THE BLOG

Buying a Home Security Camera? 8 Common Mistakes to Avoid

04/05/2016 03:31pm ET | Updated April 6, 2017
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Buying a home security camera is a big decision. After all, there are very few things more important than safety. Unfortunately, the industry is also a bit untamed. Here are 8 common mistakes you should try to avoid.

Going cheap: Making a decision based upon price isn't always advisable when it comes to home security. While the less expensive cameras may look the same as their more expensive brethren, they are often more difficult to set up, use, and include inferior software. For example, the Arlo Smart Home Security Camera System topped bestseller lists definitely not because of its price, but because of its full suite of features and reliability.

No night vision: This may seem obvious but it is astonishing how many readers forget to check for this feature before buying a home security camera. For most purposes, having night vision will be critical to allow your security camera to record proper footage at night. Look for cameras that provide bright and clear night vision, such as the The Nest Cam Security Camera, which comes with eight infrared LEDs. Lower-end cameras will typically produce grainy video and allow you only a pixelated spotlight view when dark.

Ignoring the subscription fee: Some companies try to sell a cheaper security camera upfront but require you to pay a hefty ongoing subscription fee for otherwise basic features. Always include the subscription fee when evaluating how expensive the security camera is. There are some companies that simply do not charge monthly fees and try to provide as much functionality as practical with the camera. For example, the Piper nv Smart Home Security System has a full suite of features but still charges no fees.

Not questioning security and privacy: Those in the know, know that security is the biggest controversy in the connected home. And when it comes to security, not all security cameras are created equal. While most cameras are backed by either 128-bit or 228-bit encryption, it's the little things that can leave a camera vulnerable. Make sure the camera you choose will allow you to set a unique and challenging password. Also, when shopping, you should look for cameras that are able to run some features locally, instead of relying completely on the cloud. Such cameras can keep sensitive data in your home, while sending minimal information into cyberspace.

Falling for the new and shiny: It's happened to the best of us, a new and awesome Kickstarter launches and we're all in line for the product du jour. Assuming that a company will support cloud and security updates forever is a risky gamble and buying a camera from an unestablished company increases that risk. Security cameras are increasingly high tech and new companies are popping up monthly. Before falling for the latest and greatest, dig deeper into the company behind the camera.

Not planning for the future: Investing in a good camera solution can easily set you back a couple hundred dollars. While you may find a solution that meets your needs today, don't forget to investigate if the same camera will meet your future needs. For example, can you add an outdoor camera or even another indoor camera to protect your home if you move into a larger property? What if you decide to expand into smart home products? Will your camera work with other smart devices? What if you swap your iOS app for an Android? Does your security camera include an app for both platforms? Finally, don't forget to find out if you can add additional users in the future. Believe it or not, some companies only support 1 user per camera, while others may charge for adding family members.

Assuming specs are specs: Comparing hardware specs will not help you select the best performing camera. Resolution, for example, is not the only determining factor that affects video quality. The quality of the picture can be greatly impacted by wide dynamic range, the camera's frame rate, and the amount of IR LEDs, which will impact the camera's ability to record at night. If you can't find this information online, your best bet is to find sample footage shared by other owners. While an individual's bandwidth may impact their camera experience, it is still a good way to see how a camera really performs.

Not working through the worst case scenario: When shopping for a camera, it's easy to get caught up in the allure of marketing. Sure, free clip storage sounds great, but what if a clip is only 15 seconds long? Is that really sufficient video evidence? And 24 hour continuous recording sounds phenomenal, but what happens when you need to sift through 24 hours of footage in order to find one crucial moment? It's painstaking. When buying a camera, don't forget that the purpose is to protect your home and to provide evidence to the authorities if ever, heaven forbid, evidence is needed.