How to Set Up a Webcam & See It on the Net
By Steve McDonnell
To set up a webcam and view it through the Internet, you need an IP webcam that connects to your network, usually through your Wi-Fi signal. While many IP webcams come with the capability for you to view the camera through the Internet, the camera streams the feed through the manufacturer's servers. If you'd rather see your webcam without streaming it through another company's server, you can change the setup parameters on your webcam and on your router, type an address into a browser and view a live feed directly from your webcam.
Set a Static IP Address for the Camera
To view a webcam on your network from the Internet, the webcam's IP address must be static. To set a fixed address for the camera, you can either change a setting on the webcam interface or on your router. On your webcam, change the connection settings from "DHCP" to "Static IP Address" or something similar, and enter a valid IP address for your network. On your router, navigate to the DHCP settings and choose the option to create a DHCP reservation. Enter the camera's MAC address and assign a fixed IP address. Power off and power on the webcam for the change to take effect, then type the static IP address you assigned into the address bar on a browser to make sure you can access the webcam from inside your network.
Forward a Port
Your router acts as a firewall to protect the devices inside your network from malicious users outside your network. To view your webcam from the Internet, you must create a "hole" in the firewall that you can look through to see the webcam. Edit the firewall settings on your router and choose the option to forward a port. Select and enter a port number between 1024 and 65535 and enter it as the "public" or "source" port. Enter "80" for the "private" or "destination" port. Finally, type the static IP address you previously assigned to the camera to link the port and the camera together.
You must know the public IP address for your network to view your webcam from the Internet. Locate the WAN IP address on your router's status page. Because your WAN IP address can change, consider signing up for a free dynamic DNS service (link in Resources). The service enables you to choose a subdomain that's updated with the network's current public IP address. Change the dynamic DNS setting on your router to automatically update the dynamic DNS service when your IP address changes.
You cannot test accessing your webcam from the Internet using a computer that's inside your firewall. Open a browser on your phone using a data connection (not your network's Wi-Fi connection) or test the webcam from a coffee shop or a friend's house. In a browser address bar, type "http://" and then either your public address or your dynamic DNS domain name, followed by a colon and the port number you assigned. For example, "http://188.8.131.52:6000" or "http://myhomenetwork.no-ip.biz:6000".
Steve McDonnell's experience running businesses and launching companies complements his technical expertise in information, technology and human resources. He earned a degree in computer science from Dartmouth College, served on the WorldatWork editorial board, blogged for the Spotfire Business Intelligence blog and has published books and book chapters for International Human Resource Information Management and Westlaw.