Only a couple of years ago, it was standard practice when setting up a CCTV recorder to port forward the router. This allowed for direct connections from outside of the local network, which were usually utilised for remote control / viewing.
Since the advent of UPnP integration into Hikvision recorders though, the need to port forward has subsided. The reason for this is that UPnP is essentially an automatic version of port-forwarding, it finds a free port and sets up a temporary forwarding rule (router must also have UPnP enabled).
In theory, this is a fantastic new feature that we should all switch to and forget about the fiddly old method, although there's more to it. In practice, UPnP is not an equivalent to traditional port-forwarding, more a useful alternative with some limitations.
With Hikconnect in particular, all UPnP is guaranteed to do is get your live images working on your mobile device. Additional features such as; remote web-browser access, PTZ control, snapshots etc. seem to work sometimes but not others.
As far as we can tell, it isn't specific to a type of router or recorder, the robustness of your automatic port forwarding seems completely random. We have seen all variations of freedom from full access to just live images.
A strong example is the DDNS feature that's built-in to the Hikconnect website (see below blue link) which gives you the ability to remotely access your recorder settings. We have found that this seldom works with UPnP and almost always needs a true port forward.
This, among the loss of other useful features, is why port forwarding is making a bit of a comeback and is something that we believe you should consider doing on your upcoming jobs.
How to port forward
If you've ever done port forwarding before then you will know that the method varies depending on the router you are configuring it on. Some routers make it very easy while others can be a pain.
The basics are usually the same though. You essentially log into your router via a web browser (using its IP address), go to the firewall /advanced settings, go to port forward rules, set up your rules then save.
If you need advice or a guide on how to configure a specific router then see the website below which covers most known brands / ISPs:
Port forwarding individual cameras
Sometimes you may want to port forward individual cameras as well as your recorder as this gives you total remote control of your system.
The easiest way to achieve this is to first enable 'Virtual host' on your NVR via the web-browser (see below). Then simply add an extra port forward rule targeted at the recorder's IP address, but using the ports 65001 for camera 1, 65002 for camera 2 and so on.
A quick trick when doing this is to port forward a range instead, so for example: on an 8 channel NVR with virtual host enabled, set up a port forwarding rule to the NVR IP address with port range 65001-65008. You will now be able to access your individual IP cameras from anywhere on the web.
Hopefully, you found this blog useful and it will save you some money / frustration further down the line.
As mentioned above, manual port forwarding is not something that is strictly necessary for every job. Most simple domestic installs, for example, would not gain any benefits over using UPnP.
Where port forwarding comes into its own is when you're trying to use additional features, or when you are trying to save yourself from having to travel every time there is a problem.
With total remote access, you will save on fuel and labour costs by giving you the ability to fix issues or change things from the comfort of your office.