Top 5 Problems in Video Surveillance Storage

By: 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.

Here are the top 5 storage issues we are facing:
  • Demanding TV Quality Resolution
  • Demanding TV Frame Rates
  • Requiring Continuous Recording
  • Assuming Storage Cost is free
  • Solving Camera Problems with Storage

Demanding TV Quality Resolution

Security is not entertainment.  While there are applications that can benefit from TV or HD quality resolution, designers and users need to be very careful about automatically requiring TV or HD quality resolution.

As a business tool, surveillance video should be good enough to solve the incidents that are captured and no better. Very frequently, VHS level quality (e.g., CIF) is good enough to accomplish this. As we will examine, differences in resolution have massive impacts on storage costs.

Demanding TV Frame Rates

Surveillance video almost never requires the same frame rates as TV or movies. While 25-30 fps of entertainment video is important for entertainment, almost all security problems can be solved with video of no more than 5 - 10 fps.

How smooth the surveillance video playbacks is rarely an issue as it only affects investigations if an incident happens extremely quickly (e.g., less than 1/20th of second). This only is relevant in niche cases like dealing cards in casinos and is generally not a concern.

And, just like resolution, frame rate settings have significant effects on storage costs.

Requiring Continuous Recording

In entertainment video, long gaps in between scenes would be frustrating and not feasible. However in surveillance video, no motion almost always means no security concern. As such gaps in video is generally not a security concern.

Using motion based recording can reduce storage costs by 80% and is one of the most successful uses of video analytics.

The risk and problem of using motion based recording is (1) missing an incident and (2) acceptability in court.  Missing an incident is very rare and should almost never happen if the detection threshold is set low (see the motion detection report for details). Acceptability in court is also rarely an issue as (1) often simply placing the suspect at the location of the crime is sufficient. Nonetheless, I accept that some organizations do not want to risk courts throwing out evidence. For them, they can use a combination of continuous recording at a low frame rate and motion based recording to increase the frame rate when motion is detected.

Assuming Storage Cost is Free

Storage costs can be very high depending on your settings.

The table below demonstrates that storage settings dramatically impact storage costs. Selection of resolution, frame rate and recording mode can change your storage costs by 20x.

This is for a single cameraso you can easy see how expensive storage can get for systems with dozens or hundreds of cameras.  
  • 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: 

  1. 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).
  2. You have dozens of cameras and high quality demads requiring specialized storage appliances for the tens of TBs of storage you need.
In either of these two common cases, storage pricing is generally $750 - $1500 USD (or more if it's a DVR vendor).

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.

Conclusion

Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News
Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News

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.

Related Reports on Storage

Video Surveillance 101 Course Opened on Dec 12, 2019
IPVM is adding a Video Surveillance 101 course, designed to help those new to the industry to quickly understand the most important terms,...
Rhombus Cameras, VMS and Analytics Tested on Nov 06, 2019
Rhombus boasts they have created "the new standard in Enterprise, cloud-managed video security" and told IPVM in January 2019 they offer twice the...
100+ Companies Profile Directory on Nov 06, 2019
While IPVM covers the largest companies in the industry regularly (like Axis, Dahua, Hikvision, etc.), IPVM strives to do a profile post on each...
Network Optix NxWitness 4.0 Tested on Oct 10, 2019
Network Optix released Nx Witness 4.0, proclaiming new features like a deep learning analytics metadata SDK, increased H.265 support, and UX...
Consumer IP Camera Analytics / AI Shootout - Arlo, Google / Nest, Amazon / Ring, Hikvision / Ezviz, Wyze Cam, Yi Home on Sep 26, 2019
AI analytics are hitting the mainstream in the consumer camera market, with entrants Wyze and Yi Home releasing free people detection on their...
Directory of 70 Video Surveillance Startups on Sep 18, 2019
This directory provides a list of video surveillance startups to help you see and research what companies are new or not yet broadly known. 2019...
Genetec Stratocast VSaaS Tested on Sep 05, 2019
The VSaaS market is rapidly expanding in 2019, with Verkada, Meraki, Eagle Eye, Avigilon and numerous startups growing their market share. When we...
UK Facewatch GDPR Compliance Questioned on Aug 27, 2019
Even as the GDPR strictly regulates biometrics, a UK company called Facewatch is selling anti-shoplifter facial recognition systems to hundreds of...
Proactive CCTV "Only Affordable Video Archiving Solution" Profile on Aug 12, 2019
Proactive CCTV is claiming to offer "the only affordable video archiving solution on the market", reducing the storage typically required for H.265...
Razberi Technologies Company Profile on Aug 06, 2019
Razberi says they have doubled their revenue in the first half of 2019, citing their proprietary camera hardening and cybersecurity capabilities...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Video Surveillance 101 Course Opened on Dec 12, 2019
IPVM is adding a Video Surveillance 101 course, designed to help those new to the industry to quickly understand the most important terms,...
Verkada Notification Outage on Dec 12, 2019
Verkada is suffering an event notification outage and analytic search failures. Inside, we examine what the issues are, what Verkada told IPVM...
Hikvision DS 2nd Gen Intercom Tested on Dec 12, 2019
With its newest IP intercom, Hikvision proclaims users can 'get full control over an entrance' regardless of where it is installed, home or office...
Honeywell 30 Series Cameras Tested Vs Dahua and Hikvision on Dec 11, 2019
Honeywell has infamously OEMed Dahua and Hikvision for years, but now they have introduced an NDAA-compliant line, the 30 Series, claiming "lower...
"Good Market, Bad Business Models" - Residential Security on Dec 11, 2019
Industry banker John Mack, at his company's annual event, took aim squarely at the problems in the residential security...
IP Camera Browser Support: Who's Broken / Who Works on Dec 10, 2019
For many years, IP cameras depended on ActiveX control, whose security flaws have been known for more than a decade. The good news is that this is...
Acquisitions - Winners and Losers on Dec 10, 2019
Most major manufacturers have been acquired over the last decade. But which have been good deals or not? In this report, we analyze the...
IP Camera Installability Shootout 2019 - Avigilon, Axis, Bosch, Dahua, Hanwha, Hikvision, Uniview, Vivotek on Dec 09, 2019
What are the best and worst cameras to install? Which manufacturers make it the hardest or easiest to install their cameras? We tested 35 total...
Viisights Raises $10 Million, Behavior Analytics Company Profile on Dec 09, 2019
Viisights, an Israeli AI analytics startup marketing "Behavioral Understanding Systems", announced $10 million Series A funding. We spoke to...
Disruptor Wyze Releases Undisruptive Smartlock on Dec 06, 2019
While Wyze has disrupted the consumer IP camera market with ~$20 cameras, its entrance into smart locks is entirely undisruptive. We have...