Electronic security comes in many flavors, but video surveillance offers an advantage that no traditional alarm system can touch: You get a nice little recording of the guy who broke into your house, which can be invaluable in tracking down the perp whodunit when it comes time to prosecute. In combination with a traditional alarm, this can be a powerful one-two punch of protection for the paranoid.
Unfortunately, traditional CCTV recording systems are complex and costly, leaving them appropriate only for commercial structures or Hefner-class compounds. Sure, you can set up a webcam and point it at anything, but without a solid recording system, motion detection, and an alert mechanism, its value is limited at best.
Logitech fills this hole with a powerful yet simple digital video security system called Logitech Alert. Available in indoor (750i; $300) and weatherproof outdoor (750e; $350) flavors, Alert gives you ready-to-go security that connects to your existing network and records video directly to both internal memory on the camera and your PC¿s hard drive.
Setup is a breeze: Plug in the camera to A/C power and mount it on the wall (hardware is included), use a suction cup to stick it to a window, or just drop it on a shelf. A master receiver—the system can manage up to six cameras—plugs into your router. Once you¿ve bought one master system, you can add extra cameras for $230 (internal) or $280 (external) each.
On paper, the Alert system is just about perfect. The cameras can record whether the computer running the control software is off or on, storing up to 2GB of HD video on internal microSD cards. The Logitech Alert software is surprisingly powerful, letting you set up zones wherein it will ignore motion (such as if you have areas of sky in focus), and you can get on-demand playback anytime, including audio if you want it. The external camera has outstanding night vision support, and shoots clear images in near total darkness. Pay $80 a year and you can watch live video online from any web browser, without the client software. There¿s even an iPhone app that lets you get a live feed from anywhere.
The only problem I encountered with all of this, after a few weeks of testing, was the nagging problem of the cameras abruptly jumping off and back on the network, which I chalk pretty squarely on Logitech¿s baffling decision to use HomePlug powerline networking for the cameras¿ communication system to the master unit instead of Wi-Fi. Powerline networking may be better today than it¿s ever been, but it’s clearly still buggy to the point where I never felt I could rely on the Alert video to be live at any given moment. Yes, the cameras still record even if the network can¿t see them, but without live video, a critical piece of the puzzle is distressingly lacking.