is a critical component in video surveillance. So how should the user decide what’s the best storage solution for them? This article takes a closer look at this topic.
Storage ensures that video captured is properly stored and can be accessed whenever needed. Given its important role, purchasing a solution should be done with care. Below we look at how the user should select a storage system that best fits them.
One way to select a storage solution is by considering the user’s camera count, which can be divided into low, medium and high. We take a look at each.
Low camera count (up to 32 cameras)
If the entity has a low camera count, there are two approaches here. “One is the conventional NVR system with onboard storage, which may be an integrated appliance, or which may use a separate client application to manage the system. The second is to go for a cloud-based solution, with no on-site equipment other than the cameras. However, the total cost of ownership for the latter can be quite high due to the constant subscription costs, especially compared to one of the more reliable NVR-based VMS systems, which should last for years,” said Alastair McLeod, CEO of Veracity.
“For the smallest applications, a compact 4- and 8-channel NVRs will be the most cost-effective. We see these, for example, as a popular choice for individual retail outlets and locations such as coffee shops, restaurants, and pharmacies,” said Peter Kim, Global Technical Consultant at IDIS. “But most SMEs will find that a 16- or 32-channel NVR provides them with the storage capacity the need for full site coverage, internal and external. And these devices give them the flexibility to scale and adapt.”
Medium camera count (32 to 100 cameras)
As the camera count gets higher, cloud may be less ideal. “Paying for 100 recording subscriptions plus, say, 400Mbits/sec of internet uplink bandwidth (on top of any additional, corporate requirement) can be very expensive,” McLeod said. “The optimum solution here is either one or two NVR units with a client PC, or, depending on camera actual count and retention times required, an integrated high-capacity storage/recording server – again with client PC or web-based management.”
High camera count (100 to 5,000 cameras)
According to McLeod, larger systems require some design effort to ensure the customer gets the solution they require for their application. “We would advise against systems which can store very large numbers of cameras in one server, as this makes the system far less resilient. We would recommend no more than 100 cameras per server. Thus a 1,000-camera system would have a minimum of 10 servers plus at least one failover unit,” he said.
On-prem vs. cloud
As mentioned above, cloud and on-prem solutions
each have their own merits and disadvantages. Users should choose based on their own scenarios, including camera count and bandwidth availability.
“While cloud storage is gaining ground in the market, the increased bandwidth requirements it brings are an issue. Users may resort to storing lower-resolution video as back-up, but this is not ideal if the footage is needed for evidential purposes,” Kim said. “In most cases, on-prem storage can still deliver the best value and most benefits for users. When robust and reliable hardware is used, maintenance issues will be reduced, and choosing a single source provider rather than a mix-and-match solution can also help with this.”
Hybrid, which combines the best of both, may be a better option for some. “A hybrid deployment option is also a great solution for those who have the expertise in managing such an architecture. With the utilization of on-prem servers, a bridge extension to a public or private cloud might just be the better option,” said Eugene Kozlovitser, CTO at BCD.
To calculate how much storage to get, the user can benefit from a storage calculator. “Over time, business needs are likely to change and so too may the surveillance requirements. A user may add additional locations or add space to an existing location and therefore need to add more cameras. In turn, they’ll need more storage,” Stefan Lundberg, Senior Expert Engineer at Axis Communications. “A storage estimation method is very important, usually this is built into the system design tools. For very large systems it is important to also make a trial to improve the estimate.”
But the user should careful when using a storage calculator. “Most storage calculators are provided by camera manufacturers who will try to emphasize the efficiency of their image compression,” McLeod said. However, the best and most accurate way to estimate the storage required is to use a calculator which uses the average bitrate per camera as an input, rather than the more common frame-rate, compression type, scene activity and resolution settings used by many storage calculators. For example, a full HD camera at 30 FPS and using H.264 compression will produce about 4Mbits/sec for a reliable high quality video stream.
Given storage is as vulnerable to security breaches
as other networked devices, cybersecurity measures should be taken. “Things like drive encryption, role-based access control, strong endpoint security, and redundancy are a must for any cyber protection plan. With data in the cloud or data on-prem, securing stored data is, and should be, a top priority for any customer. Regardless of the amount of video surveillance data or where you choose to store it, it’s always best practice to have ‘zero trust’ awareness of any stored private information,” Kozlovitser said.
It’s also important to point out that when the user recycles or disposes of their NVRs, all contents should be erased. “Usually when an NVR or a VMS system is replaced or taken offline, it is kept for the retention period to keep older recordings until they are all automatically deleted. The system is then ready for recycling/disposal; in that process it is very important to securely erase any video storage medium or any medium containing sensitive configurations like certificates and passwords,” Lundberg said.
“It is best practice to either degauss any storage media or crush the drives completely that have had recorded video data. Overwriting drives do not always guarantee all the data will be fully erased. Recycling old NVR units should always be done by an R2-certified facility and one that can issue a certificate upon completion,” Kozlovitser said.