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Network Cameras for Security & Enjoyment

To the west the water gently laps on sand, illuminated by the setting sun, obstructed only by birds on their voyage to roost. There are some ripples in the distance. A closer look reveals dolphins enjoying the evening. Sand pipers at the water line are focussed on dinner, unaware they're being watched. Looking to the right you see some mail left on a table for you. It's not too important, but it's nice to know about. Everything else in the house looks in order. You switch off the camera.

Network cameras can be your long distance eyes. Easy to use, quick, clear, and intuitive, these helpful devices enable you to monitor your residence or office, enjoy great views, manage physical work, and more, regardless of your physical location on the planet. Cameras are available in many variations with many features.

Typically, "dome" cameras are the most convenient. These cameras feature a small half-sphere dome with a built in PTZ (Pan-Tilt-Zoom) mechanism, enabling easy 360 viewing in a small integrated package. These units come with multiple domes with various filtering characteristics. One dome may be clear, while others can be polarized, tented, light blocking, or IR filtering to enable the camera to work in any environment.

If you plan to view different locations from the one camera, it is helpful to have a camera that allows you to save positions. For example, a front door preset or a sunset preset can be established. Clicking on one of the presets instantly swivels the camera to the appropriate coordinates and zooms accordingly. Cameras also feature tracking: the viewer can simply click on any moving object and the camera keeps up with the object automatically. Different cameras move and focus at different speeds. If you'll be changing positions or tracking frequently, a camera with a higher speed PTZ is most convenient.

Many network cameras now feature 0-lux night vision. This feature allows you to easily see at night. It can be handy for night inspection of an office or house or viewing nocturnal wildlife. Infrared illumination is used to produce a clear night image. This consists of lights that produce infrared illumination which is outside the visual spectrum of humans, but not the cameras. The cameras can use the infrared light to produce clear night shots inside and out. IR lights are available in small packages and larger flood light packages.

Cameras can also be used to inspect detailed work or read physical mail that has simply been placed on a table. Opting for a high resolution camera with a large optical zoom can allow you to clearly read pages from across the room, inspect for damage after a storm, make judgments for construction or other work around the home/office, and many other tasks.

Once your network camera is installed and functioning, the next step is enabling remote access (the whole point). Cameras will generally provide basic password access control, but password access does not equal security and is not suitable for Internet access. The Internet is overflowing with forums, reference sites, and tutorials, for finding insecure, but password protected, cameras and bypassing the password to gain access. There have even been instances where burglars have planned their activities by viewing the victim's premises with the victim's own insecure cameras. To protect yourself from this, use a VPN (discussed in previous articles - see zebis.com) to provide a layer of protection between the Internet and your cameras. Make sure to use only IPSEC hardware, Unix, or GNU/Linux based VPNs and not software based systems that run from Microsoft Windows or Mac OS X, as these provide little to no security. Ask your technical adviser to make sure you're not using PPTP. Typically Nortel or Cisco VPNs are the best to use. Due to technical details outside the scope of this article, good VPNs are, for all practical purposes, 100% secure and allow you to have all of the convenience of network cameras without any of security issues.

Network cameras provide a 21st century real-time link from anywhere on the planet. They remove one more tether, providing you the freedom to choose where you want to live at any time.
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