IP Cameras are now the norm and dominate all aspects of security, both large-scale professional CCTV networks and within the home.
With the rise of Nanny Cams and home automation, some houses now have multiple cameras. This naturally leads to the question:
Do IP Cameras Slow Down your Network?
IP Cameras will slow down your Network but depending on their configuration this can either be a negligent amount or a significant amount.
When your network feels like this
The first step is to calculate how much bandwidth you are currently using.
If this seems high then you can apply some of the data saving techniques mentioned in the article below
How do I calculate how much bandwidth I am using?
The professional way would be to use the free network monitoring tool called Wireshark as discussed in this article
However, for most people, this is too technical.
The easier way is to collect information about your recording statistics. These will all be available for a sample recording.
How do I find out the recording statistics?.
Please note:- all steps and screenshots are from Windows 10 on a PC. There may be some minor variation based on your operating system.
Step 1 – Open up Windows Explorer and navigate to the sample recording. Right click on the file and select properties (outlined in red below).
Find footage and right click and then select Properties
Step 2 – The properties box will pop up. Select the Details tab. (outlined in red below).
Once in the properties select the Details Tab.
Step 3 – The crucial information will now be displayed in the video section (outlined in red below).
The crucial information will be displayed in the video section.
Before delving into how we use this information, a quick explanation of the terms used.
Length = Fairly self-explanatory, this is the duration of the video.
If you have motion detection enabled, this can indicate how effectively it is working. For example, if this was an outside security camera using motion detection during the night I would expect this to be a short video, only the rogue cat or badger would trigger the camera.
Frame Width and Frame Height = These combined will reveal the resolution. The various resolutions are explained in more detail here.
Data Rate = This is the amount of data transmitted.
Total Bit Rate = This is the total of the video and audio data transmitted.
Frame Rate = This is the number of video frames. This is shown in frames per second. The higher the number of fps the clearer the picture.
Someone trying to work out his Data Rate
Equally important as the information above is the codec.
What is a Codec?
A codec compresses and decompresses media files. Some codes use more aggressive compression algorithms. This means that the file will be smaller but the quality not quite so good. Which ones are best is a hotly debated topic. To enter the discussion head to the interwebs and join the forums!
How do I find out what Codec my video file is using?
The file ending will tell you which codec that you are using.
The most popular codes are JPEG, MPEG-4 (MP4) and H.264.
So once I have all the information, how do I calculate the bandwidth?
So essentially this has already been done for you. The bandwidth is displayed as the Total bit rate using the following formula.
(Width x Height x Frame rate) * Codec Compression = Bit rate (Kbps)
So we know from the screenshot that we are using 1682 Kbps or 1.64 MBps but this is only for 5 seconds.
If this was static always on camera it would be still 1.64 MBps but you would know that the network would have to ALWAYS allocate this much bandwidth.
Obviously, this is then multiplied by the number of cameras. So two would be 3.28 MBps
How do I know if my network can cope with this?
The first point to make is that the advertised speed of your bandwidth almost never reflects the actual speeds.
This is a heavily debated subject on the internet but it is now a widely accepted fact. The bandwidth advertised is often the upper level available.
Therefore if you’re the only person in your neighbourhood on the internet at 3 am you might get a chance of getting the upper limits otherwise lots of other factors come into play.
The only way to really measure is to use a speed test. The good news is that these are widely available on the internet and they do give an accurate estimate of the speed available by using actual test packets to and from your computer.
As the bandwidths do vary according to the time, I would recommend taking several readings and getting the average
So looking at the screenshot from my PC, we can see that I have a bandwidth of 16 MBps.
Therefore using the earlier example we can conclude that an always-on camera running at 1.63 MBps would not slow down my network to zero but if adding another camera could have an impact.
So how to save bandwidth?
The key factor is saving bandwidth is analysing the use of the camera and working out which of the current functions could be turned down.
For example, do you need to recognise very fine details such as car registration plates? If not, then a lower resolution might be acceptable.
Another very simple way to save bandwidth is to fine tune the motion detection. If you have a home system then the actual footage length should be very short.
It is worth revisiting the formula
(Width x Height (resolution) x Frame rate) Codec Compression = Bit rate (Kbps)
And then reviewing each value in turn. For example, if you currently have
(Width x Height (resolution)1080 x Frame rate 60fps) Codec Compression AVI = 8000 Kbps or 8 MBps
(Width x Height (resolution)720 x Frame rate 30fps) Codec Compression WMV = 3000 Kbps or 3 MBps
My recommendation would be-be to always try the new configuration. Record a 30-second clip, include some movement. Review the footage and make a decision if this is acceptable clarity. If not increase the Frame rate to 60 fps (720 resolution should be fine for most purposes)
Do all spy cameras allow configuration changes?
Unfortunately, the answer is no. Especially the audio codec. Most Spy Cameras/Dash Cams/Nanny cams do allow the resolution to be changed and some allow the configuration on the frame rate.
What are the best cameras for changing configuration settings?
1/ Spy Camera – Nest Cam Indoor Security Camera
I have focused on the indoor model but there is also an outdoor version. I am a big fan of Nest product because although not cheap they are very easy to use and also have a massive selection of configuration options. These cameras also have full Alexa integration which is great for future proofing if you are interested in home automation.
2/ Nanny Camera – FREDI Wifi Baby Monitor Camera
As with the Spy Camera, when seeking the optimal configuration I would always recommend going with a trusted brand. FREDI is another good example. Like NEST, FREDI devices have a huge range of configuration options including amending the resolution/frame rate and codecs.
3/ Dash Camera – Garmin Dash Cam 55 Camera
Garmin has been in the Sat Nav business since the start. So it’s no surprise that not only have they seamlessly moved into the Dash Camera business but also that they are some of the best of breed.
As with my other recommendations, the range of configuration options on this Dash Camera is what really impressed me.
In conclusion, IP Cameras can slow down your network but that shouldn’t be a reason not to buy one or add one to your existing collection. Lots of configuration changes can be made to free up bandwidth if it’s in short supply.
However, when downgrading the quality of the footage do check the new recording footage to make sure its fit for purpose. On the lowest settings, you run a risk of missing key elements in the footage such as number plates or a burglars face.