What’s an IP Camera?

In a world where electronic devices are becoming more ubiquitous, we’ve become curious about things that connect us further. Since ADSL internet connections were left behind in favor of heavier Ethernet and fiber-based alternatives, we’ve seen a strong surge of video products that allow us to communicate with others and watch over things we hold valuable. When you were out on the market for a new webcam, you might have noticed some similar products known as IP cameras. If you’re wondering what those are, you’ve come to the right place!

What Is an IP Camera?

In short, an IP camera allows you to monitor things and record footage for extended periods. It’s a device that you should be using if you want to protect your home or business. It has many chief differences that set it apart from a webcam, hence the need for a new name. While you can perform many of the functions of an IP camera on a webcam, the hassle of doing so – and the lack of quality you get in the picture – makes the webcam less than ideal.

IP Cameras vs. Webcams


Keep in mind that this isn’t a comparison of performance. Webcams and IP cameras are made simply to serve different functions.

These are the primary differences between the two:

  • Expect a better frame rate with IP cameras. They are made to capture every single movement while minimizing blurs that may cause a court of law to question any videos you may use as evidence.
  • IP cameras are more focused on rigidity, meaning they’ll be more durable in outdoor conditions. Some have IP67 certification, which means they’re┬ádust-proof and waterproof.
  • Most IP cameras are wireless, while most webcams are wired. This allows them to be installed in locations that don’t have computers nearby. Cable length shouldn’t be an issue.
  • IP cameras can stream video to multiple receivers. You can also control multiple cameras from one computer.
  • IP cameras have advanced features like low-light optimization and night vision. This allows for night time surveillance. Webcams depend largely on room lighting for the picture.

Things To Look Out For If You’re Buying One

Now that you know the difference between an IP camera and a webcam, you can make an informed decision as to whether this is what you really need. If you’re in the market for an IP camera, there are a few things you should look for in these devices:

  • Consider your lighting situation. If you don’t have a light on 24/7 wherever your camera will be facing, you’re going to need one with night vision. Most surveillance IP cameras have infrared-sensitive sensors and infrared-emitting LEDs on the optics. This will allow them to continue filming in total darkness, receiving the reflected infrared radiation from their LEDs.
  • This is a no-brainer, but I’m still going to say it: Get the highest-resolution camera you can afford. 720p should suffice, but 1080p will always yield better. Don’t get a lower resolution unless you’re doing something like watching your child while you’re at work. You need the clearest picture if it will ever be used as evidence.
  • Remote pan and zoom functions are always an enormous plus!
  • Watch for cameras that can be managed through a mobile device.
  • Get a camera capable of communicating through 802.11g or n. This will ensure a crisp image. The “g” and “n” refer to wireless protocols that directly affect the available transmission bandwidth. For best results, use 802.11n (you’ll also need a router that can communicate with the same protocol). This will spare you enough bandwidth for anything else you’re doing on Wi-Fi with your other devices.
  • If your camera is outside your home or business, get something tamper-proof.

IP cameras used to be much more expensive and cumbersome to install. Now, they’re extremely versatile and convenient. Just don’t make the mistake of using a webcam as a surveillance device. They’re just not made for that purpose.


The advent of IP cameras has made it much simpler to keep a home or business safe. These cameras have significant differences that make them more advantageous to this particular purpose than using simple webcams. If you have any questions about IP cameras, ask them in the comments section!

Miguel Leiva-Gomez Miguel Leiva-Gomez

Miguel has been a business growth and technology expert for more than a decade and has written software for even longer. From his little castle in Romania, he presents cold and analytical perspectives to things that affect the tech world.


  1. If I were your boss, I’d fire you.
    What?!? You can’t even tell us what “IP” stands for? Shame on you.

    You’re not a writer. Don’t know what you are, but it’s not a writer.

    Good journey.

    1. I’m sorry. I thought that “IP” was a convention that people were used to. This is an article about the difference between two devices, not a piece on the Internet Protocol and everything else stacked on top of it. Should I be asked to explain what Wi-Fi is in every article I write regarding wireless connections? Am I writing a simple guide or a textbook?

      1. I agree with Dan!
        A simple “(Internet Protocol)” following your 1st “IP” would have saved a lot of wondering for me too.
        I know IP stands for internet protocol but I didn’t know if it was the proper abbreviation for this situation.I was about to search the net for IP till I read his comment.

