One of the effects of the industry’s move toward higher and higher camera resolutions has been increasing demands on surveillance storage solutions. For starters, even with the advent of H.265 compression technology, the deployment of 4K ultra-HD resolution cameras can increase storage demand by 280 percent, says Jessica Burton, global surveillance product manager, Seagate Technology, Cupertino, Calif.
“This only underscores the importance of video storage and how customers can no longer afford to think of storage technologies as an afterthought. Data storage architecture and solutions need to be on the forefront of the security system design process,” she says.
Additionally, recording and retention times are on the rise, largely because of fears about reliability and the availability of video, which further increases the demand for storage.
“End users don’t want to miss anything because they spent a lot of money getting their security system installed. Issues happen maybe around 1 percent of the time or less, so if that one time out of the year you need the surveillance or need to play back something and it’s not there, it’s just a waste of money,” says Ramy Ayad, senior product manager, Hanwha Techwin America, Ridgefield Park, N.J.
Obviously, the days of storage being an afterthought are long gone. With this in mind, there are six primary factors for security integrators to take into consideration when choosing and deploying solutions.
1. Surveillance-Optimized Drives
When it comes to storing video, it can be tempting to consider it as simply another type of data, but because surveillance is read- and write-intensive, that simply isn’t the case.
“The common misperception is that data storage is about a hard drive, but it’s not just the drives. For a large-scale, enterprise-type video system, storage is a system in and of itself,” says Brandon Reich, vice president, security and IoT, Pivot3, Austin, Texas. “Not all storage is the same, and understanding the video application or video workload is critical to ensuring that storage works properly.”
In addition to using surveillance-optimized storage solutions, it’s important to ensure that manufacturers can provide documentation that their equipment can handle the workload.
“Look for validation, and in some cases, even certifications by the VMS developers and other application providers to guarantee that their systems are going to work,” Reich says.
Ensuring the integrity of a storage system or solution against hardware failures is critical, considering the vital nature of video in security. The nature of storage hardware is that failures are inevitably going to happen, so it’s important to address this from the beginning. Questions to ask should revolve around ensuring that systems are online and always recording, and that users always have access to live video.
“Maybe even more importantly, what happens to all that previously recorded video that’s stored there, and how can I ensure that that’s all protected? So I think that asking questions about resiliency is very important,” says Reich.
3. Cyber Security
In today’s connected world, cyber security has become part of our everyday lives, so it’s imperative to ask a vendor whether their storage solution is cyber-hardened out of the box. With a standard operating system image, there are a number of settings an integrator must adjust in the field to ensure that appliance or server is secure.
“Any of those settings that aren’t done out of the box open up a lot of risk that the integrator might miss just one or two of the steps involved in hardening the system, which leaves them vulnerable, and the weakest link on the network is the one that’s going to get attacked,” says Derek Arcuri, team lead, industry and application marketing, Genetec, Montreal. “So if you put in a storage appliance that isn’t hardened, it opens a lot of risk, which is put on the customer, but also on the integrator who installed those systems, so being hardened out of the box is really important.”
It’s also important to ask vendors what, if any, cyber security standards their solutions meet.
“Are they following industry best practices that are set by reputable sources or are they following their own idea of what a cyber secure image would be?” Arcuri says. “You’d also want to know whether the manufacturers subject their appliances to penetration tests. There’s a lot to cyber security and it’s something Genetec has been focused on for a number of years, and it’s something we expect to see from storage vendors when they’re proposing solutions.”
Privacy Laws & the State of Warranties
One of the ripple effects of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) enacted earlier this year in Europe may be a change in the way storage manufacturers handle warranties. For example, BCDVideo has stopped taking back its old drives that require replacement under warranty.
“That was a big change for our warranty. Because of Europe and the data laws over there, we figure that has to be coming our way in the U.S.,” says BCDVideo’s Tom Larson. “If a drive goes, we send you a new drive or send a tech with the new drive, but we do not get the old drive back. That’s for the integrator and user to dispose of. We’re having them keep that drive.”
