How we built our DIY Home Security Camera System

Introduction

A few years ago, my wife and I decided that we needed a modern Internet-enabled CCTV security system. We didn’t know much about home security or cameras at that point. If we were not DIY-enthusiasts, we would have probably just bought a pre-packaged IP camera and NVR kit.

But being the DIY and tech-crazy people we are, we decided to do it our way – the ProDIY way, learning by doing, using excellent IP cameras like the Hikvision DS-2CD2542FWD-IWS. Today, we have a DIY CCTV home security camera system that we chose and set up ourselves based on weeks and months of research. It is ultra-reliable and has high-end features such as interfacing fully with our home automation system, yet is very affordable.

We often get questions about our DIY CCTV setup, such as how we are able to view our home security cameras securely from anywhere in the world. So we thought we would share our journey with you, our readers. We will list our security camera setup and how we are able to safely and securely connect to our home from just about anywhere. Also we will go into not just a list of the different devices that form the system but also how they all come together to help us achieve our specific security goals.

Our Home Security goals were:

  1. Be able to simultaneously view multiple cameras  in a split-screen view. This could be from a tablet while indoors and from our mobile phones and laptops remotely.
  2. Be able to record motion-detection clips and have the option to at record at least 2 weeks worth of 24/7 video footage.
  3. Be able to inform my home automation system whenever motion was detected so that I could take action such as turning on lights
  4. Get motion detection alerts by email with snapshots within seconds of the intrusion.
  5. High enough resolution to get a clear picture at day or night.
  6. Online security is paramount  so we need a fully local solution. No cloud-reliant stuff for us! We do not want to port forward cameras or activate P2P leaving the entire network vulnerable to hackers and botnets.
  7. Push notifications – a nice to have if it doesn’t compromise network security.
  8. The system should be flexible enough to grow and change according to our evolving needs.
  9. All of this should not break the bank!

The End Result

Here is a screenshot of how we live-view our IP cameras from our laptops and on the TV:

Monitor - How to set up your own DIY NAS NVR using QNAP Surveillance Station - VueVille

Our DIY Home Security System – QNAP QVR Client for Surveillance Station

We can also access the cameras from our smartphones using either the tinyCAM Monitor Pro app or QNAP’s VMobile to access the NAS NVR’s clips archives.

How to access your DIY security cameras remotely using a NAS VPN server - tinyCAM Monitor Pro - VueVille

 

Whenever motion is detected by the cameras, the QNAP NAS informs my HomeSeer HS3 home automation system:

HomeSeer - IP Camera Motion Detection - VueVille

This step-by-step guide shows you how to connect Surveillance Station to Homeseer HS3. Eventually I plan to write how-to guides to replicate my entire smart home system setup. 

Now let’s see what the security camera system part of our home network looks like.

Our DIY Home Security System Network Setup

DIY Home Security System-Network Topology Logical-VueVille.com

DIY Home Security System – Logical Network Topology

A topology is a representation of how a system is connected together. Network topologies may be either physical or logical. A physical network topology shows the actual physical layout and the connections between different elements. A logical network topology shows how they are functionally linked to each other. The topology above is a logical representation of our home surveillance network.

We have three Hikvision IP cameras, and a Reolink C1 Pro recording 24/7 to a Network Attached Storage (NAS) system from QNAP. NAS devices today are much more than just network storage, they are more like mini-servers. Generally they run their own Linux-based operating system that is accessed through a web browser. Common uses for a NAS are centralised network storage, as a backup target, as a VPN client/server, and as a DLNA server for streaming your media across the house to multiple devices.

The TS-231+ we use has multiple roles as well (EDIT: I have now upgraded to an Intel-based QNAP TS-253A NAS, the main role being a Network Video Recorder (NVR). This is possible using the NAS’ built-in Surveillance Station software. So the QNAP records full resolution video streams from my 3 Hikvision cameras and a Reolink C1 Pro to its internal hard drives. You could get a dedicated NVR but as I said, we had other uses for the NAS.

As mentioned in our goals above, we didn’t want to forward ports from the cameras to the Internet. The alternative to forwarding ports from the camera to the router and exposing them to the Internet, is to create a VPN connection to your home network so that you can dial in securely. For this you need an Internet-facing device in your home network that can act as a VPN server.

Most modern routers can do this, but since we use an ISP provided DSL modem-router this is not an option. So the second role for our QNAP TS-253A NAS is as the VPN server for the entire home network.

The QNAP software has a built-in VPN server that supports all the major VPN protocols. I chose the OpenVPN protocol as it is widely accepted as the most secure protocol at the moment. All others have been compromised either by the government or by hackers. Our ISP’s DSL modem-router is physically the center point of the network as all the devices are connected to it either directly or through switches.

The QNAP’s OpenVPN port is forwarded to this modem-router. No other port forwarding is present. The modem-router is configured with Dynamic DNS (DDNS) and so is always accessible from the internet using a friendly name, instead of the public IP address which ISPs change every so often.

We use a VPN client on our Android phones or laptops to connect to our home network via OpenVPN, the QNAP NAS acting as the OpenVPN server for the entire home network. This lets us access all our network resources as if we never left home, live-viewing and reviewing recorded footage is so easy.

Accessing the security camera system while at home

The QNAP NAS’ Surveillance Station can be accessed either via the web interface or the Windows QNAP QVR client software that you saw above in the screenshot. The tinyCAM Monitor Pro app on our smartphones are all configured using the local IP address of the QNAP NAS and Hikvision cameras. At home, we just open the app and it simply works. No fuss. No hassles.

