Many of the top-end security cameras have similar specs: 1080p cameras, night vision and person detection. However, for saving, storing and reviewing the footage from those cameras, there are many differences in the companies' plans.
We compared the video-storage plans offered by five of the top security-camera companies — Amazon, Arlo, Canary, Nest, and Ring — to see which one offers the best value. As it turns out, Ring and Arlo are tops.
Update (6/3/19): Apple will begin offering cloud storage for HomeKit-connected cameras from Eufy, Logitech, and Netatmo security cameras. Video footage will be securely analyzed on a HomePod, iPad, or Apple TV device before being encrypted and sent to iCloud for storage. If you have a 200GB iCloud storage plan ($2.99/month), you can store 10 days of footage from one camera for free. If you have a 2TB iCloud plan ($9.99 per month), you can store footage from up to five cameras.
If you don't sign up for a subscription plan, most cameras are limited not only in how much video footage you can view but also in what features are enabled. Here's a summary of the features available in each company's subscription plan (and a source for more details on each product).
Amazon Cloud Cam: 24-hour history for up to three cameras, download and share clips.
Read our full review: Amazon Cloud Cam: Great, But Not the Best
Canary: One-day history, video clips, activity zones, person detection, for up to four cameras.
Full review: Canary Security Cam: This Camera Is So Much More Than a Surveillance Device
Nest: 3-hour history and snapshots of significant events.
Full review: Nest Cam IQ Review: Face Recognition, for a Price
Arlo: Download and save seven days of recordings for up to five cameras.
Full review: Arlo Q: The Security Camera to Beat
Ring: Share live video.
Full review: Ring Video Doorbell 2: A Solid Video Doorbell for Any Door
If you want to go the free route, consider the Arlo cameras, which offer the most recording history for the greatest number of cameras.
Paid Subscription Features
When you step up to paid plans, each company offers extra features in addition to cloud recordings. We'll get to the pricing in a moment, but here are the features that are enabled once you subscribe to a plan.
Amazon: Continuous recording; Person detection; Activity zones
Canary: Unlimited video downloads; desktop streaming; two-way talk; custom arming modes
Nest: Continuous recording; Person detection; Facial recognition; Activity zones
Arlo: Unlimited support; Person detection; activity zones, e911 (contacts emergency services near your camera's location)
Ring: Lets you save and review recorded video and share it with others
Arlo users can also subscribe to a CVR (continuous video recording) Plan, which will continuously record video to the cloud. However, you can only view this video, not download it. A 14-day CVR plan costs $10/$100 per camera, and a 30-day CVR plan costs $20/$200 per camera. The price plan for each additional camera is 50 percent less.
Security Camera Storage Plans Compared: Basic Plans
We kept Canary and Netgear out of this tier, as their least expensive plans are $10 per month. Arlo's add-on provides enhanced notifications to your phone's lock screen, lets you set motion zones, and has person detection. In this bracket, Ring's plan is the most economical if you have only two cameras, such as an indoor camera and a video doorbell. Any more cameras, and Amazon's plan makes more financial sense.
Mid-Tier Video Storage Plans
If you have $100 to spend per year on cloud storage, Ring's plan again makes the most sense, as you can add an unlimited number of cameras and you get up to 60 days of storage. In second place is Arlo, which gets you 30 days of storage for up to 10 cameras.
For its Smart Premier and Smart Elite plans, Arlo doesn't allow you to add additional cameras above the allotted amount. If you want more, you would have to either create a second account or use one of Arlo's business plans. Likewise, if you want to use more than five of Amazon's cameras, you'll need to upgrade to its Pro plan.
Premium Video Storage Plans
Neither Canary nor Ring offer any plans that cost over $10 a month, but Amazon, Nest and Arlo do. In looking at the options, though, we found that none are as competitive as Ring's $10 plan. Arlo's is the next most cost-effective. Prices for Nest cameras can quickly spiral out of control, even though adding service for each additional camera costs half as much. Amazon's service can accommodate no more than 10 cameras.
If you're going the free route, Arlo offers the best value. If you're looking for a paid plan that costs less than $10 per year, then we recommend Ring, followed by Amazon.
If you want to spend $10 or more per month, Arlo makes the most sense, especially if you want both indoor and outdoor cameras. Paying more for a top-tier plan doesn't make much financial sense, unless you need more than 10 cameras. In that case, Arlo's plan is again the best, as it offers the lowest price per camera and the greatest amount of storage.
The Arlo Q is an excellent security camera with great video quality, strong motion and sound detection and a generous free cloud-storage plan.