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

Will my internet connection support smart security cameras?

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

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

Smart security cameras need bandwidth and data

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

But before you jump in and 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 a completely cloud-based system like 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 (if at all) the system will work for you.

How does bandwidth impact camera performance?

A black Arlo camera mounted outside a house.
Arlo

Let’s start by looking at the effect of internet speed on the performance of smart security cameras, because this aspect affects the most people: not everyone has a data cap while everyone has a maximum internet speed.

Two aspects of your internet connection speed impact camera performance, upload and download speed. For the vast majority of people, the limiting factor will be download speed.

Download speed affects live views

The speed of your connection in terms of download speed mainly impacts your experience of viewing the live stream 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 such as TV shows and the download speed requirements are similar.

You will need at least around 3 Mbps download speed to stream a single HD camera stream from the cloud to your home for viewing on your devices.

When evaluating the download speed you need, be sure to consider how busy you are using your smart cameras. If you’re watching live view all day, you’ll need enough download speed to do so.

Download speed affects overall functionality

While download speed impacts the smoothness of your viewing and playback experience, upload speed impacts other aspects of how your smart security cameras operate.

Cloud-based systems like Nest and Ring cameras require high download speeds to maintain high-resolution streams. Even the lowest settings on older cameras will use at least 1 Mbps per camera when streaming live or recording to the cloud. Newer cameras will use 4 Mbps or more per camera to download HD video.

If your internet connection can’t handle this, you’ll end up having to downgrade the video quality or suffer from stuttering, dropped connection, or both.

So when calculating the download speed you need to keep your household running smoothly, be sure to consider the number of cameras you have and their requirements.

For example, if you had 3 security cameras that required 4 Mbps each to live record your property 24/7, you would need at least 12 Mbps of download bandwidth in addition to the rest of your usage. regular domestic service to meet peak demand.

And don’t think this issue is just for out-of-home streaming, like checking your doorbell camera while you’re at work. Since the majority of large cloud-based systems, such as Nest and Ring, stream to the cloud and then to your home, even when you’re at home with the cameras, download speed matters. A slow download impacts your experience wherever you are.

How does data usage affect camera performance?

A Google Nest camera on a coat.
Google

If the bandwidth is similar to the speed at which a car travels, the data is similar to the amount of gasoline it uses in the process. Although limited bandwidth will hamper the real-time operations of your smart security cameras (Ultra HD security camera streaming and a rural DSL connection don’t mix), overall data usage can also have an impact on performance.

The problem is, a smart, cloud-based security camera system can quickly eat away at your data cap. Not only does viewing cameras consume data, but upload data also counts towards data caps, meaning any system with live recording will quickly use up a staggering amount of data in the background.

So while you may only be able to see your cameras through the app once in a while, if they’re constantly communicating with the cloud, you can easily download hundreds of GB of data per month. A single Nest Cam IQ, for example, can use between 100 and 400 GB of bandwidth per month.

Once you exceed your data cap, you are forced to both pay an overage fee and downgrade your video quality to avoid exceeding it again. If you have a household full of people who stream, game, and download large files, any type of smart security camera system that uses a lot of data every month might not be right for your household.

With that in mind, it’s worth considering not only the fun features like fantastic night vision or 4K resolution, but also the less glamorous aspects of using smart security cameras, like internet connection requirements and average data usage.

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