Accessing the security camera system from outside the home

Outside our home network, I simply need to connect to the VPN server (running on the the QNAP NAS), and all the apps and the QVR client on the laptop simply continue to work. This is the detailed process: So I use the OpenVPN client on my laptop or phone to connect to the NAS. Once connected, my PC is virtually part of our home network.

So our Hikvision cameras are not directly exposed to the Internet. Our QNAP NAS is, but this is a far better option because the QNAP is built for this purpose and has attack defeat measures such as IP exclusion, automatic IP bans based on rules etc. which the cameras simply don’t have.

Also the VPN server allows me to access the date on the NAS without hassle – my laptop or smartphone will think that they are in the local network. So all network drives automatically re-connect and the experience is seamless in terms of recently used files etc.

Read: How-to view your cameras remotely using a VPN

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Full Equipment list

We set ourselves a challenge of putting together a modern Internet-enabled CCTV security system at a reasonable cost:

IP Cameras

Hikvision 2032-I (Backyard camera at 2MP resolution, 6Mbps bitrate and 10fps):

Hikvision DS-2CD2032-I CCTV POE 3MP Bullet IP HD Security Network Camera, 4mm

3 used from $71.06
Last update was in: July 15, 2018 8:30 am

Hikvision 2132F-IS (Dome for front yard at 3MP resolution, 6Mbps bitrate and 10fps):

Hikvision DS-2CD2132-I 3MP IR Fixed Focal Dome Camera 4mm - International Version

1 used from $75.00
Free shipping
Last update was in: July 15, 2018 8:30 am
$106.99 $429.00

Hikvision 2542FWD-IWS (Mini-dome for front door at 4MP resolution, 6Mbps bitrate and 10fps):

Hikvision USA 4 Megapixel Network Camera - Color DS-2CD2542FWD-IWS

Last update was in: July 15, 2018 8:30 am
$252.85 $380.00

Amcrest 1080p ProHD PT Indoor Camera used as a baby monitor

Amcrest ProHD 1080P POE (Power Over Ethernet) IP Camera with Pan/Tilt, Two-Way Audio, Optional Cloud Recording, Full HD (1920TVL) @...

Free shipping
Last update was in: July 15, 2018 8:30 am

Here is a guide to Hikvision cameras and our IP camera recommendations for 2018. We also set up email motion detection alerts to our smartphones. Please note that some QNAP NAS models come with only a license for 2 channels in the Surveillance Station app instead of the 4 channels included with the QNAP TS-253A. If you want to record more the included free channels, you will have to purchase additional licenses.

Network Attached Storage (NAS)

QNAP NAS TS-253A with a 3TB WD Red hard drive (WD30EFRX):
You could go the EasyDIY route of using a standard IP camera and NVR kit or the ProDIY route of using a NAS for recording video streams from your cameras. We were attracted to the NAS option because a NAS can do a lot more than just be a dumb external hard drive.

Read: EasyDIY or ProDIY – The VueVille Smart Home DIY Framework

NAS offerings from the major vendors such as Synology and QNAP have extremely powerful software running on them that makes them more like computers. So we use the NAS as the NVR, a VPN server, backing up our laptops, phones, and as a DLNA server.

QNAP TS-253A 2-Bay Professional-Grade Network Attached Storage, Supports 4K Playback (TS-253A-4G-US)

1 used from $399.99
Last update was in: July 15, 2018 8:30 am

WD Red 3TB NAS Hard Disk Drive - 5400 RPM Class SATA 6 Gb/s 64MB Cache 3.5 Inch - WD30EFRX

4 used from $77.99
Free shipping
Last update was in: July 15, 2018 8:30 am
$107.98 $199.99

The QNAP TS-253A we chose is an affordable yet powerful NAS that is the hub of our surveillance system and an integral part of our home automation system. From my round-up of the best NAS NVR options, you can see the choice was between the TS-253A and the Synology 416play.

We settled on the QNAP because it had slightly more powerful hardware, more features such as HDMI out ports, and 2 extra camera licenses over the Synology 416play. Both Synology and QNAP are great brands and both claim to be able to send push notifications to their respective mobile apps, but I haven’t tested this on our QNAP yet as I am not a fan of push notifications.

Read: QNAP TS-253A Hands-on Review
Read: How to set up your own DIY NAS NVR using QNAP Surveillance Station

Network Switches

Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) Switch

The TP-Link TL-SG1008P Gigabit PoE switch that powers the cameras is required, it also connects them to our gigabit modem-router provided by the Internet Service Provider (ISP). Read our review of this capable little switch.

TP-LINK 8-Port Gigabit Ethernet PoE Desktop Switch with 4 PoE Ports (TL-SG1008P)

1 used from $65.88
Free shipping
Last update was in: July 15, 2018 8:30 am
$58.66 $129.99

Netgear 8-port Switch

You can never have enough Ethernet ports! The Netgear GS-308 8-port gigabit switch is an unmanaged switch. This means there are no settings to configure, it is truly plug and play. It has a sturdy metal chassis, auto-sensing 10/100/1000 Mbps port support and excellent real-world performance. It also has LED activity, link speed and status LEDs per port. I have been using it for over 6 months now and it has been super reliable. Highly recommended plug and play switch for setting up your home surveillance network!

