How to set up a home security camera system without using the cloud

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There are many good reasons to equip your home with some of the best security cameras on the market: These devices are (generally) affordable, feature-rich, and easy to set up and use. Once they're in place, you can see what's happening on your property 24/7 and receive suspicious activity alerts sent straight to your phone.

Just a few years ago, installing a camera system like this would have cost a lot more money and required professional help, so we're definitely moving in the right direction. However, these security cameras may come with strings attached.

Many cameras on the market, including those from Arlo, Amazon-branded Ring and Blink, and Google-branded Nest, require a monthly subscription. These subscriptions typically enable cloud storage for your video recordings, so you can review them days or weeks later.

Saving footage in the cloud is convenient, but not everyone is willing to sign up for another digital subscription to keep their security cameras working. Additionally, storing videos in the cloud exposes you to data breaches and requests from law enforcement and government agencies.

Luckily, there's another way - pay for a security camera kit up front and keep the video recordings locally.

Subscription options

Before we talk about cameras that don't offer any subscriptions at all, you might be wondering if it's worth buying a camera from a more well-known brand but not signing up for a monthly (or annual) subscription plan. The details of these plans vary by company and camera, but many of them are very similar.

In most cases, being able to check your camera's live feed and receive motion alerts when something happens in front of the camera won't cost you anything extra. Sometimes extra features like motion zones (get alerts about activity in only certain parts of the frame) will also be free. Video archives and cloud storage often come with a price.

Let's take Google's Nest Aware subscription as an example: $8 per month or $80 per year. That means clips are stored in the cloud for 30 days (or three hours if you don't pay), and you also get smart face detection so your camera can tell the difference between family members and complete strangers. Smart alerts, such as glass breaking and smoke alarm sounds, can also be enabled via subscription.

Other security cameras offer similar plans, so check them out before buying, just make sure you consider the cost of each camera in your home. Some companies require you to pay a separate monthly fee for each camera, although Google Nest Aware is one of the plans that covers all the cameras you set up in your home.

Select camera

Almost every home security camera on the market today comes with some kind of subscription plan, primarily to enable cloud backup. If you don't want cloud storage or monthly fees, then the problem isn't finding cameras that don't have a subscription option, but finding cameras that don't require a subscription option and offer an option for local storage of your videos.

Reolink is one of the most popular brands in this regard. It offers a range of different cameras, with support for saving footage to a memory card on the camera itself or to a central storage center on the network. Advanced features like high-resolution 4K footage, motion zones, and person and vehicle detection are available, and the company even offers advice on when police can ask you to record.

Another manufacturer worth mentioning is TP-Link. Its cameras include the all-important local storage option, so you can simply insert a memory card into the back of the camera and save footage directly to it. Like Reolink, there are a ton of subscription-free features built in: the ability to differentiate between people and vehicles, motion zone support, night vision, two-way audio, and more.

Lorex cameras are also worth considering. Support for local storage and no subscription required are the company's main selling points. In addition to offering cameras with memory card slots, Lorex also sells you recording boxes that connect to your local network so you can save footage from multiple cameras in one place.

access material

While cloud video storage has its problems, as we've already discussed, it certainly has its advantages as well. You can easily access footage from anywhere in the world, which means even if a thief steals everything in your home, including your security cameras and their memory cards, you'll still have a backup.

Any security camera you buy that saves footage locally can still be used for live monitoring over the network, but getting video archives when you're away from home can be tricky, depending on the camera model. That's why Reolink and Lorex provide network connection hubs for your recordings so you can log into them from anywhere (which may require some router reconfiguration).

If you're really dedicated, you can set up your own custom system that uses a NAS (Network Attached Storage) drive to collect recordings from cameras and put them somewhere you can always find them (even if you're connected remotely over the network). Some (but not all) Reolink, TP-Link and Lorex models support this form of logging - just check carefully in the list.

There are plenty of other options, but they may require some technical knowledge: some cameras are easier to set up this way than others. The list of compatible cameras provided by NAS manufacturer Synology is a good starting point, allowing you to filter models based on the features you need.