A home security camera serves a few important purposes. One is the capability to look into your property anytime and make sure everything is the way you left it. Another good reason is to be notified when something moves that you didn’t expect. But what if something goes amiss and you aren’t around to see it? You need to see what happened a few minutes or a few hours ago. That’s where the local versus cloud security camera storage discussion comes up.
The local versus cloud storage subject is an important one that you should give some thought to prior to selecting your home security camera. Your decision can effect the purchase price, ongoing cost as well as usability. So let’s discuss the options in depth.
Local storage normally lives within the camera itself via a micro SD card. Not all home security cameras have local storage and those that do sometimes includes a microSD card. Depending upon the camera’s firmware, it can hold anywhere from 16GB to 128GB.
A micro SD card such as the SanDisk Ultra 32GB microSDHC UHS-I Card with Adapter is a good card that should work in practically any home security camera. You need to use a card that supports at least 10 MB per second data transfer. You will see it referenced as Class 10 or UHS 1. Our article titled Selecting the Right Micro SD Card for a Home Security Camera tells you everything you might want to know on this subject.
No magic in using this type of local storage. Push it into the micro SD slot on the camera and format it using the firmware on the home security camera. You can rewrite when it gets filled up or stop recording. It depends upon the capabilities of the home security camera.
There are some excellent cameras that use local storage including those from Samsung. The highly reviewed Samsung SmartCam HD Pro is one of those cameras.
A few cameras, for example, the Arlo Pro accommodates local storage attached to the local base station. This type of storage is still considered local as it’s residing in the same location as the cameras.
Cloud storage lives away from home in a big data center hundreds of miles away or more. Your video history is stored, usually encrypted, on servers outside your home or office.
Not all security cameras offer cloud storage. The models that do include this feature vary in terms of what’s free and what’s not. For example, a Nest Cam offers three hours of motion events stored at no charge. Anything more than this requires a paid subscription service that currently starts at $99 per year. Depending upon how long you want to go back in history, the cost increases to several hundred dollars a year. You can see that the cost of a cloud subscription can rapidly approach and exceed the cost of the camera fairly quickly.
Cloud storage is typically accessed using the manufacturer’s smartphone app. Some support access via a web browser. I find it easiest to access cloud storage using my phone.
Local versus Cloud
So which is better? Let’s look at the pros and cons of local versus cloud storage.
Local Storage Pros: There’s no subscription fee with local storage. Pop in the micro SD card and you’re all set.
Local Storage Cons: If a bad guy walks away with your home security camera, he also gets your local storage. No record of what just happened. It’s on the micro SD card that just walked away with the bad guy.
Cloud Storage Pros: I just saw the bad guy take my camera an hour ago. If your camera is stolen, just logon and check the history on the cloud. The bad guy cam take your camera but he can’t take the cloud.
Cloud Storage Cons: Cost. Sure, many manufacturers include several hours all the way up to a few days at no charge. Anything more will cost you an additional fee.
What to do?
It’s going to come down to the importance of capability versus cost. If the home security camera is being used to watch your home, select one that supports a clear HD video in the cloud for an extended period. If the home security camera is more for watching your pet, or you simply aren’t worried about the camera being stolen, local storage is probably fine.
But better yet, why not choose a home security camera that has a nice long cloud retention service at no additional charge? Now we’re talking.
The Arlo Pro HD Home Security System implementation of cloud storage is one of the best. Seven days of free event storage coupled with free email and device alerts is a good deal. This is included with the Arlo Pro at no additional charge. I see others charging up to $99 per year for this length of cloud retention. Additionally, the Arlo Pro offers local storage that works complementary to the cloud. If your cloud goes out, the local storage is available as a backup. It’s the best of both worlds. The Arlo Pro is one of our favorite cameras. Be sure to read our detailed review on this model.
Sure, there are other factors to consider when selecting the right home security camera, but local versus cloud storage is one of the most important. Be sure to think it through and price out the long term ownership prior to making the purchase decision.
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).