        If you’re going to get so huffy every time someone calls you out on your mistakes, then maybe writing blogs for public consumption isn’t for you after all.

        1. beware the trolls Miguel, you were called out in a manner that can easily justify your response. If the OP had not resorted to ad hominem in the first place we would not be having this conversation. LOL

      2. Wow! These guys are ruff! Maybe they need a lesson in internet etiquette. Or maybe take a ride over to cnet so they can see what bad writing really is. Your article was written the way it’s supposed to be written. It clarified the differnce for me. Don’t take them too seriously. Step back and look where you are then look right then left and see where they are. Good job my friend.

      3. You’re right. You are sorry, as a writer.
        You apparently have no empathy for your readers at all.
        This suggests you have psychological problems. Figure it out.
        Currently, you have no business writing for readers.

        Recognize your fault in the matter and learn from it.
        You screwed up. Admit it. That’s what real men do.

        Here’s a great piece of advice for you, to keep folks from grumbling about your lousy entries – Don’t Write. There. All solved.

        WRITE CRAP – GET CRAPPY RESPONSES. See how that works?

        Good journey

  2. I do this for a living. Installing cameras, home automation, networking, Linux system administration, etc. I will never recommend to one of my customers that they should get a wireless IP camera unless it is absolutely needed. If you want a good IP camera and you want it to have a stable internet connection, please for the love of God and country, get a WIRED IP camera. You may have to run some Ethernet cables or pay someone else to do it but it is 10 times better than relying on crummy Wi-Fi.

    1. Wi-Fi could be reliable if you use the proper hardware and don’t connect too many simultaneous devices to it. The problem with Wi-Fi is that there aren’t many routers with chipsets capable of distributing the load evenly. It’s more of a first-come first-serve kind of transmission.

      But I think you’re talking about signal strength distribution, which could get a little iffy across greater distances and through walls. That can be disconcerting, and for outdoor installations, I’d also highly recommend using a wired Ethernet-based camera.

      Good call.

  3. I agree with dtigue, the idea of attempting to find any sort of router that would allow the high amount of traffic through would be fruitless, wires all the way for me, but my problem is remote viewing of a network of cameras using a mobile phone,

    Many customers like to be able to check up on their property whilst away on business. I don’t seem to be able to find an all round solution to this problem.

    Sorry to be off topic a little

    1. That’s not off topic. It’s actually spot-on. We’re talking about IP cameras, and you’re talking about IP cameras. Ergo, you’re on topic.

      Anyway, regarding your issue, you would need a camera that supports mobile software and remote server capabilities. This means leaving a computer on 24/7 and configuring it in such a way that its public IP address remains visible. You could use services like no-ip.com to make a dynamic DNS that you can connect to remotely.

      And then, once you’re done configuring your DNS, you would be able to connect to the cam server from anywhere. Of course, this is assuming that the cameras you set up have this capability.

    2. For our setups we usually are putting the cameras in while also doing a Control4 Home Automation install. So the viewing outside of the local network is handled a lot of the times on the controller end. I have done some setups though and one of the best setups tends to be using a good camera that allows you to use a dynamic DNS setting like Miguel mentioned. I personally think if this is something the customer KNOWS that they will use a lot then get them to purchase a domain name and then set it up. You could maybe have them test it out using no-ip.com or something similar to see if they like that feature and if so then have them purchase a domain name. The reason I suggest that is because companies that offer free dynamic DNS features always seem to either change from being a free service or they shut down due to lack of funds.

    3. Personally I prefer wired ethernet over WiFi, because our floor heating system and robust reinforced construction of my house reduces field strength remarkably: I had to install an AirPort for each level. Another advantage for wired ethernet would be a camera with PoE (power over Ethernet). Our company phones are PoE, which is fabulous.
      For house surveillance I would recommend everyone to look for a NAS solution from Synology.com. They have devices with IP camera input and are able to record changes in the video signal, which can be watched via Internet with any browser and on mobiles too.
      Dan’s reply did indeed have a nice impact: It triggered several excellent other replies with often more interesting content, than his reply.

      1. PoE is quite magnificent, isn’t it? Particularly for these purposes, PoE presents a significant convenience.

  4. Thank you for your well written informative article. Don’t worry about the trolls, the subject matter is not expected to be understood by ill-mannered children.

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