That is different from the prevailing school of thought, which says that manufacturers should take back their old drives.
“We’re looking at it from a liability standpoint,” Larson says. “Even on a RAID 5, there is still data on that disk, and that data could be worth something, especially with these high-megapixel cameras. … You can literally have credit card data on this video if it’s a good clean shot, but the integrators aren’t thinking about that.”
4. Throughput & Performance
Understanding throughput and how it should be applied in product selection could certainly impact the effectiveness of the solution an integrator is providing. When referring to a storage device, throughput refers to how much data a server can handle, typically expressed in Mbps.
“This seems like a simple and easy-to-understand concept at first, but can become increasingly complex in the product selection stage for an integrator,” says Mike Demmons, CEO, Sentry Security Systems Inc., Kingston, Ontario.
This is largely because manufacturers often advertise a throughput rating that is based on total throughput. For example, he says, an integrator may assume that a server advertised as supporting 2,000 Mbps throughput means it can record 2,000 Mbps of data. But that doesn’t take into consideration the effect of simultaneously streaming live video to mobile and web or PC clients.
“If the manufacturer does not clearly identify the recording and live playback throughput capabilities of the server in question, it becomes difficult to select a server that is designed to handle what the application calls for,” Demmons explains.
Therefore, he adds, it’s important to distinguish up front whether a solution’s throughput performance is guaranteed and to what level.
“Does the manufacturer provide throughput numbers for redirection playback as well as recording, or is it simply for overall throughput performance? That’s something you’d see a lot more in a traditional storage vendor,” Arcuri says. “The extra detail goes a long way in helping reduce risk on the integrator and allowing them to design with confidence.”
5. Total Solution Cost
One factor security integrators may not consider when selecting storage solutions is the total cost of the system, which is more than simply the cost of the hardware, software and other system components.
“A lot of times as integrators move from older NVR technology up to the more modern architectures, they don’t realize there are other things that add to the cost of systems, or other equipment required,” Reich says.
For example, a project may require additional servers or software for management. There are also long-term maintenance contracts to consider as well as the potential for a certain level of expertise necessary to manage the storage systems.
“They need to really understand all of the things that go into deploying and managing an enterprise-class system and ensure they’re taking everything into account,” Reich says.
Ongoing maintenance also needs to factor into total system expenditure.
“The cost of the hardware is one thing, but there’s also the cost of that risk associated with putting in that hardware, putting in insecure hardware and unreliable solutions in the field,” Arcuri says. “Every truck roll for an integrator is expensive for them, so a more robust system up front will reduce their tail-end costs, and it also minimizes their risk.”
6. Don’t Skip the Basics
Perhaps more than knowing anything specific about storage architectures and other factors, is understanding clients’ needs when designing and implementing a solution. If they have to have 100 percent video uptime, a single server may not be enough, because if that server goes down, cameras aren’t recording. For end users, having cameras down is a problem, particularly for marijuana facilities, where the damage could include having the doors closed, says Tom Larson, chief information officer, BCDVideo, Buffalo Grove, Ill.
“These sites have three times the hardware a normal site would because of the regulations. … There are certain states where you have to produce [video] in 30 minutes. If the auditors find out you’re missing video, they’ll shut you down and fine you,” he says.
As a matter of fact, combining these factors with the customer’s requirements all but ensures the success of a storage solution, Demmons says.
“If you can be precise in your questions and understand exactly what they want, you can take that information to the manufacturer and build a suitable solution from there,” he says. ”Using one-size-fits-all, pre-designed boxes to cover wide varieties of applications is either inadvertently neglectful of your clients’ needs or willfully nefarious. Customize your solution to their requirements and you will find repeat customers and referrals.”
For more information about video storage, visit SDM’s website where you’ll find the following articles:
“3 Main Ingredients for Video Storage Success”
“Feeding the Growing Appetite for Video Surveillance Data”