Let’s say you have different types of cameras from various brands or manufacturers and you want to see all these cameras in the same place. You can view them on their own apps but how to view all of them from the same app or central station?
If the cameras are from the same brand, then you can use the native app from the camera’s brand to see them on the phone or tablet. Additionally, each manufacturer had their own desktop software from which you can view the cameras.
However, what if you have a Hikvison camera, a Dahua PTZ, Amcrest, Reolink, Samsung, Uniview cameras that you wish to integrate into one place from which you can control and manage. In this guide, we will show various solutions on how to view and group your security camera in one place or main hub.
How to watch and control all your security cameras in one place?
There are a few easy ways to view your cameras in the same place. The most common methods include:
- Use an NVR that supports ONVIF
- Use a third-party computer-based software or phone app
- Use a NAS and used it as an NVR
Some of these methods are cheaper, others are a little bit more expensive but more reliable. It all depends on your budget and on the quality you’re looking for. For more details, keep reading the next sections.
Use a Network Video Recorder (NVR)
This is a recommended method that enables you to bring all the cameras under a central server (in this case, NVR). A Network Video Recorder serves as the main hub where all the cameras get connected and then you can access the NVR via a phone app and watch all your cameras in one place.
If all the cameras are the same brand, let’s say you got Hikvision cameras, then you need to go with a Hikvision NVR. Use the same NVR brand as the cameras. That’s because they are made by the same manufacturer and are optimized and tested out to work smoothly with each other.
If you’re using different cameras, then you need to go with an NVR that supports ONVIF. This is a protocol that enables security equipment from various brands to “talk” and connect to each other. The cameras need to be ONVIF compatible and the NVR should support this feature as well.
Nowadays almost all IP cameras and NVRs are ONVIF compatible, but you need to check the specs just to make sure. Then you go for an NVR that you’re more familiar with. Add the cameras to the recorder via the network, enter the credentials for each camera and they should show up there.
Pros of using an NVR include:
- 24/7 hours recording and you can extend the storage by installing extra hard drives
- View all the cameras at the same time by connecting the NVR to the TV using an HDMI cable
- Use the NVR’s phone app (or desktop software) to access the cameras remotely
- The NVR can be hooked up to an automation system
- Advanced motion detection and other smart features such as tripwire, line crossing, counting, etc, (depends on the NVR’s features).
Common NVRs that work with any ONVIF compliant IP cameras
Hikvision. This company is one of the largest in the world and offers reliable and affordable NVRs that support ONVIF cameras (including PTZ cameras).
Moreover, their NVRs support smart features such as line crossing, instruction detection, face detection, advanced motion detection, etc. If you need to record for a long timeframe, you can purchase an NVR that supports a high number of hard drives.
Dahua. This is another big name that offers affordable, reliable, and advanced features on their NVR product line. As a matter of fact, most of their NVRs are cheaper than Hikvision ones and their face/motion detection is really advanced.
Additionally, Dahua recorders support multiple hard drives and you can record for long periods of time (which means, the footage will be stored locally and not remotely in the cloud).
Amcrest. Another solution is Amcrest, it supports almost all ONVIF cameras and it’s quite a reliable NVR. Also, it supports features such as motion detection, intrusion lines, multiple hard drives.
There are other NVR brands as well, you just need to make sure that they support ONVIF cameras. But the brands listed above are the most popular ones and are proven to work reliably. Moreover, you can find a lot of technical guides about them online.
Each of these NVR features a native phone app and desktop software from which you can see the cameras remotely on your phone, playback, and perform other actions. Some recommendations are listed here.
For example, Hikvision uses IVMS-4500 or Hik-Connect for the phone and IVMS-4200 software for desktop. The apps are easy to use and very intuitive.
Use a third-party computer-based software or phone app
Another interesting method is using third-party software or apps which allow you to add the cameras and see all of them in the same place. There are third-party apps and desktop software that support various security camera brands serving as a central hub.
There are free and paid versions. Usually, the free ones support just a few cameras, and the features are limited. The paid ones support more cameras at the same time, all the smart features are available and the creator of the apps offers support as well.
Some recommended apps include tinyCAM Monitor (free and paid versions), IP Cam Viewer Pro, or Milestone XProtect Essential (free version) which allows you to display multiple cameras on the same device.
Some pros include:
- Easy to set up and use
- Relatively cheap and usually a one-time purchase.
- Smart features such as motion detection, face detection
- Background recording and motion detection
- Local and cloud video recording (on the phone or cloud services such as Drive, Amazon, Dropbox, etc).
- Two-way audio (mic and speaker)
- TV and home automation support
Some cons when using these apps:
- Not all the cameras are supported
- You need a dedicated phone or computer to use as a central hub
- It can be expensive to run a computer 24/7 (and sometimes not so reliable)
- Not all smart features are optimized
Computer-based software to view the security cameras in one place
Apart from third-party phone apps, there are softwares that can be installed on a computer that allows you to add the camera and manage them remotely and locally. These softwares offer basic features such as motion detection, personalized recordings (on the computer’s hard drives), etc.
The most popular computer-based applications (free versions and paid include):
- Blue Iris
- Milestone Xprotect Essential
- iSPY (Open source software)
- Luxriot Evo
- Zoneminder (Open source software, Linux only)
Keep in mind: you need to dedicate a computer to this software and it needs to be running 24/7 if you want your security system to be activated at all times. The footage will be recorded in the internal hard drives of the computer.
Use a NAS and used it as an NVR
NAS servers can serve as surveillance stations on which you can hook up all your cameras, record the footage and access it via a computer or phone.
NAS offers data reliability by using disk mirroring, is secure and you can use them for other things such as media server, mail server, FTP server, storage, use VPN, torrent, home automation, etc. The options are truly endless.
NAS servers also have Surveillance Station mobile apps so that you can view the same simultaneous live-view and recordings on your mobile device. For example, QNAP solutions are always recommended for security camera management (and much more).
There are a few options for bringing all your security cameras in one place. Having all of them in a single app or hub is very convenient since you can view, playback, and adjust the settings via a single app.
Each solution listed here has its pros and cons and ultimately it comes down to the budget and the technical knowledge of the user. While the computer-based softwares are a little bit more complicated, NVRs are easier to set up and they require basic network expertise.