What you need to know about wireless webcams
Installing a webcam is a fun and worthwhile project, whether it's for home security or to help you keep track of your kids or pets. You can securely view whatever the camera sees from anywhere in the world, as long as you have access to the internet. And with a wireless webcam, you'll have even more flexibility, because you can install it farther away from your computer.
Wired or wireless?
You can use most Webcams with either a wireless or a wired connection to your network. Wireless connections offer more flexibility, but wired connections are simpler to set up. In fact, as part of the steps toward wireless setup, you'll set up a temporary wired connection first. If you run into trouble setting up the wireless connection, you can always fall back on the wired connection. Assuming that you do want to use wireless, consider using an 802.11g or 802.11n networking technology, as opposed to the older 802.11a or 802.11b ones.
Gather the equipment. We assume that you already have a network set up that supports both wired and wireless connections. The only other equipment you need is the webcam itself and a network cable to connect it to the router during setup. Webcams are available for around $100, and they often include the cable. To ensure maximum compatibility, consider buying a webcam made by the same company as your router. Also consider these features:
- Compatibility with your wireless protocol (that is, 802.11g or 802.11n)
- Support for the wireless security you use, if any (that is, WEP or WPA)
- Built-in web server (to connect to the internet without a computer)
- Support for audio and built-in microphone
- Ability for tabletop or wall-mounted use.
In addition to equipment, during setup you'll need information about your wireless network, available from the administration screens for your router (for details, refer to the documentation that came with your router):
- Network name or Service Set Identifier (SSID)
- The type of security the network uses, like WEP (Wired Equivalency Protocol) or WPA (WiFi Protected Access)
- For WEP networks, the key length (64-bit or 128-bit)
- For WPA networks, the encryption algorithm (TKIP or AES)
- The shared encryption key or passphrase.
Set up the webcam
Once you have everything together, you're ready for setup. Of course, the first thing you need to do is decide where to place the webcam (make sure there's a nearby power outlet). If, in the webcam's permanent place, the network cable doesn't reach the router, you'll need to bring the webcam closer to the router during setup, and then move it back later. For detailed steps, follow the setup instructions that come with the webcam, but here are the basic steps:
- Connect the Webcam to the router with a network cable, plug it into a wall outlet, and then power up the camera. Note: Installation instructions may tell you to connect or power up the camera at a specific time during setup – be sure to follow these and any other manufacturer's instructions.
- Using a computer on the same network as the Webcam, launch the setup software that comes with the camera, which usually provides a user-friendly wizard to guide you through the process. Note: If you are prompted to set up an administrator username and password for the camera, be sure to use a strong password, so the camera is secure over the internet.
- Enter your wireless network information into the setup software. If you are asked to choose between Infrastructure mode and Ad-Hoc mode, select Infrastructure. During setup, you'll be provided with the camera's IP address. Write it down – you’ll need it later to access the camera.
- Name the camera. (Use a name that's easy to remember and keep in mind that you may add more cameras later.)
- Once the setup wizard is finished, power down the camera and disconnect the network cable from the router.
Test the camera. Now is the moment you've been waiting for. With the camera's network cable still unplugged, power up the camera. On a computer on the same network as the camera, enter the IP address you wrote down during setup into the address bar of your browser, and then press Enter on your keyboard. If all goes well, you'll see the picture from your camera.
If you want to make the camera available from outside your network (over the internet), you'll probably need to enter an IP address that is unique all over the world (called a Public IP address), not just on your network*. If your webcam has this capability, refer to its documentation for setup instructions.
Troubleshooting steps, just in case
If you have trouble setting up or connecting to the webcam over your network, try these steps before calling the manufacturer's technical support:
- Anti-virus and firewall software (including the built-in firewall in Microsoft Windows) may interfere with setup – try disabling them. To be on the safe side, first disconnect from the internet.
- Make sure your browser is compatible with the Webcam. (Check the documentation that came with the camera.)
- Make sure the Channel setting on the camera's wireless setup screens matches that on your router.
- If the camera's wireless setup software provides an option to change the transmission rate (the speed that data flows between the camera and router), try different settings, starting with the lowest options first.
- If the wireless connection still doesn't work, power down the camera, connect it to the router using the network cable, and then retest it in your browser.
- If all else fails, consider hiring help. Many consumer electronics retail chains now have in-house services that specialise in helping their customers with equipment setup and configuration.
* Private IP addresses are used only within individual networks. They are based on a special range of addresses set aside for that purpose and are always 10.X.X.X, 172.16.X.X to 172.31.X.X, or 192.168.X.X, where X is any number from zero to 255. Any number of networks can use the same private addresses within their own networks. An IP address that doesn't fit into one of these ranges is a unique Public IP address, which can be reached from anywhere on the internet.
Published on: Monday, April 04, 2011