NETGEAR ProSAFE GS108 8-Port Gigabit Desktop Switch (GS108-400NAS)

14 used from $24.88
Free shipping
Last update was in: July 15, 2018 8:30 am
$47.10 $59.99

External IR Illuminators

Two basic IR illuminators for the backyard and 12V power adaptors that have lasted nearly a year now and are still going strong. These are of the 60 degree coverage variety, and you can also get wide-angle illuminators.

Univivi U48R 48-LEDs CCTV WideAngle IR Illuminator

Free shipping
Last update was in: July 15, 2018 8:30 am

TMEZON 12 Volt 2 Amp Power Adapter AC to DC 2.1mm X 5.5mm Plug 12v 2a Power Supply Wall Plug...

Free shipping
Last update was in: July 15, 2018 8:30 am

Ethernet Cables

For Ethernet cables that run outside the home, I recommend using cables that are designed specially for this purpose – outdoor heavy-duty burial-grade CAT-5e or CAT-6 Ethernet cables. This will ensure that you do not face issues with the cables such as breakage, little animals chewing the cables etc. Ensure that the cables are 100% pure copper and not the cheaper and inferior Copper Clad Aluminium(CCA) variety.

200ft Cat5e Outdoor Waterproof Ethernet Cable Direct Burial 200 ft.

Free shipping
Last update was in: July 15, 2018 8:30 am
$79.95 $199.99

UPS

A CyberPower BRICs BR650ELCD (Line-interactive UPS – 390W/650 VA) to protect and power the entire system (13% load for all the above kit + a couple of other devices). I got a cheap yet reliable UPS which is officially compatible with the QNAP NAS. If the power fails or supply voltage is outside the tolerance, it informs the NAS which is programmed to shut down gracefully. I also have a schedule to turn it on automatically every morning, which ensures the NAS will turn itself on the next morning if the power fails and it shuts down. I think its paid for itself as I already had one occasion where the NAS informed me that it had shut down as instructed by the UPS.

CyberPower CP600LCD Intelligent LCD UPS 600VA 340W Compact

1 used from $64.99
Free shipping
Last update was in: July 15, 2018 8:30 am
$65.95 $89.95

Miscellaneous

32GB SD card for the Hikvision 2132F-IS IP camera above. 64 GB SD cards should also work but some cameras are a bit picky about which 64GB cards they will accept. Make sure you use at least a Class 10 speed card so that you don’t suffer from dropped frames in the recordings. I use the SD card to record motion detection alert clips. This is then yet another location where the clips are backed up.

SanDisk Ultra 64GB microSDXC UHS-I Card with Adapter, Grey/Red, Standard Packaging (SDSQUNC-064G-GN6MA)

3 used from $19.25
Free shipping
Last update was in: July 15, 2018 8:30 am
$21.39 $59.99

Software

The QNAP NAS comes with a free standalone NVR application, the QVR client. It supports all the features a good NVR has and it works very well.

We use tinyCam Monitor PRO app on Samsung Galaxy E5, Samsung Galaxy A5, HTC One M7 and a Nexus 7 tablet. The tablet is our dedicated IP camera monitoring screen.

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Storage capacity needed for QNAP Surveillance Station:

Initially I recorded all my 3 external IP cameras 24/7 at 6Mbps bitrate and 10fps. This meant that the 1.5TB I had set aside was good for 8-10 days of CCTV footage for all 3 cameras put together.

But I have since realised I don’t really need 24/7 recording and that replacing hard drives every year is no fun. Modern surveillance hard drives are rated for no more than 1 year of continuous operation. So now I just use alarm recording which places markers on the timeline so that I can jump directly to motion events.

The amount of storage you need depends on the quality and frame per second settings. After 3 years of experimenting with various quality settings, I have settled at 2Mbps and 6fps as we couldn’t see any improvement with higher settings. I have also set the Surveillance Station app on the QNAP to use only 1.5 TB (out of the 3TB available). So it automatically overwrites older recordings to maintain the 1.5TB quota. You can also specify number of days instead.

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Conclusion

We hope this article gives you an insight into how you can set up your own DIY home security camera system. If you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to get in touch through the comments field below.



A quick note: This article may contain affiliate links from Amazon and/or other platforms. I don’t like ads and I’m sure you don’t either. So this is how we pay the bills and ensure a distraction-free experience for you, my dear reader. If you click on one of these links and then purchase something, I will receive affiliate income for referring you. This goes towards the costs of hosting and running this website and does not cost you anything extra. Thanks for your understanding! Also note that Hikvision and Dahua do not consider certain platforms including Amazon as an authorised seller, but personally I don’t mind the often lower costs.
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59 Comments
  1. Hi Daniel,
    Great site and thanks for sharing your setup. I’m actually looking at a similar setup.
    Due to time constraints, I may choose to go first with a NVR and later switch (or add) either a NAS or PC running something like BlueIris or ZoneMinder (I have no experience on them, my comments are only based on internet research).
    Ideally what I wish I could do is not only have a local storage for footage but also an offline (ie cloud) storage solution. But given the cost, I would only store the footage triggered by an alert, not the regular footage. Ideally I would send it to something like tarsnap as it’s easy to do from the manage/automate from the command line.
    The question is then : do NAS or solutions like blueiris allow me to copy specific files only (different name or different folder for alert triggered footage) ? I suppose this is not a solution with an NVR unless an NVR can be accessed via ftp/scp.
    Thanks,
    J.F

    • Hi JF,

      Thanks for your kind comments. With my NAS I can access the actual recorded video files and copy them over. With the NVR, I would think this is not very straight forward, but I have not tried it.

