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I would like to install a webcam (better if an independent ethernet based object) at home, and access it from outside while I'm abroad, so I can check if there's mail. However, my internet connection at home provides me a dhcp address from an internal network. What kind of cam product and/or network trick can I use to securely access a webcam from outside ?

Edit: clarification. Unfortunately, I don't have any public IP address granted by my setup at home, so I cannot set up any port forwarding. From outside, I cannot access any machine that is connected to my ADSL router, simply because there's no internet IP to connect to. As far as I see, the only solution is to have the cam connect and send its stream to a server on the internet, whom I can connect to, and harvest this stream. Things like setting up a VPN are also a possibility.

I would like to know if there's a prepackaged product that allows this solution easily and without hassle.

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Probably the easiest option would be to have it publish a snapshot every x minutes or hours to a website, which you could then control with some sort of password-based authentication. Accessing the camera directly will be much more difficult and probably not worth the hassle if all you need to do is check your mail.

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We had an ethernet based security camera like this at work. We accessed it remotely by:

  • have the router assign it a fixed IP, like 192.168.1.20
  • the web camera has a built in webserver on port 8080, so internally we access it like "http://192.168.1.20:8080". The webserver also had a java plugin that shows the live video feed.
  • forward your external-IP-address:8080 to 192.168.1.20:8080. You can then check your security camera by http://your.domain.com:8080

Also, our security camera allowed you to choose the port for webserver access, though you could just handle that with the router.

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What you propose does not sound possible with my situation, as I only have a ADSL router that gives to the plugged in device a DHCP assigned internal IP address. I don't have any external address in my setup, except a personal website with ssh access I could use, but in any case I could not forward anything from this website to the private ip address I obtain at home. – Stefano Borini Jul 22 '09 at 21:50
    
You always have a public IP address (myip.dnsomatic.com). If it's not static, you can use DynDNS. – hyperslug Jul 22 '09 at 22:16
    
What brand ADSL router do you have? It should be capable of port forwarding. If your DSL is residential class, your ISP will probably block a few ports (80, 25, etc.). – hyperslug Jul 22 '09 at 22:26
    
Of course I have a public IP address, but it's the address of the NAT host, which is managed by my provider. – Stefano Borini Jul 24 '09 at 20:14

You can use DynDNS to maintain a single, memorable address which is mapped to your IP such as mycam.dyndns.com. Your PC will update the DynDNS website every time it acquires a new lease providing it your routers IP. Then simply set up port forwarding on your router to your PC, and make sure that PC has a DHCP reservation in place from the router so it can always connect.

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There are a number of IP cameras out there on the market with a whole slew of specifications that may meet your needs.

Will you need night viewing? (IR Cut Filter, IR emitter, auto iris) Do you need to store a recording? (NVR software) What resolution and framerate do you need? Do you have an outlet near the camera for the power supply, or a PoE injector/switch?

If watching a mailbox is all you need, then you don't need anything fancy at all. Axis cameras, which was linked in hyperslug's post would probably be overkill since that tends to be a higher end brand. I am fond of ACTi for the value, but even then, they still may be too much camera for what you need. Shop around, look for a camera that will do what you need - almost any IP based CCTV camera would have a built in web server. That's part of why they cost more than analogs, they do a lot more on board.

The solution of port forwarding is a pretty solid one though, I'd vote it up if I had the rep here.

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  1. Make sure the computer/device that you'll be accessing from the internet is as secure as possible (firewall, security updates, intrustion detection, etc.)
  2. Assign a static IP to the webcam/wherever the camera output is located.
  3. Have your router do Port Forwarding to the webcam/wherever the camera output is.
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