Home Security Camera Basics

This blog post will give you all the information you need to understand home security cameras. I will answer the who, what, when, where, why, and how to understand the basics of home security cameras.

What is a home security camera?

A home security camera is a camera that is designed to record and transmit recordings in and around your home. These recordings can be saved locally or in the cloud. Recordings, called “events,” can be pictures or video. The video records can be clips or continuous recordings.

Security cameras belong to one of two two system groups: Closed Circuit Television, and IP camera systems. Within the IP camera group, there are two additional subgroups Power Over Ethernet (PoE), and Wireless IP (WIP).

Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) systems

Traditional CCTV systems are a closed loop system that has no access to the internet. In fact, the only way to access this system is within the loop, usually by connecting the digital video recorder (DVR) to a monitor, television, or computer. All video collected is saved to a hard drive connected to the DVR.

CCTV systems transmitted video via an analog cable. Because of the analog transmission, the highest video quality is standard definition (SD). In addition, to an analog cable, CCTV cameras need to be physically connected to a wall outlet. 

CCTV systems can record for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week without disruption.  

Newer CCTV systems blur the line between PoE and CCTV systems. New CCTV systems (we’ll call CCTV2) have the ability to transmit high definition records and are viewable outside of the loop.

Outside of the loop viewing is now possible because of an upgraded DVR. CCTV2 systems now come with Ethernet ports that you can use to connect to the internet. 

Click here to learn more about CCTV systems

Internet Protocol (IP) cameras

IP cameras are cameras that use the internet to send and receive data. IP cameras send and receive data via digital packets. Because of this better way to transmit data, IP cameras have a few more features. IP cameras can either be Power over Ethernet (PoE), or Wireless IP (WIP) cameras and systems.

Power over Ethernet (PoE)

PoE systems are like CCTV systems in that the cameras degrees to a recording box. There a number of differences.

First, the cameras are connected via an ethernet cable. This cable appears to be a large phone cable. This cable is connected to a Network Video Recorder). This cable sends and receives data faster because it is sent as digital data packets. 

The second difference between PoE and CCTV systems is that the Ethernet cable also powers the cameras that are connected to the NVR. CCTV cameras need two cameras to power and transmit data, while PoE cameras degreesneed one.

These systems provide high definition video recording and can be viewed from anywhere with an internet connection.

Click here to learn more about PoE cameras.

Wireless IP (WIP)

The second type of IP camera system is called a Wireless Internet Protocol (WIP) camera system. These cameras are called WIP because they send and receive all data over a wifi or cellular network. These cameras may or may not need a physical connection to a wall outlet.

Usually, the data is stored in the cloud or  SD card. The cameras record short clips of under one minute called events. These records are usually saved as high definition.

These cameras provide the ability to view live or recorded events from anywhere in the world. These cameras are more mobile that CCTV and PoE systems because they do not need to be physically connected to a video recorder. 

Indoor vs outdoor cameras

The primary difference between indoor and outdoor cameras is that indoor cameras may not be waterproof, and not designed to handle varying weather temperatures. All outdoor cameras can be used indoors, but not all indoor cameras can be used outdoors.

What are the different types of security cameras

In general, there are 5 security camera types:

  • Box Camera
  • Dome Camera
  • Pan/Tilt/Zoom cameras
  • Bullet Cameras
  • Thermal Cameras

However, homeowners will most likely see one for these 3 cameras:

  • Dome
  • Pan/Tilt/Zoom
  • Bullet

Here is a quick description of each of these three cameras.


Domes cameras are shaped like UFOs in old school horror movies. This dome is designed to be used in tight spaces, and in places that are more prone to dust. 

Dome cameras can be used both inside and outside of the home.

Pan/Tilt/Zoom (PTZ) cameras

PTZ cameras are named after their ability to pan, tilt, and zoom. PTZ cameras can move automatically, or remotely with a computer mouse or joystick. Because of its ability to pan tilt and move, these cameras have a viewing angle of up to 360 degrees.

