Ubiquiti UniFi Security Cameras
Full disclosure: As I always do, I want to make sure you know up front why I am writing this beyond the obvious reasons of love of writing and website traffic and information for you the users. I have a customer who wants to add security cameras to their property, so I decided to dive more deeply into the various types. I don’t get any kick backs from Ubiquiti for writing this article. It is for my and your information only.
There are a lot of options on the market today for security system cameras. You can buy stand alone systems with an included DVR for less than $1000. I am not criticizing any of those systems. You have to choose a system that is appropriate for your needs.
I love Ubiquiti hardware. It is really well built and very reliable. The lone exception at this point is the Gen 1 UniFi Cloud Key Controller. That was not a great product. It worked but had issues. Anyway, that is a different article all by itself.
Since I am setting up a Ubiquiti based network for a customer, I thought I would examine the options for a Ubiquiti based camera system. It does not require a cloud subscription. It stores files locally on site, so you control your video files ALWAYS! I love that about this system. And you won’t have another subscription fee hanging out there to worry about.
Currently, Ubiquiti has 8 cameras to choose from for their UniFi Protect “system”. I put system in quotes because it is up to the installer to create a system out of the parts that Ubiquiti offers. This brings us to the first CON of Ubiquiti. It is easy to install and use, but you have to have a vision for what you want to do with the system and some patience to figure out what products you need.
Breakdown of Ubiquiti’s Cameras
Here is a rundown of the available cameras. NOTE: the 4K cameras are currently out of stock (as of this writing).
You will need to pair the cameras you purchase with an NVR (Network Video Recorder). You can do this several different ways with Ubiquiti. The first way is to buy a UniFi Cloud Key Gen 2 Plus (UCK-G2-PLUS) with a built in hard drive. The stock hard drive is 1TB but can be upgraded to 5TB.
Ubiquiti UniFi Cloud Key Gen2 Plus (UCK-G2-PLUS)
It is kind of a bummer that the drive included with the cloud key is a conventional drive and not an SSD, but I still like the convenience of having your NVR drive included with your controller software. It is a nice and neat solution.
The second way you can add the NVR is to purchase UniFi Dream Machine Pro. The dream machine takes it to another level. It includes an 8-port switch and security gateway. It includes an NVR that supports off the shelf 3.5″ hard drives. The 8 port switch has all 1 Gbps ports. You can use the 10G fiber ports on the dream machine to join it with another switch if you need more ports. The machine has a 1.7GHz quad-core processor and costs $379. One big CON with the dream machine is that it does not include a PoE switch. You will have to add a UniFi PoE switch if you need it for your AP’s.
Sample Network Setup
Here is an example network setup you could use with a dream machine.
Stand Alone Video Recording
Finally, if you need a lot of video recording capability (maybe for a larger installation), you can use the UniFi Protect Network Video Recorder. It has four drive bays and can store up to 30 days of video recording for up to 15 – 4K cameras. Or you can store up to 30 days for 50 HD (1080P) cameras. With this setup, you would need a UniFi Gen 2 Controller and a UniFi secure gateway (to add a firewall) as well.
UniFi Protect NVR
Many times cameras are not close to the PoE switch that you are connecting them to. The max distance you can run a Cat5, Cat6 or Cat6a cable is 328 feet (100m). That is not going to cut it when you have to put say a UniFi Protect G3 Dome camera 1000 feet from your switch.
To help with that, I looked and found an Outreach Max. It is a device that is basically a PoE signal maintainer. You place one every 100m of run up to 2625 feet for low power cameras. For a UniFi Protect G3 Dome (4W of PoE consumption), you could place it 2625 feet from the switch. The device costs $134. I don’t get any kickbacks for this, so shop around. However, it is at least for sale here: LINK.
Outreach Max PoE Extender
- Cameras: The camera selection is really dependent on what you need to cover at your business. You have to decide what you need to cover and then how many cameras you need. Do you need a wide field of view (like a parking lot) or a narrow focus (like on an entrance door)? How many of each? I think the HD cameras (1080P) are more than enough capability at the moment. 4K would be nice, but they are sold out and they cost considerably more than the standard HD cameras.
- Controller/NVR: I prefer the UniFi Cloud Key Gen 2 Plus (UCK-G2-PLUS) to host the controller software and serve as an NVR. Then I would add a UniFi Secure Gateway to add a firewall between your network and the internet.
- Network Ports: I would add an 8 port PoE switch (minimum) like the UniFi Switch PoE 8.
- Access Points: I would add however many access points that I needed to cover the customer’s business. I would use either the UAP-AC-Pro or UAP-AC-HD. The HD has better coverage and range capabilities not to mention better wi-fi speed.
- Video Viewing: I would buy a second monitor for whatever PC I want to use (like the office admin’s PC for example) to show the cameras on a screen 24/7.
I hope this article helps someone evaluate and choose cameras and equipment for their project. – Erik