      Daniel

  2. Hi Daniel,
    Great stuff and exactly what I was looking for. Has helped immensely.
    Did you have to buy additional camera licenses for use with the QNAP? (I’ve only had experience with Synology and they only let you connect 2 cameras for free, additional cameras require a license)
    Also, can you record the cameras to the NAS without the need of an SD card?
    Cheers,

    • Hi Scott,

      Thank you! I have only two cameras connected to the NAS so the included 2 licenses are fine for me.
      Yes, you can record the camera streams without an SD card in the camera. Any RTSP stream from an ONVIF compliant camera can be recorded by the QNAP NAS.

      Daniel

  3. Hi Daniel.

    Awesome site and thanks for sharing your config. It helped answer some of the things I had been researching. Wished I had found your site sooner than later as it would have save me a lot of time.

    You mentioned you record video 24x7x365 and it retains for a week. I’m sure you’ve considered it, but what are your thoughts on pro’s and con’s of recording motion only instead of record everything?

    Initially, without knowing the con’s, I’d think your retention could go up at a minimum 3 weeks.

    Thoughts and thank you again.

    • Hi Steve,

      Thank you and glad that I could help. I have not been posting much lately due to our first baby but I will soon start updating the blog more often. In fact he is helping me type this reply 🙂

      Great question about video storage – I would say it mostly comes down to 3 reasons – personal preference, how motion detection works and the risk.
      1. Personal preference – I started out recording just motion detection clips to my NAS NVR, just as I do on the Hikvisions with SD cards inside. But sometimes I felt like I wanted to see a bit more of what happened before and after the motion detection event. An example – I sometimes get people ringing the doorbell and walking away. Now the Hikvision cameras record 30 seconds before and after the motion trigger. In the unlikely case that it is a burglar casing my house, I would like to know whether he came in a car, what colour the car was, hopefully a plate, and where he parked. With the 30 sec pre and post record, I may or may not get all of these details. But with the NAS recording 24/7, if I want more details than just the pre and post record images sent to me by the Hikvisions by email alert, I can log into the NAS and check out the full video. I am happy with the last 10 days of recording on the NAS for now (1.5 TB space allocated), but I can easily up it to 20-30 days by getting a bigger hard drive.

      2. How motion detection recording works – Since the NAS provides a pre-recording feature, it means that it is actually recording everything it is receiving from the camera, holding on to it for the duration of the pre-record (1 min in our example) in case motion is detected. If there is no alert it has no reason to save the clip and it deletes it. This happens on a rolling basis. My only concern with 24/7 recording was that I would wear out the hard drive quicker – but then if it is in any case recording everything for the pre-recording feature, I cannot do any more harm by recording 24/7. Hope this reasoning makes sense!

      3. Risk – If for some reason, the motion detection didn’t trigger, there is a risk that I may miss important footage. A small risk but worth considering anyhow.

      These are my thoughts on the matter 🙂

      Daniel

  4. Thanks for a great blog!

    – Are you happy with the qnap survaliance software? Fully functional?

    – Can you set the system to aut. Keep 10 days of storage so so don’t require manual clean ups?

    – How easy is it to go back in time to look at old clips?

    Thanks!

    • Hi Kristian,

      Thanks and I hope you found the posts useful. I really like the QNAP software because its stable and simply works. One thing I dont like however is that it is very slow to export clips if I ever need to do so. Its much faster to just browse to the share where the recordings are and just copy the file I need.

      Yes, the share I use for the QNAP surveillance centre is set to a limit of 1TB (on a 3TB drive). This is good for 10 days of storage for each camera running 24/7 @ 1080p, 6Mbps bitrate and 10fps.

      I use QNAP’s PC surveillance software to live view and review footage. Its a good piece of software and scrubbing through video is quick and efficient. I dont use the web interface although that’s pretty decent too. I recently upgraded the NAS to QTS 4.2 and am now testing the new surveillance centre app version.

      There is also a mobile app for surveillance centre – its not very polished but gets the job done.

      Do let me know what else you would like to see on the blog – I am looking for content ideas!

      Daniel

  5. Thanks!

    So what happens when the share of 1TB is full? Do you manually need to clean it up or do the software handle to storage period?

    Do you evaluate any other nas survalliance softwares? Like the synologies.

    • No, the NAS will automatically overwrite the oldest footage and continue recording on a loop. So you will always have the last X days of footage, depending on the size of the recordings share, quality settings etc.

  6. Daniel – I have a setup quite similar to yours – QNAP TS470 with twin Seagate 2TB drives set up as Raid 1. I have 4 cameras (a mix of Panasonic and D-Link units). I have set the cameras to record. How do I get the QNAP system to send me an email alert (and a jpeg) when an alert is triggered. The Panasonic cameras can trigger on sound, motion or infra-red. I used to run Blue Iris on Windows and am looking for a similar alert capability? Any ideas or clues or tips? We live on an acreage and are away often so security is an ongoing concern. Thanks loads. Ron

    • Hi Ron,

      You can make the QNAP Surveillance Station send you email alerts with snapshots – however its far from straight forward and depends on how well your cameras are supported by QNAP. I have spent a lot of time trying to make it work the way I want, and this is what I learnt:

      When you add a camera and turn on motion detection alerts as described here under the “Configure Alarm Recording on the QNAP NAS” section, the NAS will login to your cameras and attempt to set up motion detection rules in the camera. Then when the camera sends an alert according to the rules defined by the NAS, Surveillance Station will receive them and then respond accordingly (start recording, put an event marker on the timeline, send email snapshot, send an SMS alert etc.).

