Wi-Fi cameras like the Nest Cam, Arlo Q, Canary, and more are super convenient—you just plug them into a nearby outlet, connect them to your Wi-Fi network, and you’re off to the races. However, that convenience comes at a cost.
Wi-Fi cameras can be super useful, but whether you want them just to keep an eye on your pets while you’re gone or use them for serious home security, there are several things you should know before you dive head first into the world of Wi-Fi cameras.
They Can Use Up A Lot of Bandwidth and Data
Because Wi-Fi cameras need to be connected to the cloud in order to stream and record video, they can use up a lot of your bandwidth and data.
The Nest Cam IQ, for example, has the capability to take up 4Mbps of your upload bandwidth, which can be a huge chunk if you only have DSL internet. Of course, that’s if you capture the maximum available video resolution. Still, a lot of users set the video quality to the highest possible setting without really thinking about it, and their Wi-Fi suffers as a result.
Furthermore, it can be extremely easy for a Wi-Fi camera to blow past your monthly data cap if your ISP institutes one. The Nest Cam IQ can use as much as 400GB of data per month—and that’s for just one camera. Add a couple more cameras to your setup and just those cameras alone can use over a terabyte of data per month if they’re set to the highest video quality and constantly recording.
This may not be a huge deal for some users, but for those with bandwidth and data limits, you can at least lower the video quality and have the camera turn off and back on at certain times to save on bandwidth and data.
Installation Isn’t Always Easy
If you’re setting up Wi-Fi cameras indoors, then installation can be pretty simple—just place it pretty much anywhere near an electrical outlet. However, if you have outdoor Wi-Fi cameras, things get a bit more challenging.
More often than not, you have to mount the cameras on your house using some screws, which isn’t too much of a hassle. However, you also have to figure out how you’re going to route the power cable and plug it in.
You could get battery-powered cameras like the Arlo Pro or the Ring Stick-Up Cam, which don’t need to be plugged in at all and are completely wireless. That takes the hassle out of most of the installation. However, with most cameras, you’ll need to plug them in somewhere, either by plugging them into a nearby exterior outlet, or drilling a hole through your wall to route the power cable inside.
Outdoor Wi-Fi Cams Are Subject to Crappy Signal
Speaking of outdoor Wi-Fi cameras, there’s also the challenge of getting a decent Wi-Fi signal outside your home.
If you already have trouble getting a decent signal in certain parts of your home, then you’ll probably have a bad time getting an outdoor Wi-Fi cam to connect to your network. Even if you do get a great signal indoors, it might be a completely different story once you step outside. A lot of buildings have much thicker exterior walls that are layered with different materials, which can easily block Wi-Fi signals.
To remedy this, you can try using a mesh Wi-Fi system, which blankets your house in Wi-Fi using a set of mini-routers. If you place them strategically close to where your outdoor Wi-Fi cams are, you might have better luck getting a good signal from outside.
Security Will Always Be a Concern
With any cloud-based product, there’s always the risk of a security breach, and it’s possible for someone to get a hold of your camera feed to use for malicious purposes.
Whenever Wi-Fi cameras capture video, that video is first sent to the servers of the company that made the camera. So if you have a Nest Cam, video is uploaded to Nest’s servers. From there, you can watch the video by streaming or downloading it from Nest’s servers.
If Nest’s servers were to ever become compromised, that would be a bad time for you and your cameras. Granted, it’s a highly-unlikely scenario, but it can and does happen. If it’s something you’re truly worried about, it might be best to get a wired security camera system instead, which can stay completely offline.