The Video Surveillance Storage Problem: How Much for How Long?

Michele Hope

Technology now allows the capture of sharper, crisper IP video surveillance footage. But, such technical advances come at a cost — especially in terms of the investment in video surveillance storage now required to support the centralized storage, analysis and retrieval of an organization’s growing mountain of video footage.

So, which industries deal with the issue of video surveillance storage? And, how much storage is needed?

For the first question, just think of the world you pass through: traffic intersections, freeways, banks, airports, train stations, sports arenas, parking lots, public buildings, public spaces, retail stores, corporate buildings, hospitals and police departments (with dashboard cams and/or body-worn cameras). You are likely to encounter surveillance cameras with most of these locations. Each camera “feed” must then be digitally stored for a matter of days, weeks, months or, sometimes, years.

The question about needed capacity is harder to answer. Things to consider include the frames per second (fps) you record, the compression used, the number of cameras/video streams and your retention requirements. Don’t be surprised when a half-hour of surveillance video needs several hundred megabytes of storage. Seagate (and a Cisco IP video surveillance planning guide) offer some calculation examples.

The question of retaining surveillance video relates to governmental and industry regulations, codes and court cases surrounding compliance, privacy, long-term retention and the use of captured surveillance video. Here’s just a taste of three retention trends:

  1. Banks: ATM security footage is retained for an average of six months, with some banks and countries requiring more or less, according to Reolink. (The United Arab Emirates bank must retain its security footage for one year.)
  2. Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD): Body-worn camera (BWC) surveillance videos that do not contain a crime are retained for 90 days; videos associated with a citizen’s complaint are retained for 5-10 years; videos subject to FOIA requests are retained indefinitely.

  3. Retail/Private Entities: According to Mike Bomas, senior advisor of strategy and corporate planning at Viotaas, retention lengths vary depending on lawyer counsel, the likelihood of security risk or, in the case of future retail “slip-and-fall” cases, the probability footage may be needed for a dispute.

The growing CapEx costs to store surveillance footage has caused many organizations to look for other options. What about emerging cloud storage services for long-term video surveillance? Can they offer a more viable, fixed monthly amount to such costly CapEx spend?

Some services may integrate with popular video management system solutions. Others may even offer tiering of video data to different types of storage, such as disk, tape or both. Consider asking cloud providers how these services stack up against on-premises retention — in terms of TCO, access, chain-of-custody, compliance, privacy and your needs for long-term retention.

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