      So the first key point is that your QNAP NAS actually doesn’t do any motion detection, it relies on the camera to do it. So you wont find any configuration options for those rules in your NAS – you will find it in your cacmera settings. This method is smart because your camera will usually have more advanced motion detection methods such as line detection, intrusion detection, PIR motion sensors etc to which the NAS can theoretically respond. I say theoretically because there is a downside – the NAS’s ability to respond to those alerts depends on how well QNAP supports your specific camera make and model. For eg. I have Hikvision cameras. The NAS will not respond to any motion detection alert other than the basic motion detection. So it ignores the line detection and intrusion detection alerts that I love because it cuts down false alerts massively.

      So then, assuming your camera is supported by QNAP partially/fully, how can you control the motion detection rules? First activate the motion detection rules in Surveillance Station for each camera. Then login to each camera and fine tune the rules, for example you can change the detection area.

      What have I done? I decided QNAP ignoring the Hikvision’s advanced motion detection rules is not something I can live with. So I set up my cameras to send me motion detection emails instead of the NAS. The NAS records 24/7 on a cycle of 10 days.

      Hopefully QNAP supports your cameras fully and you find that the NAS recognises all motion detection triggers (sound, motion, PIR infrared). Hope this helps.

      Daniel

  7. Good blog Daniel.
    My setup is going to be exactly the same as yours because I have a
    Qnap and it is easy to just buy and setup the cameras.
    Although the footage can be accessed from phone apps and a computer, I want to see the live view on my TV.
    Do you have it setup that way or do you know how?
    Thank you

    P.S. Do you think an android box will work?

    • Hi,

      Thanks! If your QNAP has an HDMI port, yes you can view the Live View on a TV. Mine doesn’t so I can’t see it on the TV. And yes an android TV box with tinyCam monitor Pro on it should work. Actually it is next on my purchase list – I am researching the various models right now.

      Daniel

  8. Hello
    First of all – good blog!
    Did you have contact with Hikvision cammeras from china (in example bought from aliexpress)?
    I’ve got one and there is a problem with recording on NAS

    Adam

    • Hi Adam,

      Thanks for the kind words. Yes in fact my first Hikvision was a 2032-I China model from aliexpress. I successfully got it to record to my QNAP NAS. The trick was to give it its own volume, with its own user. Otherwise the Hikvision refused to recognise the NAS as a valid network location.

      Hope this works.

      Daniel

  9. Hi Daniel, I have been looking for a system that is exactly like your setup. However, I fear that I do not have the technical knowledge to correctly configure my own system and it will end up in a box in the closet. Do you have a recommended pre-package, plug and play, system that meets most of your requirements? Or would you recommend I hire someone to setup a similar system.
    Thank you for your time.

    • Hi Nick,

      I haven’t yet come across an off-the-shelf system that can do everything my setup can do. I would suggest asking a professional installer to give you a quote for a Hikvision based system – once it is installed and set up, its a doddle to use and very reliable. My uncle went this route and he is very happy with it, even though he is not at all tech-savvy.

      If however you are happy to go with a less powerful system in terms of advanced motion detection etc., I would recommend an Amcrest 3-Megapixel NVR system like this one.

      Daniel

  10. Are there any performance difference between hikvision’s nvr vs a nas? With the nas doing other data processes, will quality suffer?

  11. Thanks for your responses and information. I have done the research for a good camera system and from what I gathered, Hikvision is that step above the average consumer system you see in local retailers, without breaking the bank. Your write up here goes along way. I’ll be looking forward to future blogs.

    • Thanks and you summed it up well. Hikvision is a brand that is targeted primarily at businesses and white-labelers, not homeowners. But their stuff is worth the extra money – you can pick and choose very high resolution cameras and at the same time not be tied to a particular brand for example. The mainstream market has always a year or so behind Hikvision in the past but the gap is narrowing. For a few years there were no retail brands that could do 3 megapixels for example, but now you have Reolink with 4MP capable cameras.

  12. Daniel
    Based on the great info you have been providing, I recently purchased a system (QNAP TS-231+, TP-Link TL-SG1008P, one Hikvision DS-2CD2T42WD-I5(4MM), and two Amcrest ProHD 1080P POE PTZ (IP2M-841EB))

    So far, things are setting up nicely…except OpenVPN and Vmobile (QNAP’s mobile surveilance streaming app).

    I have setup myQNAPcloud and can access Qmanager/Qfile/Qget/Qvideo/etc. But, Vmobile just returns a connect error. So, I started working on VPN server, thinking that will help me find a mobile app (I have iOS devices, so tinyCam Monitor Pro is not an option).

    Have you considered writing a “how to” article on setting up OpenVPN server and configuring the mobile OpenVPN client?

    And have you had any success getting Vmobile to connect? (If so, that would be another great article for us who are trying to self teach this stuff.)

    Thanks!

    • Hi Nathan,

      Glad to hear your setup is up and running. I love the VPN server feature and use it every day at work to check in on my cameras. Yes I have considered writing a how-to on setting up VPN access – its not difficult but has quite a few steps including the DDNS setup. I will put up a post shortly on how to do this.

      Yes Vmobile works for me, while it was not a beautiful app by any means, it is functional.

