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What are IP cameras?

Many people are familiar with the term ‘security camera’ but are not quite sure what an ‘IP camera’ is and what ‘IP’ actually means. IP stands for Internet Protocol and is the standard that sends data across a network. 

Before the introduction of IP cameras, security cameras were all analogue (or analog for our friends across the pond). Also referred to as traditional CCTV (Closed Circuit TeleVision) – so called to distinguish the systems from broadcast TV systems, and distinct because the images never left the ‘closed circuit’ they were connected to. These CCTV systems were first introduced in the 1940s and their popularity grew from there. Until the introduction of IP security cameras in the 90s by Axis Communications, analogue CCTV was the only option in the market. 

use-IP Ltd was founded in 2008 by Phil Stewkesbury, who worked in the security industry for many years before deciding that IP security was the future and setting up his own company. IP cameras are a digital video camera that uses an internet-based network connection for security surveillance. As predicted by Phil, IP cameras fast became very popular and the go to method for CCTV surveillance thanks to the ease of installation, higher camera resolutions, and ease of connectivity to these new networked products.

IP cameras have advanced significantly since their introduction in the 90s, which is another reason they are so popular. Innovative design paired with affordable price means the IP CCTV dominates the market. They are similar to a standard webcam, however are more powerful and versatile. There is no particular ‘limit’ on the number of cameras you can use in a system and we recommend connecting your cameras to an NVR (Network Video Recorder) via network cable. The NVR then serves as your centralised hub for your system and stores all of your data on a Hard Disc Drive (HDD) installed into the unit. For smaller systems, typically one or two cameras it can be beneficial to install for example a microSD memory card and this as onboard storage on the camera to reduce costs and installation time. 

How do IP cameras work?

IP cameras can seem daunting at first particularly the thought of installing them, but I discovered very quickly how setting up IP systems is not as difficult as I first thought they would be. Now admittedly I had worked at use-IP for a number of years before I set up my first system so I was familiar with certain aspects of the setup. 

In order to be able to set up an IP camera efficiently it is helpful to know the basics. What do you need in order for your system to work? For an IP camera to function you will need to purchase a power supply as these do not come with the cameras, we recommend using PoE. If you use PoE (Power over Ethernet) then you will only need to run one cable from the camera to the power supply as you will be able to get both power and data across that one cable. If you are not using an NVR then you will need to connect the camera to the PoE and then the PoE to the router. You will then need to access the camera via the internet. Each manufacturer will have their own software/interface to use, however there are third party software manufacturers that you can also use at an added cost. 

If you are using an NVR then the setup is ever so slightly different, you can directly plug the camera to a PoE port on the back of the NVR and power the camera via the NVR. The NVR will then be connected to the router and rather than accessing the camera directly you can access the camera through the NVR interface. You can set up specific features within the interface such as line crossing, motion detection etc. 

Most camera brands now have apps so you can easily monitor your system from anywhere in the world on your Smartphone. This is also relatively easy to setup, it will be slightly different depending on the brand but most will have a similar setup. 

For more information on camera setup please see our Forum

What is the difference between IP security cameras and traditional CCTV?

When deciding on whether someone would prefer a traditional analogue CCTV or an IP security system it is useful to know the differences between the two. Analogue isn’t in consideration as often as it used to be but it is still helpful to know what you would get from both systems. 

With an analogue system all the ‘intelligence’ is within the DVR and so they need to be connected to a DVR (Digital Video Recorder). IP cameras however do not need to be connected to an NVR (Network Video Recorder) they can be standalone as all the features are within the camera and users can record to an internal memory card. For a system of more than two cameras we would recommend using an NVR, IP cameras can be connected using their IP address so this makes the cabling simpler over an analogue system.

Another difference between IP and analogue is that with IP cameras you can encrypt your streams for added security. As well as this IP cameras are able to go beyond 8MP resolution and at the moment analogue cameras are not. IP camera technology is at a point where it is constantly evolving and adding new features. 

