernet connectivity. They generally look like this.
On the other end of the spectrum, you get fully-motorized IP cameras that may even have a speaker for two-way communication. Whether with a family member or to scare off a bad guy.
They can look like this.
Pretty cool, huh?
Which type of camera you choose is going to depend on your budget, how many cameras you need and other unique factors such as open plan spaces.
You may also want to get a camera that is weather-proofed for outdoors use.
IP cameras work through your local network, which means they connect to your router. In the old days you needed to connect them to a computer and then to the network, but modern IP cams just talk to the router directly.
There are only two ways this can happen: wired or wireless.
All IP cameras have an ethernet port. A wired connection is the most secure, reliable and speedy, so when many people set up an IP camera they prefer this method.
WiFi connectivity is mostly used in home scenarios. It’s convenient since you don’t have to drill holes through walls or otherwise bother with cabling. You just need to plug it into the nearest outlet.
If you choose to hook the camera up via WiFi you may be scratching your head as to how it’s done. Each camera usually comes with instructions, but they all broadly work the same.
Here’s what you’ll need to know:
- How to get to your router’s web interface
- Accessing the list of connected devices
- Specifying an IP address for a device connected to the router
If your camera and router both have a button marked “WPS” you are in luck. If you press both buttons the two devices will connect automatically.
Should the WPS button be absent, just use a short ethernet patch cord to connect the camera to the router. On usually comes in the box.
Now open the routers settings with a browser, it’s manual will tell you how. Look for a list of connected devices and identify the IP address of the camera.
Put the IP address of the camera into your browser’s address bar. If you are asked for a username and password, refer to the default one in the camera’s manual.
Once you access the camera’s page you can change settings to your heart’s delight. If you had to connect with an ethernet cord, not is also the time to setup the WiFi.
Depending on how you’ll use the camera, you may have to change it’s setting on your router to have a static IP address on your local network. Check out your router’s manual on how to do that.
Live for the (App)lause
The good news is that these days you don’t really have to go through all the web-based shenanigans. Most camera makers provide you with an app for smartphones or tablets that will let you set up an IP camera easily.
The app will also usually act as the viewer applications as well. If you have multiple cameras from the same manufacturer you can usually see them all at once.
Set Up an IP Camera for the Cloud
It’s great that you can see the cameras when on your home network, but what about when you are away? The same apps I was talking about just now, often also come with a free cloud service to do just that.
The camera itself connects to a web server through your router. So you don’t have to worry about how to set up an IP camera on a router with a static IP address.
More Tips to Set Up an IP Camera
There are a few extra tips I think could help out in some circumstances. I’ve had good success in using timer switches like this one to control when basic IP cameras come on. It’s not fancy, but it works.
If you live in a place that tends to have blackouts, it’s also a good idea to buy one or more uninterruptible power supplies. Even smaller ones have more than enough juice to keep a router and a few cameras going for hours. Depending on your camera layout, you may have to buy a couple.
Maybe you have an old iPad or Android tablet lying around, you can also use it as a dedicated camera monitor in your bedroom. There are some really nice permanent and semi-permanent tablet mounting options out there.
Set Up an IP Camera for Great Justice
Personally, after I set up an IP camera I can sleep a little better. Some models even let you set up a motion detection alarm that will message you if it spots something. In previous years an old CCTV setup would have been unaffordable.
Did you find that an IP camera was easy or tricky to set up. When you set up an IP camera, did you learn any tips you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments.
Pan and tilt camera By Kkmurray (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Timer Switch By Cmglee (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
All other images are Public Domain