      Is there a particular step that you are stuck at?

      Daniel

  13. Last night I was able to get vmobile to connect while my mobile was attached direct to the network via WIFI. When I turn WIFI off and use cell data (LTE and/or 4G), the connection method is via xxxx.myqnapcloud.com and vmobile will not connect. All the other QNAP apps work using the cloud connect, but vmobile does not.

    So – to get around that, I need to setup VPN sever and VPN client so the mobile thinks it is on a direct connect (via the virtual connect rather than the cloud connect). I’m hoping vmobile will then work on the VPN connect.

    I am stuck on getting all the parameters set for VPN server, and then I need to get the VPN client configured.

    I’ve been reading up on UPnP as another way to use xxxxx.myqnapcloud.com as the connection method (by enabling UPnP Port Forwarding). But, the myQNAPcloud utility on QTS 4.2.2 indicates it can’t find a UPnP router on the network, even though I can see that I have UPnP and NAT enabled on the router. So – I’ve missed something somewhere.

    Also – I’ve read that using the UPnP Port Forwarding is not that secure…

    • Hi,

      I will put together a step by step guide when I get time. With the year end approaching I have not been getting enough time to blog!

      I dislike both cloud and uPNP, but uPNP is far more dangerous than using the QNAP cloud. The reason is that uPNP for never intended to be used on external networks such as the Internet. I keep it disabled on my router and all devices that support it. uPNP is how insecure or compromised(hacked) devices can ‘dial home’ to their manufacturer or even used by hackers to spy on you.

      QNAP cloud – I never tried it because the QNAP openVPN server has been flawless and is very very fast. There is no middleman – my phone connects directly to my home network. Also by just using one app (openVPN client), my phone then is literally inside my home network – I can do everything as if I am am at home, plus all my internet traffic is routed over my home router (not public Wifi for example). I recommend using only the openVPN protocol because all other VPN protocols have been compromised by various governments and so safe to assume hackers as well. The official QNAP documentation is very good and should help with configuring the openVPN server. Some tips – default settings should be good, except under advanced settings use UDP (not TCP) and a random port (not 1194). Then get a dynamic DNS for your home router (noip.com is free, paid ones also exist). Then port forward that specific UDP port from router to NAS. Then download the QNAP configuration file and open it with the official openVPN client app, enter your dynamic DNS settings and login details and off you go. That’s about the gist of it.

      Daniel

      • Thanks for the additional insights.

        I too have now disabled the myQNAPcloud services, except for the myQNAPcloud DDNS service. I believe is serves the same purpose as noip.com. Every 15 min the myQNAPcloud DDNS service checks the WAN IP and if it sees a change, it updates the WAN IP associated with xxxxxx.myqnapcloud.com (where xxxxxx is the name I selected for my NAS). This allows me to use “xxxxxx.myqnapcloud.com” as the server IP in the OpenVPN profile.

        I had some other challenges getting the OpenVPN client to work on my devices. Some key points for setting up on the mobile devices (applies to iOS and Android):

        Go to Settings for OpenVPN and change Protocol to UDP (it defaults to TCP); enable “Force AES-CBC ciphersuites”.

        Both of those items took a while for me to figure out. Once set, OpenVPN connects flawlessly.

        I also have the OpenVPN client running and working a couple of laptops. That setup was very easy.

        Thanks again for your comments and insight.

  14. Hi Daniel,

    I own an older Avertx system. It has its faults. It fails a during searches. I bought a new model and its crashing all the time. Avertx is aware of the problem and I am waiting for a firmware update. I am considering building my own because the original unit was never rock solid. I would really hate to buy new cameras. The Avertx ones are mounted on the house and they are really very nice. They are 2 megapixels with night vision and they are POE. Do you think I keep these cameras and still build they rest of the system you have?

    Thanks

    Kim

  15. Very relieved that I found this. I am about to add a pair of Hikvision DS-2CD2145F-IS to my QNAP TS-531P and it never occurred to me that I might not be able to connect the PoE switch direct to the NAS – I just assumed it would work.

    The VPN approach is interesting too. My ISP has extremely long lease times on IPs so they very rarely change, but never say never.

  16. Did you need to do anything to connect your PoE switch to the rear of the NAS? My cameras don’t show up if it’s connected there.

    • Hi,

      All the cameras just need to be on the same network as the NAS. The PoE switch should be directly or indirectly connected to the NAS (via another router/switch). Is the NAS otherwise accessible – are you able to access the NAS management page from your PC? Also if your NAS has more than one network port, make sure you are using the right one. My QNAP TS-231+ has two ethernet ports, I only use the first one and this has to be selected in QNAP Surveillance Station. You can use the second NAS ethernet port exclusively for surveillance station but its a bit trickier to pull off.

      The only other thing I can think of is – are you using a managed or unmanaged PoE switch? If unmanaged, its plug and play. If its managed, you may have to configure it.

      Also are your cameras individually accessible from your PC?

      Kind regards,
      Daniel

      • Hi Daniel. I have the two cameras attached via an unmanaged PoE switch. They appear promptly in SADPTool and can be accessed via the browser if that switch is connected to my main Netgear (as you’d expect) but not if it’s in the back of the QNAP, which has four RJ45 ports to choose from. The camera models are not supported by Surveillance Station yet, but I had hoped to at least be able to access them.

        • Connecting the PoE switch to the main Netgear works just fine, but I had hoped to use that cable (there will only be two going to the NAS) for trunking and connect the cameras via Ethernet3/4.