These cameras can also be found inside or outside of the home.

Bullet cameras

Bullet cameras earned this name because of the size and shape of the housing around the camera. Bullet cameras can be used both inside or outside the camera. In many cases, these cameras can see the farthest of all of the cameras. Also, the infrared technology may be better than other cameras. 

While these are the standard definitions of the cameras, there can be some overlay. For example, bullet cameras can also pan, tilt, and zoom. Also, these cameras can be a part of CCTV and IP systems. 

Click here to find out more about the different types of security cameras

Why should I use a security camera

There are reasons to purchase security cameras including to deter criminals, to catch criminals after the act, piece of mind.

Deter criminals

Studies show that criminals are less likely to break-in to a home or business if they are aware of a security camera. It is possible that installing a security camera can prevent you and your neighbors from being victims of a crime.


Another reason to install a security is catch criminals after they’ve decided to commit a crime. Security cameras catch obscure things like tattoos, scars, license plates, and other things homeowners may not pick up. In addition, most break-ins occur during the day, when homeowners are at work or school.

Click here to continue reading the benefits of having a home security camera.

Piece of mind

The piece of mind knowing that your property is being constantly monitored when you are away is second you actually being home. Also, seeing your family safely getting home from work and school will put your mind at ease.

How do I install a security camera system

Installing security cameras can be as easy as screwing a camera in, or as complicated as looking at the architecture of your home. Let’s take a quick look at some of different was to install security cameras.

Wired installation 

Wired installations (CCTV and PoE) are by far the more difficult of the install. For CCTV systems you need to understand where the wall outlets are and how to fish cabling though out the house.

PoE systems are slightly easier than CCTV systems because you only need to deal with one cable. You will still need to plan where you’re going to place the cameras, video recorder, and any other hazards hidden behind your walls. 

Depending on your house, it may be easiest to put your DVR or NVR in the basement, then fish all of your wires to the basement.

Wireless installation 

Wireless installations are much easier than wired installs. For the most part a wireless install requires the following steps:

  • Remove the cameras from the box
  • Download the required app
  • Follow the steps on the app to pair your wifi and camera
  • Find a place to hang the camera
  • Screw the camera in

I have two wireless cameras and one doorbell. Combined it took less than one hour total to complete the setup and install.

Wireless cameras that require a wall outlet for power may take longer to install. The reason for this is you might be limited where you can place the camera because you will need to install your camera where it is beneficial to you and it close to a power outlet.

Where do I save video camera footage

In general, there are two primary places that recorded events are stored: local storage, and cloud storage. Local storage is considered a hard drive, flash drive, SD card, or other physical disks. Cloud storage is storage on another person or companies hard drive.

Local storage

Local storage is considered any physical media that collects and retains data. Data is sent from the cameras to a DVR or NVR. The records collect the events and place them on a hard drive. Once a hard drive is filled up, it needs to be replaced with another hard drive or you will not be able to record events. 

DVRs and NVRs different slightly in what their responsibilities are. DVRs may need to compress the video, while NVRs may need to process live viewing and interacting with sending and receiving information over the internet.

Cloud storage

As I mentioned, cloud storage is storing data on another person or companies hard drive. Data may be sent directly or indirectly to storage. The benefit of cloud storage is that it is considered elastic, which means the storage grows and shirks as needed. Another benefit of cloud storage is that you can view recordings from anywhere with an internet connection.

Depending on the manufacturer, there may be an additional cost associated with saving data to the cloud. Check with the manufacturer regarding cloud storage costs associated with the cameras. 

You may also consider manually moving saved events to a free cloud provider. While following this method may save you money, you will spend some time moving these files. 

Click here to learn more about storing recorded events.

Are home security cameras legal

Are home security cameras legal is the most important question homeowners should ask. And the answer depends on a number of factors, including local, state, federal, and national regulations. In addition, rules may differ based on your house, condo, or apartment. 

