Most of us have personal offices that we would like to keep tabs on while we are away. You could use a simple video capture app running in the background using a single webcam that can be placed thereabouts, but to ensure quality security and peace of mind, it might be best to consider a more robust solution that can go above and beyond a small hack job. When it comes to protecting your office equipment from theft, you really want the best product to satisfy the task.
NCH Software has their premier video surveillance software package called Eyeline. With one program, you can control and manage up to 100 individual camera feeds coming from both network and local (USB and Firewire) resources (enterprise edition only) as well as providing additional extras such as motion-activated recording, scheduling, and network access. This product does tout a rather impressive feature-set, but does it actually do a good job?
The main interface for Eyeline is quite intuitive and informative.
For my tests, I used my Windows 7 Professional machine along with my built in webcam and a secondary USB camera. As long as the cameras were properly installed and detected on Windows, Eyeline was able to scoop them up into the feed viewer just fine. In fact, when I went to select my cameras, I was able to configure input resolution and bitrate so that I could choose to either retain higher-quality capture files or save disk space.
Getting into the more detailed aspects of how recordings are handled, Eyeline isn't exactly using a cut-and-dry approach here. With the ability to record video based on detected motion, some new and interesting possibilities open up beyond potential disk space savings. Eyeline can send emails to an address you choose, effectively warning you of any suspicious activity as it happens. Of course, you can adjust the tolerances in Eyeline so that super short and abrupt motions don't cause the software to raise the alarm, saving actual recording for persistent, ongoing activity.
Saved recordings can be stored locally as WMV format files, with the additional option of sending recordings off to a network share or a remote FTP server for additional security, should the files be discovered on the host PC and be deliberately wiped clean away. If you are using FTP, just be sure you aren't using any fancy SFTP connection as only a basic password authentication scheme is supported at this time.
Now probably what has to be the coolest feature for Eyeline is the ability to access live feeds remotely via your web browser. This can be accomplished through the provided local IP address for internal use only, or optionally an external IP can be assigned so that you can view your cameras outside a corporate intranet. Just be warned that you will likely need to configure your router to set proper port forwarding in order to access your security system from the outside in.
Although the software is quite feature rich and offers great potential as a sizable asset to office security, I did have some concerns as well. If you aren't careful and save videos to a FAT32 formatted volume, Eyeline doesn't have a feature to automatically break video files into 2GB maximum chunks (should they ever reach that size in the first place). Therefore, recording could abruptly end, due to file system storage limitations. Just be sure your recording disks are formatted as NTFS or exFAT so that you don't run into this problem.
- Title: Eyeline Video Survelliance
- Author: NCH Software
- Supported operating systems: Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8
- Price: Between $49.99 and $295.99, depending on how many active cameras are desired
One other issue I noticed was that, at least with Windows 8, Eyeline would crash within a few seconds of starting a new security recording session, thus I was forced to force quit the app to close out entirely. It is possible that not all webcam, operating system, and other system hardware combinations can cause issues for some, which is why I ended up using my other Windows 7 machine. It is also reported online that Firewire cameras can be decidedly hit or miss, with some not detecting at all. Your best bet in this instance is to simply stick with USB connected webcams and you should have no problems.
Aside from these issues, NCH Software's security offering is definitely worth giving a try at least. As with their other products, they offer a free no-risk trial download so that you can give Eyeline a try and ensure that your hardware / software combination is fully supported. Because if it is, Eyeline has excellent features which can rival big name commercial video surveillance hardware kits which can cost much more.
When it comes down to what edition of the software you want to pick up, it ultimately depends on how many active cameras you want at once. I mentioned earlier that you can record up to 100 feeds at once, however, that capability is reserved for the most expensive enterprise edition. Thankfully, most small offices don't need an obscene amount of coverage and can make do with the lower priced versions that are available as well. All other features aside from active camera count are the exact same with each version of the product, so you don't have to worry about having to sacrifice further functionality.
An avid technology writer and an IT guru, Matthew is here to help bring the best in software, hardware and the web to the collective consciousness of TechRepublic's readership. In addition to writing for TechRepublic, Matthew currently works as a Customer Success Professional for Ultimate Software in Santa Ana, California.