Nest's Dropcam outage reveals the downside of online-only IP cameras

For a few hours last night, Dropcam users couldn’t access their camera feeds at all.

Nest Cam
Nest Labs

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Some Dropcam and Nest Cam users may have felt a little less secure last night, when a service outage rendered the IP cameras inaccessible for several hours.

The outage also affected other Nest products, including Nest Learning Thermostats and Protect smoke detectors. Nest acknowledged the outage at 9:28 p.m. Eastern time, and restored service at 12:48 a.m. The Alphabet-owned company hasn’t explained exactly what caused the lengthy outage, but is encouraging users to contact customer support if problems persist.

For Nest thermostat owners, the outage was a small inconvenience, preventing remote control via Nest’s mobile and web apps. Users could still adjust the temperature directly on the Nest itself, just like a regular thermostat.

However, Dropcam and Nest Cam users don’t have that kind of offline fallback. Accessing the camera feed requires an Internet connection to Dropcam’s servers, rendering the cameras worthless during an outage.

Not surprisingly, local Wi-Fi access for Dropcam is one of the most popular user requests. Still, Dropcam has insisted that this feature isn’t worth doing. “While we recognize there are times when this could be a useful addition to the product, we believe a cloud-based service ultimately provides a simpler and more secure solution for the majority of customers,” Dropcam said on its support forums last October. “Because of this, we do not plan on offering a local storage option at this time.”

The impact on you at home: Dropcam’s online-only approach does have its benefits, the biggest being that you won’t lose footage if an intruder swipes your camera or destroys your hard drive. But when an outage does happen, this approach leaves you without any fallback. It’s just a trade-off to keep in mind if you’re debating between Dropcam and an alternative that does local storage.

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