CCTV vs smart home security cameras: What’s the difference and which is best?

DMCA / Correction Notice
- Advertisement -

When it comes to protecting your assets from cameras, there are two different avenues. The first of the two and the more common is the traditional CCTV system, where a set of cameras records footage in a central storage unit, ready for viewing on a dedicated monitor.

- Advertisement -

is one of the second best home security cameras, which stores its footage either in the cloud or locally, or on a micro SD card or built-in memory, so it can be viewed remotely via a web interface or smartphone app.

There is a degree of overlap between these two approaches, with CCTV systems from companies like Swan and Reolink inheriting some of the smart features offered by home security cameras from tech firms like Ring and Nest.


So which one should you choose? It really depends on what you are looking for in home security which one of these security cameras you choose. Do you want a system that once installed can be left to your devices, secure in the knowledge that anything that happens will have a record that you can access immediately.

However, do you want a more affordable system that records only when motion is detected and swaps out cables for a wireless Internet connection?

Read on to learn how CCTV and home security camera systems differ, or check out the best prices for home security cameras right now:

How is CCTV different from smart home security cameras?

First, the traditional CCTV system. The clue here is in the name – closed circuit television – because the footage is captured by cameras that are usually connected by long cables to a central recorder. The footage can then be viewed on a monitor or your television, which is also connected to the recorder. It is a closed-loop system, which traditionally does not have a minimal connection to the Internet.

With the arrival of smart home security camera systems from companies like Google-owned Nest and Amazon-owned Ring, CCTV manufacturers have started adding additional features, including smartphone app support, motion notifications, and more. These features are usually included with the initial cost of the system, not offered as part of a monthly subscription service, as is often the case with smart security cameras.

The advantages of a CCTV system lie in its simplicity and reliability. Wired connections between cameras and recorders ensure that footage is captured without interference or the risk of wireless connections failing, or draining the camera’s battery. These cameras are used outdoors, so they are water resistant and designed to survive exposure to the elements.

CCTV systems record everything, or at least they include the option to do so. This means that the amount of footage recorded is limited only by the size of the hard drive recorded by the camera, and an entire timeline of the footage can be viewed rather than just motion-triggered snippets, as is the case with most smart home security. Happens in the case of cameras. . Some systems from firms like Sansco, Annke and Swann have motion detection, which alerts you via email or app notifications.

Almost all CCTV systems come with infrared-powered night vision. Some smart home cameras miss this, or lack the limits of CCTV systems (that is, how far night vision can see), but it’s a feature that’s becoming more common across the board.

A CCTV system is a way to record footage locally, by recording in a central unit with an integrated hard drive. Instead of being uploaded to the cloud or streamed to a smartphone, footage is stored on a drive that is located on-site. It removes middlemen and issues that can arise from a cloud storage provider going out of business, suffering an outage, or being the target of a cyber attack.

On the other hand, recording footage locally also means that online backup is not available in case the original is lost or damaged. If the recorder is lost in a fire or flood, so does the footage stored on its hard drive. Another downside to CCTV systems is how limited they are by the size of their hard drives, while many smart home security camera companies offer unlimited online storage as part of a monthly subscription.

One pros and cons of a CCTV system is how the cameras are set up. Typically intended to be fitted outside, cameras can be mounted on an exterior wall to get a great view of the top. But getting them and their wired connections to fit requires far more effort than many smart, wireless and web-connected cameras. There are some wireless CCTV cameras available, but still in the minority.

  • How to Use a Home Security Camera and Will It Replace a Video Doorbell?
  • Do home security cameras record all the time
  • We Ask a Former Thief: Do Smart Security Cameras Really Stop Crime?

What sets home security cameras apart from CCTV?

Now for smart home security cameras. Instead of working on a closed circuit, they upload footage to their manufacturer’s cloud storage services. From there, footage can be streamed or downloaded via a smartphone app or web interface. This means there is no need to manage the recording of the footage itself, as is the case with CCTV, and lets customers watch the recording whenever they want, wherever they are from. This also means that the camera feed can be viewed live from anywhere through the app.

These cameras are offered as both wired and wireless devices, the latter using rechargeable batteries. This can be really useful for installation, as no cables are required, but it means the owner needs to keep an eye on battery life, and potentially turn off the camera while the battery is charging . Some home security cameras can also record footage to a microSD card instead of uploading video to the cloud.

Artificial intelligence is something that many home security cameras come with. This enables them to identify people, pets, cars and packages, helping notify you only when something unusual is happening, rather than when the cat next door is walking the lawn again. Some models can even recognize your friends and family, using tagged faces in your iPhone photo library with Apple’s HomeKit system to notify Siri, which tells you who’s seen at the door, and Google’s Nest range employs facial recognition and alerts you through the app if a stranger or friend or family has been seen within the camera’s field of view. .

Another key feature that sets most home security cameras apart from CCTV systems is two-way audio, where the camera consists of a microphone and a speaker, allowing a conversation between someone recorded by the camera. and the other watches live through a smartphone app. This can be useful for telling the delivery driver where to leave the package, or to scare off a potential intruder by telling them they are being recorded.

Unlike CCTV, smart security cameras are also designed to work indoors. Brands like Nest, Ring, and Arlo all offer cameras suitable for indoor use; They lack weatherproofing and are powered by USB, but are smaller, more affordable, easier to use, and often pack a range of AI-powered smart features. They can be used as a regular security camera, trained at the front door and geared to record a burglar, or sit at a table while you are at work. Or get ready to stream live footage of your dog acting as a baby monitor.

This flexibility separates home security cameras from a traditional CCTV system. While the former can be used like CCTV, and the latter now feature app integration and even Alexa support in some cases, smart security cameras have more use cases than CCTV – such as Dog or child monitors and video doorbells.


Both CCTV and home security cameras can monitor your home when you’re not around and provide a record of what happened, so if you need to review an incident, footage is readily available. . If you are looking for a simple system that records all the time and provides local footage that does not depend on the Internet, a CCTV system is the best option.

Meanwhile, home security cameras are the more affordable option and while most don’t record all the time, they can be used inside or outside, are easy to fit without needing a professional.

  • See the Best Cheap Home Security Camera Deals

- Advertisement -

Stay on top - Get the daily news in your inbox

Recent Articles

Related Stories