Here’s another low cost option, even if you have a buy a cheap USB webcam.
If you already have a webcam along with the software supplied, chances are; you will have a “remote monitoring” option. Depending on the software, the remote monitoring option may only have the facility to upload the stills images, to an external web server, using FTP. The software supplied with my old Live Cam Optia has a separate motion detection option and this bit is where you enter your email details and it will send you a “motion detected” email along with a Still image.
A nice bit of FREE software to do pretty much all you would want can be found at www.yawcam.com This will probably work with just about any modern USB camera and also supports “network cameras” (also known as IP cameras). However, I have only used it with a USB camera. It does allow you to “host” your own web server so that you can access the pictures as stills or as a “Stream” (Live video).
The low cost option would be getting an email along with a picture when any motion is detected in the area you want to monitor. The added “Web server” option is a big bonus but you might struggle with your Firewall to get remote access.
When you have the camera and software set it up, put the laptop in the location you want to monitor (if the location is where your desktop PC is, then it’s even easier) Leave the webcam software running and every time it detects movement, it will send you an email along with either a “still” image or in some cases a short video clip.
That is low cost and easy remote home monitoring!