A Google Nest wired smart security camera, located on the outside of a home.

When shopping for smart security cameras there’s a good chance you’ve focused on the flashier aspects like the camera resolution, app features, and cloud capabilities. Here’s why you should consider your internet connection, too.

Smart Security Cameras Need Bandwith and Data

If you’re looking for a crash course in picking security cameras for your home, we have you covered. We also have some favorites to share with you too if you just want to dive right into the best security options on the market.

But before you jump to buy a set of fancy smart security cameras with all the bells and whistles, it’s important to consider whether or not your home internet connection can properly support them.

Whether you’re considering an entirely cloud-based system like the Google Nest cameras or a hybrid system like the Arlo platform that includes cloud and local storage, your internet connection plays a role in how well (if at all) the system will work for you.

How Does Bandwidth Impact Camera Performance?

A black Arlo camera mountedon the exterior of a house.

Let’s start off by looking at the effect of internet speed on smart security camera performance as this aspect impacts the highest number of people—not everyone has a data cap while everyone has a maximum internet speed.

There are two aspects to your internet connection speed that impact camera performance, download and upload speed. For the vast majority of people, the limiting factor will be the upload speed.

Download Speed Affects Live Views

How fast your connection is in terms of download speed primarily impacts your experience viewing the live feed or cloud recordings from your smart security cameras.

Streaming security camera footage to your computer or phone through your home internet connection is very similar to streaming video like TV shows and the download speed requirements are similar.

You’ll need at least a 3 Mbps of download speed or so to stream a single HD camera feed from the cloud back to your home to view on your devices.

When you’re crunching the numbers on how much download speed you need, be sure to factor in how actively you use your smart cameras. If you watch the live view all day, you’ll want enough download speed to do so.

Upload Speed Affects Overall Functionality

While download speed impacts how smooth your viewing and playback experience is, upload speed impacts more aspects of how your smart security cameras function.

Cloud-based systems like the Nest and Ring cameras require a lot of upload speed to sustain high-resolution feeds. Even the lowest settings on older cameras will use at least 1 Mbps per camera while live streaming or recording to the cloud. Newer cameras will use 4 Mbps or more per camera to upload HD video.

If your internet connection can’t support that, you’ll end up having to downgrade the video quality or suffer through stuttering, a dropped connection, or both.

So when calculating how much upload speed you need for your household to run smoothly, be sure to factor in how many cameras you have and what their demands are.

For example, if you had 3 security cameras that required 4 Mbps each to live record your property 24/7, you’d need at least 12 Mbps of upload bandwidth on top of the rest of your regular household usage to accommodate peak demand.

And don’t think this issue only matters for away-from-home streaming like checking your doorbell camera when you’re at work. Given that the majority of big-name cloud-based systems like Nest and Ring stream to the cloud and then to your home, even when you’re at home right there with the cameras the upload speed matters. A slow upload impacts your experience wherever you are.

How Does Data Usage Impact Camera Performance?

A Google Nest camera sitting on a mantle.

If bandwidth is akin to how fast a car goes, data is akin to how much gas it uses in the process. While having little available bandwidth will hobble the real-time operations of your smart security cameras—ultra HD security camera streaming and a rural DSL connection are not a match made in heaven—overall data usage can impact performance too.

The issue is that a cloud-based smart security camera system can rapidly eat through your data cap. Not only does viewing the cameras consume data, but upload data is counted towards data caps too—which means any system with live recording will quickly use a staggering amount of data in the background.

So while you might only view your cameras through the app now and then, if they are constantly communicating with the cloud you can easily be uploading hundreds of GBs of data a month. A single Nest Cam IQ, for instance, can use anywhere from 100 to 400GB of bandwidth a month.

Once you blow through your data cap you’re stuck both paying overage fees as well as downgrading your video quality to avoid blowing through them again. If you have a household full of people streaming, gaming, and downloading large files, any sort of smart security camera system that uses a lot of data every month just might not be a good fit for your household.

With that in mind, it pays to consider not just the fun features like fantastic night vision or 4K resolution, but the less glamorous aspects of using smart security cameras like the internet connection requirements and how much data average use will consume.

The Best Security Cameras of 2023

Arlo Pro 4 Spotlight Camera
Best Security Camera Overall
Arlo Pro 4 Spotlight Camera
TP-Link Kasa Smart 2K
Best Budget Security Camera
TP-Link Kasa Smart 2K
Google Nest Cam
Best Outdoor Security Camera
Google Nest Cam
Ring Stick Up Cam Battery
Best Wireless Security Camera
Ring Stick Up Cam Battery
GE CYNC Smart Indoor Security Camera
Best Security Camera With Built-In Storage
GE CYNC Smart Indoor Security Camera
Ring Video Doorbell 4
Best Doorbell Camera
Ring Video Doorbell 4
Profile Photo for Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Senior Smart Home Editor at How-To Geek. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at How-To Geek, Review Geek, LifeSavvy, and Lifehacker. Jason served as Lifehacker's Weekend Editor before he joined How-To Geek.
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