How to Troubleshoot Your Security System
It’s an unfortunate fact of life that no matter how hard you try, something will eventually go wrong. When that thing happens to be your security system, you’re suddenly vulnerable to every threat that system protected you against. Whether your entire server fizzled out or if a single camera is on the fritz, you’ll call in reinforcements to troubleshoot and repair security cameras, burglar alarms, and access control systems.
If you call Safe and Sound Security with anything other than a catastrophe, you might get routed through to me. I pick up four or five calls a week and try to help solve remote viewing problems, mobile app troubles, or issues our techs run into in the field during installation. Troubleshooting security systems really isn’t that difficult as long as you are equipped with the right information
I’m James, by the way. If you’ve been reading our blogs with any regularity, you’ve heard from me a lot. I started here as an intern, and now I’m the Content Coordinator. I started my college career in journalism, mostly because I like exploring a lot of different topics. When I write about something, I want to at least understand the basics, so I do a lot of research as I compile my notes into a finished product.
I kept and developed that habit as I moved on to creating web content outside the newsroom, so after a few months here I had a pretty good understanding of security networks and surveillance cameras. After writing installation manuals, setup guides, and a dozen blogs on the topic, I know enough to troubleshoot some of the problems our customers were having.
In the time I’ve been at the help desk, troubleshooting security systems, I’ve seen three basic types of problems, all for residential surveillance systems: hardware failure, router issues, and remote viewing problems.
Let’s say you’re out of the house when you decide to check in on your cameras. You pop open the app and notice you can’t see your live feed. It could be any of the three aforementioned problems, and the only way I can determine which kind is to ask a bunch of questions. Troubleshooting is nothing more than cross-checking what should be happening with what is happening.
It’s a basic fact that sometimes, stuff just breaks. Normal wear and tear, factory defects, or improper handling can contribute to damaged equipment. Sometimes we get a bad hard drive or a faulty NVR, and we don’t know that until we unbox and install it at your home or business. Sometimes your five-year-old camera finally decides to give up the ghost after years of working just fine. Regardless of how or why a failure occurs, troubleshooting hardware problems means sending a tech out to your location and testing each part of the system until we find the problem and replace it.
Tracing a hardware problem is one of the easier issues security systems face. If only one camera isn’t working, we know one of three things is faulty: the camera, the wire, or that camera’s port on the NVR. In that case, we’d switch out the camera; if that works, the camera was broken. If it doesn’t, we test the ends of the wire; if we don’t get a signal, we run a new wire and we’re done. If all else fails, we try the cable in a different port on the NVR, which will show us if that port was malfunctioning.
Routers are without a doubt the most problematic part of your security system, largely because they’re a third-party device we have to integrate with to enable remote viewing. Every Internet Service Provider has a different interface on their routers, and with additional firewalls the list of possibilities (read: potential issues) grows exponentially. Troubleshooting a port forwarding issue on a router is even more difficult because you’re dependent on that little box; it’s your Internet gateway, and we have a hard time asking you to turn it off or reset it to factory conditions because we know it’s important to you. As if that’s not bad enough, I’ve yet to see a router that has an intuitive, easy-to-navigate interface. Admittedly, when I’m the one looking at a router, it’s because something isn’t working, so I’m only seeing the worst.
All of those properties combine to make a long troubleshooting process because there are so many places the problem might be. If I can’t remote into your computer and start scanning through menus to find the settings I need to change, we might have to send a technician out there just to figure out what’s wrong – and we might not even know how to fix it at that point. It might not even be something we can fix. You might have to talk to your ISP and change some things around before we can do our part.
Remote Viewing Problems
While trouble viewing your live feeds remotely is tied to your router, troubleshooting your remote app is blessedly simple in comparison to dealing with your router. The apps we use list all relevant settings and credentials in one convenient tab, so I just ask you to go down the list and read off all the fields. I usually find a mismatched entry in the first three or four pieces of information, and solving that problem is as simple as entering the right data instead.
It’s almost always a DDNS or password issue. Dynamic Domain Name System troubles are either because the DNS is entered wrong in your app, or the service that ties that domain to your ever-changing IP address hasn’t been updated in a while. Both are easy to fix – either we re-enter the right domain name or I go in and update the hosting service manually.
For password problems, you just need to enter the right password. Mistyping on a touchscreen is unfortunately quite common. If you don’t remember your password and can’t find it written down anywhere, we might have to take an extra step and reset it. Resetting your password can take some time, and I’ve got to physically be at your NVR to do it, so it’s not a quick fix, but it’s a simple one.
No matter your security issue, I know you want it resolved right away. So do I – our ultimate goal is to secure your home or business as completely and efficiently as possible. If you’re having trouble with your surveillance cameras, access control readers, electric door locks, or your burglar alarm, call your security professionals as soon as you can.