          I did find this, but I’ve not had the NAS five minutes 🙂
          https://forum.qnap.com/viewtopic.php?t=45759

          Thank you for all your comments.

        • I see the problem now, A.M is right – my network map was not intended to show the actual connections, but I will correct it to make it reflect the actual connections. My PoE switch is not connected to the NAS – it is connected to the ISP modem/router. If you have put the NAS in between your main Netgear PoE switch and your other router, it explains the problems you have been seeing. The NAS cannot pass through the camera traffic to the rest of your network.

          So if you want the cameras to be accessible throughout the network, don’t put their PoE switch behind the NAS (don’t connect them directly to the NAS): Cameras -> PoE switch -> main Netgear switch <- NAS. Your main Netgear switch then acts like the central hub. Now you will be able to access your cameras from the desktop or from your phones etc. In my case my ISP router is the central hub (more for convenience than anything else).

        • If I understood correctly, you’re connecting your unmanaged PoE switch to your QNAP (and NOT to your main netgear) and then you’re unable to access your cameras directly from the browser on your desktop?

          Which QNAP model do you have? On my TS-251, I don’t think the QNAP will bridge network packets from one RJ45 to another by default, and I’m not sure if it’s possible to configure it to do so. If you want to be able to get to your cameras directly from your desktop, you probably need to also connect your PoE switch to your main netgear.

          Connecting your PoE switch directly to the QNAP only allows surveillance station on the QNAP to retrieve video from your cameras, and only if you have the second port on the QNAP set up correctly (e.g. You’ll need to have static IP addresses on the cameras, or need the QNAP to run a dhcp server serving that port.) In the configuration you have, you would presumably be able to view video that the QNAP has retrieved, but you won’t be able to connect directly from your desktop to your cameras. That sort of configuration can be a good thing, as it also prevents your cameras from talking to the outside world but it’s more complicated to set up, as Daniel mentioned.

          I think what you want is that your QNAP and your cameras should all be plugged into some switch that is also connected to your main netgear. Based on what Daniel said, I suspect this is what he has too, although the diagram in the article makes it look as if he has one cable from the switch to the QNAP, and another from the QNAP to the router.

  17. Hi Daniel

    Interesting write up, thanks. I have the same setup with a synology NAS and an assortment of Foscam up cameras, which works fine, up to a point, and here is my question. The problem is the system is always on, because it’s not practical to go into the NAS and enable or disable every time I leave the house or return. Have you found any way of arming/disarming the system with a key ring type clicker/controller or rfid tags?
    I have searched widely for such a solution but without success – which leaves me with a surveillance setup but not a security alarm. Hence I am not able to use SMS notifications etc

    • Hi Giles,

      Thanks. I don’t think the NAS out of the box has a feature whereby you can arm or disarm Surveillance Station. However you can use a home automation controller such as the one I use, the Vera Plus, to put individual cameras into arm/disarm mode. This effectively lets you control the QNAP NAS’ behaviour. One of my readers has made it work and has written about it in the comments on this post.

      Kind regards,
      Daniel

  18. Hi Daniel

    fantastic – I have been struggling with this problem for several days and you may just have solved it. I’ve taken a look at the Vera and other alternatives that popped up on Amazon when I selected it. Looks like the Vera is compatible with more devices than either the Samsung Smartthing or Apple home. Thanks for the link to the blog post – I need to digest the material – I have no experience of home automation so this is all new. As far as I can see, Vera is able to control the camera for motion detection, send an alert and specify where the recording will restored. Is that correct? The Smartthings by comparison appears to only offer the option of storing recordings in their cloud – for which a subscription is required (I tend to want to avoid storing videos on 3rd party servers in the cloud for security reasons – and would prefer a solution that does not involve paying monthly fees.
    Anyhow – many thanks for the tip – I will explore further

    Regards

    Giles

  19. Hi,

    Surveillance Station will cost me $480 for my additional cams and QVR Pro is still Beta but I am using it. It supports 64 cams and license is valid till year end. I believe renewal will cost the same as well so what I have done was used Virtualization Station and created a VM that runs Windows 7 and can access my cams, in order to install a free application that is enabled to record to NAS. I am ready to replace the Windows VM with Ubuntu if that kind of application is not available on Windows. Unfortunately Zoneminder does not support Windows. Blueiris is expensive as well. Does anyone know of such an app on any platform?

  20. To be obnoxious and anal retentive, CC stands for Closed Circuit and IP cameras are not what is meant by Closed Circuit, so an IP security system is not a CCTV system. Admittedly many people won’t care but it is confusing to those of us suffering from excess pedantism. LOL

    • Thanks for commenting. I do care and doesn’t closed circuit only mean that it is not publicly broadcast. The technology used to form the ‘circuit’ whether it is VHS, analog, or digital IP is irrelevant, isn’t it? And if you look at my circuit it is not broadcast outside my home network. Technically since I use a VPN to connect to my home network from outside, my external device becomes part of the internal network (closed circuit). But I think we should also agree that the term closed circuit was created for an analog world where there was no Internet. CCTV is just that these days, an abbreviation for anything that is used for surveillance, even if it is broadcast to a command center (police control room for example)!

  21. Hi Daniel,
    Very useful post. But it’s not clear: your home wifi is provided by the ISP router? Is it “in” the VPN? I mean if you browse in your phone (through your home wifi) is it safe or it’s like using a public wifi (because the router is out of the VPN)? Or you always connent via openVPN client? Thanks!

