Top 5 Problems in Video Surveillance StorageBy John Honovich, Published on Dec 20, 2008
Storage is one of the most confusing and debated aspects of video surveillance solutions. Continuously rising expectations for TV or HD quality combined with falling storage prices only makes the issue more challenging.
- Demanding TV Quality Resolution
- Demanding TV Frame Rates
- Requiring Continuous Recording
- Assuming Storage Cost is free
- Solving Camera Problems with Storage
- For CIF resolution, 5fps, Motion based recording using H.264 codec for 90 days, total storage required is approximately 100 GB and cost $150 USD.
- For 4CIF resolution, 30fps, Continuous recording using H.264 coed for 90 days, total storage required is approximately 4200 GB and cost $4,000 USD.
Pricing is in USD and represents an average approximation of today's storage costs.
Storage costs are often ignored because (1) storage prices continuously fall and (2) too much focus is placed on the cost of individual hard drives.
While storage costs continuously fall, they are certainly still a major factor in overall surveillance costs. Moreover, falling prices does nothing for people buying today (except to encourage them to delay purchasing).
While hard drive prices look cheap, the cost of storage is significantly more than individual drive prices. For instance, today, a 1TB hard drive is about $100 USD. However, the total cost of 1TB of storage is closer to $750 - $1500. You cannot simply buy dozens of hard drives by themselves. You need management systems, enclosures and hardware to connect all of the drives (e.g., NAS and SANs). While these are continuing to decline in price, the price is not negligible, especially for surveillance video which can easily demand many TBs per camera.
UPDATE: For small systems when you are using internal storage on a PC/server, the total cost is often simply the price of the additional hard drives. In such cases, you can effectively see the price per TB under $200 USD.
However, most deployments fall under 1 of the following 2 scenarios:
- You use a proprietary DVR where the DVR vendor is charging you a fortune for storage (see the report on software only for details on why this happens).
- You have dozens of cameras and high quality demads requiring specialized storage appliances for the tens of TBs of storage you need.
Solving Camera Problems with Storage
Finally, just because you record at TV quality levels, does not mean your image quality will be good. Some of the most common problems in video surveillance systems is using the wrong type of camera (for the scene) or mispositioing the camera. High quality surveillance video is first and foremost a matter of camera layout and selection. With bad positioning or the wrong camera, your image quality will likely still be bad even if you spend thousands of dollars for higher resolution and frame rate storage.
Asking hard questions about video surveillance storage is important for cost-effective solutions. I don't expect these problems to be resolved any time soon and I expect the disagreements will continue. Hopefully, this converation will help shed light on key issues involved.
Update: Geoff Moore, in a response to this report, examines a number of real world video surveillance storage cases [link no longer available], including specific recommendations on the best way to optimize. We then discuss the best ways to reduce storage costs over time.