Q&A: Accessing your security cameras from a Mac

Q I am trying to network two external CCTV systems so that I can monitor them online. There appears to be a plethora of PC apps, but OS X seems poorly served. Can you suggest any?

A Security camera and CCTV systems are very complex, and interfacing to them is highly dependent on the hardware.

Older systems which are still based on analogue technologies can be prohibitively difficult without spending a lot of money, but more recently they have switched to digital, and the best now operate over Ethernet networks using IP cameras similar to webcams.

There are many OS X and iOS apps which are available from the App and iTunes Stores which could work with your systems, including AtHome Video Streamer, Surveillix Remote, AirBeam, uNetCams and even uBabyCam. Most are free or very cheap, so it should not be expensive to try most of them out.

Avoid streaming your security images over your computer network if you can, so that they do not compete for bandwidth or cause problems with one another. You might join the two subnets with a bridge, or brouter (bridging router), perhaps, which would provide access from one to the other without mixing their traffic.

Comments If you are designing and installing a new security camera system, it makes sense to use components which network seamlessly with your Mac(s) and iOS devices, where cheap or free apps like IPCamViewer can access them. However you should be careful not to take up valuable bandwidth from your computer network.

Again, it is a good idea to operate them on their own subnet and WiFi frequencies, and bridge or broute them for access from your computer network. This can be fiddly and require care to set up, but it is worth the effort. If you use WiFi to connect any security devices, you must ensure that it operates very securely, or intruders would find it easy to hack into them; wired Ethernet cable is generally a better bet if practical.

Your insurer may insist on you bringing in professionals to select and install that equipment: it is worth checking with them first.

Updated from the original, which was first published in MacUser volume 30 issue 04, 2014.