I read about a recent massive cloud outage on the morning of February 28, 2017. I really didn’t think much about it and went on my way.
Within the next thirty minutes, I began to receive alerts on my phone from a few of my home security cameras. The alerts said that the cameras were not available.
I didn’t expect that to happen. I knew certain camera manufacturers were storing video history in the cloud. So if the cloud service wasn’t available, I wouldn’t be able to access or write video to the cloud. No big deal. I could still access my home security cameras.
Wrong! The cloud is so deeply embedded into the architecture of certain home security camera’s software and apps that it’s become so integral that you cannot access real time video without the cloud.
Here’s a breakdown of the home security cameras that I am actively using and what happened. While I have other cameras laying around, I don’t keep them all hooked up. But I had enough to make some important observations.
Nest Cam and DropCam Pro
I bundled these into the same category since they are made by the same company and use the same smartphone app. Nest recently introduced Sightline to the Nest Cam and DropCam Pro. This free service archives video snapshots to the cloud. Additionally, Nest Aware archives motion events and other video to the cloud. It would make sense if these services weren’t available.
However, to my surprise, the entire viewing experience was unavailable. I opened the app and was greeted with a startup screen and was unable to access any real time video from any of my cameras. I didn’t expect this to happen but apparently the cloud is so deeply embedded in the Nest software that a cloud outage means no home security cameras.
There isn’t any on-board storage for a Nest Cam or DropCam Pro so any motion events that occur during the cloud outage cannot be seen at a later time.
Canary Home Security System
This was the first alert that I received regarding the camera not being available. The Canary All-in-One Home Security System has become one of my favorites and I never had an issue with it except when I cooked some overly smelly food.
I know from the documentation how Canary works so this wasn’t a surprise to me. No cloud means no access to real time video on a Canary Home Security System. Since there isn’t any on-board micro SD card.
Ring Video Doorbell
The Ring Video Doorbell is one of those niche home security cameras that you didn’t know you needed until you got one. The cloud outage effect was what I expected. Archived events could not be seen but real time was not effected. No micro SD card on these cameras so you need to wait for the outage to be resolved for archival services.
I have several different models of the Samsung SmartCam. All of these cameras use a micro SD card for recording of motion events. These cameras were unaffected. Real time video was still real time. I could view my video archives without a problem.
Yi Home Security Camera
The Yi Home Camera is our favorite budget priced camera. It uses an on-board micro SD card as well as an optional cloud subscription.
I was able to see real time video without a problem and could access motion events on my micro SD card.
Zmodo HD Wireless Bullet Outdoor Camera
The Zmodo HD Wireless Bullet Outdoor Camera is my most recently deployed “specimen”. As I compare the Zmodo camera to others in this article, it’s the most basic. No on-board storage. No cloud. No problem.
IFTTT isn’t a home security camera. It’s a service that allows the control of many home security cameras including Nest Cam, DropCam Pro, Ring, Arlo and Oco. The IFTTT service uses cloud services and was unavailable. Automation associated with any IFTTT applets didn’t work during the outage.
So what have we learned? I noted which cameras had on-board micro SD cards installed for a reason. Those that have them weren’t effected. Those that didn’t were effected. I was surprised by the severity of the effect on the Nest Cam, DropCam Pro and Canary as the cloud outage rendered the cameras useless. To no surprise, those with a micro-SD card or no cloud connectivity worked just fine.
Should cloud services be a part of your home security camera decision making criteria? Cloud services improve a home security camera’s effectiveness. After all, what good is a home security camera if the thief steals the camera along with the micro SD card. Cloud outages are rare, especially outages from the largest providers but you need to be aware of the potential impact.
If constant uninterrupted access to your camera is critical, consider avoiding camera models that have a tight integration. Several listed in this article fit that category. I couldn’t use my Nest Cam, DropCam Pro nor the Canary. A good rule for those needing constant live viewing capability without any chance of interruption is to get a camera that at least a micro SD card as that seemed to be the common factor in cameras that avoided the cloud outage effect.
All of these articles are written by someone (me) that figured out how to do this stuff the hard way. I have owned and tested dozens of cameras. Manufacturer support varies. There are a few good companies that provide timely answers when you have questions. There are several that sell you the camera and seem to have little interest in post sales support (which leads me to finding out stuff the hard way).