Like most people, I am not a big fan of most home security systems as they often come with lengthy contracts, in addition to a monitoring company being alerted to every false alarm being set off by family members. Yes, keeping your home safe should be a big priority, but not in every case does a traditional system make sense. Every home is different, as are the needs of the occupants.
Webcam/network camera solutions
Regardless of the OS you use, there are a number of great options you can use to assist in keeping your home under a watchful eye. Whether it’s relying on motion detection technology or something that just works as a DVR, the only real challenge here is locating the right software for the job. Well, that and selecting the right kind of camera to make everything come together.
In a perfect world, you’re going to want to use a network cam vs. a webcam, as it can be run with Ethernet cable instead of using a USB cable. Even better, go Wi-Fi.
Selecting the right software
Windows - While there are dozens of great programs for this platform, I have heard great things about the application called Webcam Monitor. It provides motion/sound detection, which triggers recording. It can alert you via text or email, plus it will upload video to a remote location like an FTP server.
Linux - Having tried a number of options, I’ve found the best solution providing much of the functionality above is from an application called ZoneMinder. Multiple zones for monitoring multiple cameras, sending email alerts — it’s got some fantastic features. You can even control camera movement with this software.
OS X - I think that based on my review of most of the software out there, SecuritySpy remains among the best of the choices out there. Multiple cams, camera control, FTP images/video, motion detection. You name it, this application for OS X is a good choice.