Finally, we feel that the ease of installation of IP systems is a benefit over installing traditional analogue co-ax cabling based CCTV, as in most modern buildings there is already some form of network infrastructure in place, network wires in walls, RJ45 wall ports, routers in place etc. This makes the installation far easier than putting in all new wiring for an analogue CCTV solution.

Can IP cameras get hacked?

Unfortunately, any technology is fallible to being hacked and IP camera systems are no different. However, simple best practices will ensure that your system is safe and secure. If you are already a use-IP regular you will know that we are always talking about firmware. Keeping your firmware up to date is one of the key ways to ensure the security of your cameras, we recommend checking regularly for firmware updates as unlike your phone your camera system will not tell you and automatically update for you. So being aware of the importance of firmware updating is vital for a safe and secure system. 

Another must for use in regards to preventing your system from being hacked is to ensure that you have strong passwords for everything and that these passwords are kept safe by using a secure system like LastPass for example. Avoid using basic passwords such as a pet’s name or 12345 as these are easy for a hacker to guess and get into your system. 

Also, if you are using port forwarding on your system it is advised not to use the default ports as this can lead to illegal login attempts. This is easily fixed by changing the ports from the default ones. 

Finally, never share any information relating to your system to open forums or to someone you do not know/don’t trust completely.

How much power does an IP camera need?

IP cameras will require different levels of power dependent on the camera. Many ‘standard’ cameras such as domes, bullets and turrets with fixed focal length lenses will require either a 12V DC power supply or a PoE injector with a power budget of 15.4W. These IP cameras can be powered via the built-in PoE switch in many NVRs, saving on costs and installation time. 

Cameras that have more specialised capabilities such as PTZ cameras, ANPR cameras etc will have a higher power budget and so will need PoE+ injectors and larger power supplies. 

What accessories does an IP camera need?

There are many different accessories that can be purchased with all manner of purposes, it can be a little overwhelming and people can be unsure of what they need / what would enhance their system. 

Firstly we have brackets, wall mounts, junction boxes, pole mounts, corner mounts. There are so many options and there will be ones that are better suited to a specific scenario than others. Wall mount brackets are like small arms that the camera is mounted to – so it is a little further from a wall, and attached horizontally. You often find this type of mount on public buildings. 

Junction boxes are small cabling enclosures that are placed directly on the back of a camera and are used when people do not want a bracket as big as a wall mount, but need to accommodate the cables and ensure the connections are water tight. They are particularly popular with home users as they are more discreet than other brackets. 

Corner and pole mounts are less popular as they have a very specific use, pole mount brackets are used to secure a camera to a pole for example a lamppost, and corner mount brackets enable users to secure cameras to either the outside corner of buildings or in the corner of rooms. Brackets are not an essential accessory, however for many applications they can enhance the system, make installation more straight forward, and even protect the camera. 

Other accessories include; power supplies and PoE injectors as mentioned above. These are essential as you cannot use your camera without having a suitable power source. When you have a larger system with multiple cameras it can be easier to use a PoE switch rather than a single injector. Switches range in size from 4 port switches all the way up to 48 port units. 

We also supply cable and cable accessories for your systems with pre-made patch lead cables and also reels of cable for both indoor and outdoor use. Pre-made cables come in a range of lengths from 0.5m up to 50m and the large reels of cable are a standard 305m (1,000 feet) long. If purchasing a reel of cable to create your own connecting leads you will also need to purchase a crimping tool, strain relief boots, and RJ45 network plugs. It can be fiddly to make your own leads and to terminate & crimp the connectors effectively, so, if you know the exact lengths of cable that you require, we recommend purchasing pre-made cables for convenience and confidence in their performance in use. 

Can IP cameras work without the internet?

IP cameras can be used without an internet connection.

Individual cameras can be added to a network and configured to work as stand-alone devices, typically with a memory card installed to record events. These can then be accessed from any computer on that same network.

It is also possible to build an NVR-based solution with no network connection at all, and simply use a monitor directly-connected to the NVR to view and manage the cameras and recordings.

The majority of users will have their system connected to the internet, so that they can take advantage of the ability to view their system remotely (from anywhere in the world) as well as when they are at home. An internet-connected system will also be able to send you alerts and notifications.

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