CCTV Server

Connecting up a camera to a home server is a great idea as it will always be ready to record. Cameras can be used as a CCTV system to protect your home inside and out, can be used for monitoring of a variety of different things from another room, or even create time lapse videos.


Hardware requirements can be a bit of a minefield as there are lots of options available using different technologies, with each camera type requiring a different computer setup.

To help break it down here are the most common camera setups available to computers:

USB: The simplest and easiest way to get online, basically a webcam can be repurposed to provide a source to capture images. Webcams are cheap however they require moderate amount of computing power on the PC, adding a few more cams will put strain on an average computer, and positioning of the cam is limited it needs to be plugged directly into the server.

IP: Images are transmitted to the home server via the local network, allowing them to be positioned wherever there is Ethernet access or wireless coverage. Computing power on the server can be scaled back as the camera processes the images before sending across the network. Downside is the cost of the cameras are still expensive compared to an equivalent USB based camera.

BNC/RCA: The name relates to the type of connection used, these are analogue signals that are commonly used on a television. This option is normally found in professional environments due to its reliability, but there is a lot of cost involved. Camera prices are cheap but the server end will need a capture card to convert analogue to digital, and its these that are very expensive. This setup can be run on a very low end server with many cameras but each one has to have a coax cable running to the server.

I highly recommend a IP camera solution if starting out for the first time with cameras, the initial outlay for camera hardware may be higher but the rewards will be reaped by them having less impact on the server's operation than using USB. Analogue cameras are considered to be a legacy technology and are only used in very large scale deployments, so here they are a non starter. As the processing is handled on the camera the server does not need to be as powerful as with a USB solution as the process is essentially a file server as far as the server is concerned.

What is needed on the server is a lot of storage capacity to hold all the images, this will determine how many hours of footage can be held by a number of cameras. The speed of the drives will not be an issue for a single camera, but as more are added there may be a need to have a faster drive, if this is the case then hard drive manufacturers are producing drives that are design for this kind of use, prices are about 20% more than a basic drive with similar capacity but with many drive it will be an essential item to have.