Not too long ago, video storage meant wading through hours and hours of VHS tapes to find relevant video, worrying about tapes wearing out and providing the large amounts of physical space requirements for a facility’s storage needs. Even with the advent of DVRs in recent years, closets of equipment still were given over to storage; the devices were very maintenance-heavy, and not very scalable.

With the emergence of IP surveillance and all-digital cameras, however, the storage game has been completely revolutionized, making things not only easier for the end user, but also opening up new realms of recurring monthly revenue (RMR) opportunity for dealers and integrators who can offer “hosted” or “managed” storage.

Fredrik Nilsson, general manager, Axis Communication North America, Chelmsford, Mass., and SIA Board member, notes there are three primary digital storage solutions these days:

1. Traditional server-based, hard drive storage

2. SD cards in the cameras themselves

3. Storage in the cloud, with a network attached storage (NAS) option

Hard drive space on a PC-based server is the most common solution today for surveillance systems of 32 cameras or more. SD cards, the same as found in your digital point-and-shoot cameras, are mostly used for redundant storage as well as recording on alarm-based events. The latest storage option, the cloud, is changing the game for smaller and critical camera systems, especially when combined with one of these onsite solutions.

Traditionally, because of the large data storage requirements for high-quality video, the storage piece was often the most costly, especially for end users of smaller camera count systems. So increasingly dealers are reaching out to server farms such as those used by large computer-based companies like EMC, Google and Amazon, which in turn offer their storage services to security companies for a fixed fee. The result is a “virtualized” machine, otherwise known as the cloud.

With the Internet data rates of today, the cloud is currently best suited for solutions of less than 12 cameras. The video is streamed to the cloud at a predetermined frame rate and resolution at a fixed recurring rate. End users also have the option to augment this cloud-based model with inexpensive onsite storage in the form of an SD card or NAS device so that high-resolution, HD and megapixel video can be stored.

“If you combine local back-up on a server, NAS or SD card with storage in the cloud, then you are changing the whole infrastructure of storage,” Nilsson adds.

All of this is bound to have a very big impact for dealers as they begin to leverage the cloud and take advantage of this new technology for video storage, offering new services to their end users. As Nilsson explains, many dealers still may be installing DVR boxes simply because that is what they have been doing for a number of years. But dealers and integrators need to become aware of when it is appropriate to move to IP solutions and when to choose a PC server, SD card or cloud-based storage (and in which combinations).

Beyond general sales and migrating customers to the latest technology, video storage today is an outstanding opportunity for boosting RMR. Particularly as things move more and more to the cloud, integrators have the ability to scale security solutions to the client’s budget. Better economies of scale translate to lower cost of total ownership for the end user, while managing video storage provides additional revenue sources for the integrator.

The Security Industry Association (SIA) is aware of the cloud’s potential for both its members and their customers alike. In many of its initiatives, SIA endeavors to bring greater awareness of video storage options and opportunities. At the recent Security Week, held in November in New York City, SIA sponsored several educational sessions related to video and cloud computing.

Similarly, in developing standards, SIA’s Standards Committee is constantly aware of the cloud and its potential impact. For example, a recently approved initiative through the Video Quality and Public Safety Group will not only address video quality issues, but also take into account how long it needs to be stored and analyzed. Better quality may, in fact, mean not needing to store the video for as long because analysis can be done more quickly with higher quality video.

SIA’s ongoing Open Systems Integration and Performance Standards (OSIPS) initiative will help make the adoption of these new storage technologies as smooth as possible. The entire premise of cloud computing is that devices can communicate with each other — and the whole key to that is interoperability.

To get involved in this effort, contact Joe Gittens, director of standards for SIA, at 703-647-8486 or