Video Surveillance Data Storage: 6 Things to Consider for Your Campus

Whether you’re in the market for a new video surveillance system or want to make sure yours is up to par, data storage capabilities are crucial.

Video Surveillance Data Storage: 6 Things to Consider for Your Campus

Colleges, K-12 schools and hospitals continue to face a complex and growing landscape of threats to student, faculty, staff, patient and visitor safety across their campuses.

Yes, physical and sexual assaults are top-of-mind, but security and IT professionals must also account for hate crimes, protests, sporting event incidents, access by unauthorized individuals, theft, destruction and defacing of property, among other things. Many campuses themselves are the size of small cities, and many other campuses border population centers that have their own problems with crime.

Last year, U.S. hospitals experienced an increase in violent crime, according to the latest International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS) Foundation Healthcare Crime Survey results. The assault rate increased from 9.3 incidents per 100 beds in 2016 to 11.7 in 2018 — the highest rate IAHSS has recorded since it began collecting crime data in 2012.

For K-12 public schools, according to the 2018 Indicators of School Crime and Safety survey, although the percentage of reported crimes were lower during the 2015-2016 school year than in every prior survey year, 79% still recorded one or more incidents of violence, theft, or other crimes, amounting to 1.4 million crimes.

And while overall crimes reported on U.S. college campuses fell between 2001 and 2016, the number rose by 6% between 2014 and 2016 — the last year statistics were available. More recently, other threats have spiked: The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported white supremacy propaganda increased 182% last year – while tracking 319 such incidents on 212 college and university campuses. In April and May of 2019 alone, there were at least four college campus shootings.

The bottom line is there is no shortage of incidents that campus leaders must prepare for, manage and analyze after the fact, and video surveillance remains core to those efforts.

While a typical campus video surveillance system includes cameras, storage, servers, networking, and software, it is the storage component that is often overlooked when it comes to meeting current and future campus safety needs. The stakes are high: storage makes up a significant cost component of video surveillance systems, which means as security requirements scale, storage must be efficiently managed and deployed.

For campus decision-makers evaluating whether their video storage strategy and systems are prepared for current and future needs, there are several key considerations:

1. Reliability

Interruptions in the flow of data can put lives and property at risk. Data loss can also be a liability in court, where video surveillance footage is often relied upon as evidence. In Campus Safety’s 2019 Video Surveillance survey, two out of three respondents cited video surveillance downtime or data loss as having a big impact, with an additional 42% stating the impact was moderate.

2. Speed

The volume of data isn’t the only factor to consider. In video surveillance, speed is critical. Most off-the-shelf video surveillance solutions come with cheap, white-box storage systems that are prone to breakdowns and outages.

If the success of your security system depends on 100% availability, an outage of any size can be catastrophic. Not to mention these solutions often can’t support expanding video ingest and retrieval needs, especially if a drive fails.

Speed is critical to video surveillance: If your storage can’t keep up with your video, you could drop frames and lose data.

3. Scalability

For many higher ed institutions, cloud computing solutions offer the promise of cloud elasticity — the ability to seamlessly scale compute and storage up or down on demand. But that flexibility can come at a cost.

For example, some police departments that have deployed body-worn cameras in the cloud now find themselves with high monthly bills, which can top as much as $0.05 per gigabyte per month, plus additional cost per gigabyte when they exceed their quotas. And that’s just the cost of storage. There are more charges for reading and restoring that data.

While some campuses may not have to address body-worn camera video costs, it is still worth noting that because cloud prices are generally static, your costs will only increase as you grow. In contrast, the cost for on-premises solutions declines an average of 30% to 35% per year, which can make this option more scalable from a cost perspective.

4. Cost

While there have been significant improvements in the effectiveness of video surveillance (HD cameras, longer retention times, etc.), campuses are at risk of receiving an unpleasant surprise when video storage bills arrive.

Because video is unstructured data, it requires special storage that can be expensive if not addressed the right way. Higher resolutions for video require more storage as you move through the continuum from traditional standard-definition cameras to HD cameras at 1 megapixel, 2 megapixels and up.

Given that data storage can be a significant contribution to the total cost of a typical video surveillance solution — more than the cameras, servers, networking, or software alone – it is easy to see how costs can spin out of control if the wrong storage decisions are made.

5. Overhead

Beyond costs associated with the storage itself, there are management overhead investments to consider as well. Many campuses that still rely on a digital video recorder (DVR) or a network video recorder (NVR) for video surveillance storage will eventually need to add more boxes. A traditional DVR-based or NVR-based infrastructure with stacks of storage devices requires a massive amount of management overhead.

Every time you add cameras or need to upgrade your retention policies, you’ll need to install even more storage devices just to avoid running out of capacity. Before you know it, your security teams are spending more time managing back-end infrastructure and less time doing their jobs. It’s not efficient for your security professionals and it’s a waste of resources for the organization.

Finally, when it comes to keeping people safe, video surveillance is so much more than perimeter security. DVR- or NVR-based infrastructures can be a huge roadblock to incorporating new video technologies such as video analytics, preventing you from getting the most value out of your video data.

6. Integration

More than a third of CS survey respondents find video integration with other public safety/security systems to be extremely challenging or very challenging. Data storage and sharing are particularly critical for higher education institutions, which must often work side by side with local law enforcement in responding to incidents that occur in and around campus and having the ability to share video as needed for quick incident resolution and follow-up investigation and evidence.

Video surveillance data portability between cloud and on-premises systems – and across campus and local law enforcement agencies – is necessary to ensure a rapid, effective and coordinated response.

Campus IT and security executives weighing strategies and investments for 2020 video surveillance benefit from understanding the pros and cons of their storage options before embarking down one path.


Jake Turner is the solutions engineering director for NetApp.

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One response to “Video Surveillance Data Storage: 6 Things to Consider for Your Campus”

  1. Anna says:

    Interesting post, Thanks for sharing.

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