Ensuring Your Video Surveillance Systems Work When You Need Them
Video surveillance system downtime or data loss is a widespread problem for many organizations. Here’s how you can ensure your security cameras won’t let you down.
Most campuses with video surveillance systems experience downtime or data loss, with about two thirds saying the impact is significant or moderate, according to the 2019 Campus Safety Video Surveillance Survey. In this interview, Pivot3 Vice President of Security and IoT Brandon Reich explains how organizations can address this issue.
CS: Is it common for schools, universities and hospitals to have security cameras or other aspects of their video surveillance systems that aren’t working, but maybe security personnel just don’t know about it?
Reich: It’s a lot more common than people realize, and it’s not just related or reserved for campuses. Any kind of facility that has a large number of cameras is often vulnerable to downtime, data loss and other kinds of problems that may result when hardware fails. Oftentimes this hardware will fail when they don’t even know it. It may happen in the background. It may be in a closet. It may be in a data center somewhere, but it can have some really significant implications.
Sometimes they don’t know that those failures occur until something bad happens, and they go back to look at recorded video, or they need to access live video for some reason to respond to that incident and suddenly they realize it’s not there. That can open them up to all kinds of vulnerabilities. It can lead to their inability to react to an incident; their inability to gather evidence for an investigation. It could even open them up to regulatory challenges if there’s a Freedom of Information Act or other types of regulations.
CS: Can you go specifically into what you mean by data loss and downtime?
Reich: Video systems are actually very prone to hardware failures. Whether that failure occurs at the camera or back at the server or the storage device or the network or anywhere in between. Video is a data-intensive kind of application, and we tend to put a heavy load on those systems and can really make them prone to failure. When those failures occur, it can lead to any number of things happening.
Obviously, when a system goes down, we can’t access live video, which prevents our ability to monitor or perhaps respond to an incident as it’s occurring. We’re not gathering that data. We’re not gathering evidence that we may need for investigative or evidentiary purposes in the future sometimes.
But what people don’t often realize is that hardware failures can lead to what we call degraded modes of operations. That means that your system may be working technically but not working as well as it should. This can lead to things like image quality degradation or the loss of small segments of video.
In the worst case, which is much more common than people realize, a hardware failure can actually lead to the permanent loss of previously recorded video. That previously recorded video is obviously not accessible during the failure. But in many cases, even after the failure is repaired, that previously recorded video can be permanently lost. So if an organization has a video retention policy of 30, 60 or 90 days or longer, the failure of a single piece of hardware can often lead to the loss of all 60 or 90 days of all that video.
CS: So do you have any best practices campuses can implement to avoid these issues with their video surveillance systems?
Reich: There are a few best practices when it comes to designing, planning and deploying particularly infrastructure, meaning the underlying servers and the storage and the network that runs these video systems. First of all, we say, “Think about infrastructure early in the design and planning stage of your project.” Oftentimes, infrastructure is left to the end and is almost an afterthought, and we might design hundreds or thousands of cameras and all this great software and then at the last minute, “Oh, gosh, I need to put some servers and some storage in there as well,” and not properly design and plan that into your project.
Secondly, design and enforce the need for resiliency. There are a number of tools, technologies, capabilities on the market available today that can protect you and your systems against these major catastrophic data loss events that occur from hardware failures; can prevent downtime and can prevent data loss. Ensure that those types of resiliency capabilities are planned in your systems and that they’re actually deployed.
And then thirdly, and this is perhaps most important, is we really encourage you to engage with your IT counterparts at your organizations. They deal with this kind of challenge on a day-in day-out basis as they’re working on in their data centers. And then there their various other IT applications across the campus or across an organization, and they’ll often have access to or knowledge of various resources that can be available and can be utilized to prevent this kind of loss. We don’t often appreciate how large and how challenging an application in a workload video surveillance can be in an IT network.
It’s very important with today’s modern high-resolution high definition camera systems with the newer video analytics that are coming out with all these various system integrations, that we really plan a strong foundation for the system. This starts with the infrastructure, starts with the servers, the storage, and the network and then everything else on top of that can be secured in a much more efficient manner.
For more information, visit www.Pivot3.com.
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Campus Safety magazine is another great resource for public safety, security and emergency management professionals. It covers all aspects of campus safety, including access control, video surveillance, mass notification and security staff practices. Whether you work in K-12, higher ed, a hospital or corporation, Campus Safety magazine is here to help you do your job better!