  22. Just started researching options for a home surveillance system and finding your blog very helpful. Thank you.

    Something I am not fully appreciating yet is why you need two switches (i.e., the Netgear and the TP-Link)? Can you not just use the PoE switch? In other words, cameras into the four PoE ports while the QNAP and Internet Router connect to two non-PoE ports (or 2 non-PoE ports for QNAP and 1 non-PoE port for Router if doing link aggregation). So the 8-port TP-Link with 4 PoE and 4 non-PoE ports should be enough…Would that work?

    Separately, I am not able to reply to the above conversation involving Dick and A.M., but I have learned that the two ports on the QNAP are intended for link aggregation. In other words, you can connect the QNAP to two of the ports in the same switch for a more robust signal (I think). Does that sound right?

    Thanks.

  23. Thanks for taking the time to document your setup, I have a Qnap 453a setup with 4 dlink camera’s at a building site. Power is provided by a solar system and internet via a 4G modem. I can view my camera’s on the dlink app and vmobile while at the site, but once I leave i can view on the dlink app but not vmobile even after changing vmobile to the myqnapcloud address for the NAS.
    I can use myqnapcloud to log into the NAS and download the video files recorded on the NAS.
    I can use the VPN to access another program I have installed on the NAS but vmobile does not want to play.
    My 4G router reports a private 10.x.x.x IP from the mobile network, the noip for the NAS reports a real public IP but I am unable to access the NAS via the public IP.
    I have seen adverts for fixed public IP sim cards but they require a 24 month subscription and I am using a PAYG sim, which suits my £20 budget.
    So any advice on a cheap solution to my issue.

  24. Any thoughts on using WiFi cameras to save the extra effort / $$$ of running ethernet cables…?

    • I would never recommend WiFi for your main cameras – its just not as reliable and dependable as a hard wired Ethernet cable. Most consumer routers are poor at maintaining a steady WiFi signal which is not great for your home’s security, not to mention running all your cameras on the same WiFi network is going to max out your WiFI router bandwidth and probably cause dropped frames. Use WiFi for locations you cannot run cable to.

  25. Thank you for your post!
    So I am trying to make sense of the various versions of cameras even just on the Hikvision site.
    Maybe you can save me some time. Budget set aside, I would like to know what the best outdoor cameras are out there for residential use.
    Any recommendations?

  26. Amazing post guys. Thanks for sharing.

  27. Hi Daniel. Thanks for this information. I’m strongly considering setting up a system just as you have it. Mainly I cannot find a store bought surveillance system that gets consistently good reviews. Your use of a NAS is a godsend.

    It looks like you’ve been using the QNAP ts-253a for a couple of years now. Would you change anything? I’ve read through many of your email replys but not all. I’ll delve deeper tonight while at work.

    It looks like (email response dated back in 2016) you require about 1.5 TB of storage to keep the last 10 days worth of “film” from all 4 cameras running 24/7/365. Am I reading that correctly?

    Thank you for your work. I ran across your blog a week ago, saved it, but thought your DIY was too expensive. The more I look at store bought systems the more your system makes sense. With the NAS having much more ability than a dedicated NVR I think I can spread the costs to make much more sense financially.

    Thanks again, John

    • Hi John, thanks for dropping by! I have been using the TS-253A for over a year now and I’m very pleased with it. Instead of rigid partitions, I use the shared folders concept where each shared folder can use as much space as it wants on the 3TB WD RED hard drives I use. So I have set a limit of 1.5TB of storage in the the Surveillance Station app. This equates to around 10 days of storage. The only downside to using it as an NVR is that it doesn’t support the advanced motion detection methods of the Hikvision and Dahua cameras that are crucial for reducing false alerts. But I record 24/7 anyway, so it doesn’t bother me too much. A dedicated NVR with redundant storage is very expensive – a NAS with redundant storage can be had for a fraction of that cost (as long as you don’t need more than 4-6 cameras). If you need more than 4-6 cameras, the total cost starts rising due to the extra licence per camera model QNAP and other NAS manufacturers follow. But as you have realised, a NAS can do so much more. The TS-253A also supports one-click virtual machines, so I have set up a Linux Ubuntu virtual machine to play round with as well. I run my OpenVPN server on it, apart from using the HDMI output to view my cameras on the TV. At the moment, the TS-253A gives the best bang for your buck because of the included 4 IP camera licences.

  28. Informative blog. Keep Sharing…!!

  29. Hi Daniel, Have you looked at what the free version of the new QNAP QVR Pro app offers? I’d be interested in hearing what you think of it and how it compares to the previous Surveillance Station app. I liked that if offered 8 free channels but was disappointed that it limits you to 14 days of history. Thanks, Mike

    • Hey Mike, I briefly looked into it but didn’t like the 14 day-only access to recordings. An additional $399 gives you the ‘gold’ license which removes that limitation and gives you 16 camera channels. I need only 4 channels, so the standard Surveillance Station app is best for me. Additional camera licenses are $50 each, so I would need to have at least 12 cameras before the $399 gold licence becomes a better financial choice. Of course having the option to go up to 16 channels in the future is also what the $399 buys you.

  30. What HomeSeer3 plugin(s) do you use to enable the motion detection that is shown near the top of the article?

    • I don’t use any plugin. I use certain native features to let one control the other. I will be posting a detailed tutorial shortly on how to replicate this. EDIT: The how-to guide is now live here.

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