Importance of Storage Costs - Statistics

By John Honovich, Published Mar 30, 2015, 12:00am EDT

10 years ago, 500GB for an entire DVR was considered good. Today, there are 6TB hard drives.

More and more storage at lower prices has lead many to conclude that storage costs are no longer important.

On the other hand, a decade ago, 2CIF (less than 0.2MP) was common. Now, 2MP cameras are ordinary.

So which way is it?

In this note, we share statistics and color commentary from security integrators on how important (or not) storage costs are now for surveillance systems.

Key Findings - Retention and Size

Two key drivers impacted integrator position:

  1. Duration of retention: Integrators with multi-month retention periods all found storage costs to be very important.
  2. Size of systems: Those with large / complex systems often found storage costs to be very important.

To the contrary, those integrators specializing in smaller systems emphasized how large hard drives are now and how, as a result, inconsequential the cost of storage was for tens of cameras that could be stored in a single NVR.


Across all respondents, storage costs were:

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  • 40% - very important
  • 27% - moderately important
  • 33% - not very important

Duration of Retention

A common theme among those choosing very was long storage duration:

  • "This can add a huge cost to project and can make or break the budget when trying to store for 30, 60, 90 days , some even want 1 year storage management for evidence."
  • "Video storage costs are very significant project costs. In the GCC countries region we are operating, the Ministry of interior authorities have mandatory requirements for HD video quality and 120-days storage of all video streams from public areas and facilities."
  • "Storage costs represent a large percentage of the project cost. Storage costs are often the deciding factor in frame rate, retention, etc.
  • "Although hard drive costs have come down significantly, certain customers like financial institutions are mandated to have 90 days of archiving which can add significantly to their security budgets."
  • "A typical project will take 2.5TB of raw storage per camera for 120 days st. Thus a typical few hundred cameras will average about 30% of my revenue is due to camera and 30% due to storage. Storage is a big killer. I would pay for a more expensive camera just to get a more predictable mbps."

Indeed, a few of those who said storage was not that important emphasized short duration requirements:

  • "Seldom do we worry about storage as long as retention times do not go beyond 30 days."
  • "Moderate. Due to the fact that we can only record up to 28 days in the Netherlands our storage never grows that big."
  • "We try to keep the storage requirement down to 1 - 3 months to take advantage of the lower cost NVR/DVR with fewer SATA interfaces and obviously much fewer HDDs."
  • "Not... local legislation limits the video retention time to 14 days."

Small Systems

Likewise, those with smaller camera counts tended not to be much concerned with storage costs:

  • "The cost of storage has fallen so much that the hardware isn't much more than the cost of a managed switch. Unless there are very large NAS storage appliances required we just don't see a large impact."
  • "My average camera count on a system is quite low so it doesn't become an obstacle that often."
  • "It doesn't get any attention unless it is an extraordinarily large solution."
  • "Frankly, storage cost isn't a huge factor for most of our installs. We install a minimum of 4TB in each application. Although it isn't unusual to do 16TB, using VCA or Motion recording this gives our customers months of storage and often helps us win jobs."
  • "Cost of 3 to 4TB hard drives are not expensive compared to the cost of the systems. Most of our NVRs are sold as 24TB storage devices, allowing for future growth and higher pixel count cameras as they become available."
  • HDD's are relatively inexpensive now for reasonable sized drives (3~4TB).

Larger Systems

There was a minority who said that bigger customers had the money / resources to handle storage:

  • "When talking about corporate/government, they have the budget and the need is justified just a question of when will that happen and who to talk to
  • "In bigger project, the storage is such a minor cost of it, that we don't really fret over it. 
  • "For large clients, not very. Larger clients already have scalable storage systems that they augment using IT budget, not security project dollars.

However, notably more found larger systems to increase storage cost importance:

  • "We build big system. With big storages. Their price is almost 75% of the hw of the data center."
  • "In bigger systems, storage costs are a major factor that can mislead customers when comparing integrators."
  • "Clients will typically spend the money for fast, brand name drives, and RAID 5/6, but are a little bit sticker shocked about it and work pretty aggressively to get the number down as far as they can while still meeting these criteria."
  • "Larger jobs, the NVR/DVR/PC will then need to be the higher end models with more SATA interfaces and be much more expensive."
  • "Very, since storage costs are 4/5 of total NVR costs for us (72TB per NVR).
  • "Moderate on smaller projects, but Very on larger ones."

Overall Impact

Certainly, video surveillance storage costs have not become irrelevant, despite the massive decrease in effective storage cost in the past decade. However, it has made storage costs typically insignificant in smaller deployments using hard drives. On the other hand, larger users, especially with longer retention times, still care greatly about the cost of their surveillance storage.

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