In general, you are not allowed to record where people have a responsible expectation of privacy. This includes bathrooms, changing rooms, etc.

Housing authority

Before looking into security cameras, check with your housing authority to make sure there is no bylaw limiting the use of security cameras. Your housing authority can be your homeowner’s association (HoA), apartment or condo manager. 

Local, state, federal

Each level of government has different rules as to what is acceptable and what isn’t. You should start with the lowest level (local) of government, then work your way out. If a smaller level says its illegal, then it is legal.

Make sure you check with your local, federal, state, and national government before purchasing a home security camera system. I am not a lawyer, nor am I your lawyer, it is 100% on you the homeowner to do the necessary research.

How do I view home security cameras live 

There are two places that you can view your security cameras live: on an application, or directly through your video recorder.

Application viewing

All PoE and WIP cameras have the ability to view live and recorded events through a application. This application may be on your smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer. 

If you have an app on your phone, you may have the ability to receive push notifications. Push notifications notify you when there is a live event happening at one or more of your cameras. If you click on the notification you have the ability to watch one or more of your cameras in real time.

DVR/ NVR viewing

While it is possible to view live events from your DVR or NVR, it does require a little more effort. In order to view live video feeds with a DVR or NVR  you need to connect a TV, monitor, or projector to your video recorder. You may also need a remote or mouse to navigate the machine.

Where do I place home security cameras

There are at least 3 places you should place your security cameras. These 3 places are the most used when criminals attempt to break into your home. These three places are front door, back door, and garage. 

While there are many more places you should place security cameras, these are the minimum. Click here to see all of the places you should install security cameras. 

Can my security camera be hacked?

This question is key to understanding the basics of security camera systems. In general, yes, your security cameras can be hacked. Your cameras can be hacked in this order (from easiest to most difficult:

  • Easiest: Wireless IP cameras
  • Medium: Power over Ethernet cameras
  • Hard: Closed Circuit Cameras

Easy: WIP cameras

These are the easiest because the data is sent wirelessly over the internet. How secure your WIP cameras are vary based on a number of features including usernames, passwords, etc.

Medium: PoE Cameras

PoE cameras are listed as a medium because data is still being sent over the internet (via an ethernet connection) but it is being sent via a wired connection. Like WIP cameras, how secure your system depends on a few factors.

Hard: CCTV Cameras

Traditional CCTV cameras are very difficult to hack because they have no connection to the internet. CCTV systems can only be hacked at the location of the DVR.

The good news there are a few things you can do to reduce the chances of your cameras getting hacked. Click here to read the different ways your cameras can be hacked, and how you can stop them

What are the available features for security cameras

There are a number of features you can configure to ensure the cameras meet your needs. Here is just a short list of features you can take advantage of:

  • Push notifications
  • Two-way audio
  • Motion zones
  • Spotlight
  • Battery power
  • Solar power
  • Siren 
  • Doorbell
  • High definition/ 4k
  • Night vision
  • Cellular connectivity

There are a number of additional features that come with security camera systems. 


To conclude, this is everything you need to know to get started with home security cameras. This blog post discussed what a security camera system is, who should use one, and the different types. We also discussed how to install cameras, and where they should be placed. 

Click here to see my recommendations for home security camera systems, wireless cameras, camera accessories, and home security monitoring services.

Additional questions

Is there a difference between home security cameras and surveillance systems?

No these terms are interchangeable. If you do a Google search for security camera systems and surveillance systems, you will find the same information. 

Can cameras work through windows?

It depends on the camera, and the time of day. During the day some cameras will work fine. There may be some reflecting off the window but nothing terrible.

At night, most cameras will have problems recording motion through windows. This can be attributed to the LED lights that are used to help the camera lens take a picture. Some cameras can be configured to adjust for this issue, but most cannot. 

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