In the video surveillance world, data is growing rapidly due to the proliferation of surveillance cameras in both public and private spaces, the increased use of police body cameras and dash cams, and ever higher-resolution on all of these. In the U.S. alone, the surveillance marketplace is expected to grow to $68 billion by 2023. An increase in data from a growing number of mounted cameras leads to larger data sets and higher data storage costs. Just one day of video surveillance produces more than 400 petabytes (PB) of data according to a recent estimate from International Homeland Security (IHS).

The demands of law enforcement and private security businesses will drive this growth further. As the number of cameras increases, and as the resolution of these cameras increases, users find themselves unable to afford to store the video footage for as long as they would like. The cost of traditional on-premises storage hardware has become a big limitation in the utility of surveillance systems in general.  

Body camera and surveillance video footage have become indispensable allies to law enforcement. Body cam footage is destroyed on average seventy-five days after it is taken, although the statute of limitations for prosecuting a crime averages seven years. That severely minimizes the value of body cams as an effective law enforcement tool and limits the protection of citizens’ rights.

Depending on the use case, there may be anywhere from a dozen to thousands of cameras generating data; a bank may only need a handful while a major airport like JFK needs upwards of 600 in a single terminal, and a city like Calgary has over 1,800 in its employ. Naturally, more cameras create more data, which is why large organizations in particular need to be aware of the storage burden they are taking on and how best to manage it. If the cost of storage exceeds the value realized by storing the data, it gets thrown away.

The specific factors that impact video surveillance costs include camera resolution and retention periods. Cameras with higher image quality pack more pixels into each frame, increasing the size of files, and shooting at higher speeds to capture more frames per second. A single camera running at 15 frames per second in 4K captures four times the amount of data than a camera capturing 15 FPS at 1080p. New cameras are capturing in 4K and even beyond into the 8K to 10K ranges. These extreme resolutions are necessary for facial recognition software to operate, a practice that will become more common in the near future. A surveillance operation’s retention policy varies case by case: ranging from days to years with 31 days being a common threshold under GDPR rules. It is essential for any organization to be aware of their retention requirements and budget storage accordingly.

All of these factors contribute to an organization’s overall surveillance storage needs. Increasing in even one of these three areas - camera count, resolution, or retention period - compounds the storage requirement. For a surveillance enterprise, a cloud object storage solution is the optimal method for storing large data sets and accessing them quickly. Surveillance video storage often exceeds 30% of the cost of the entire solution with traditional methods. Making the decision to move to cloud storage can be tricky. There’s often two ways of doing it - either a single vendor solution, which covers you for everything - cameras, software and storage - or taking the systems integrator option, where you purchase a third-party solution.

If you opt for a single vendor for your surveillance solution, you risk being locked into using a cloud storage provider that can cost dearly in the long-term. While all-in-one solutions have their benefits, with so much data needing to be stored, analyzed and managed, companies should be mindful to research a cloud storage solution that fits their individual needs. 

The age of Cloud 2.0 is here- entities with vast data storage requirements need a reliable and affordable solution that is both instantly available and infinitely scalable to store all of that data that will inevitably come their way.

Customers should consider other alternatives that can make storage affordable. Most organizations are currently paying around $350,000 to store just 100 terabytes of data annually. Within the five-year timeline of typical usage, another 500GB of data is generated, bringing the total to around a terabyte so a significant drop in cloud storage pricing can result in substantial savings over time.

Tips for companies to keep in mind when considering migrating to or upgrading their cloud storage:

  • Ask if there are charges for egress or API requests so that costs can be estimated easier
  • Ensure that the agreement isn’t vendor exclusive as this could cause lock-in and force you to use services that may be better served elsewhere
  • Look into pricing models that allow you to buy storage upfront for a specific term at a fixed rate
  • Consider storage providers that work with other best-of-breed video surveillance technology solutions so that it is easy to move workloads
  • Select a vendor that is GDPR compliant in the EU and CJIS compliant in the U.S.
  • Most importantly, ensure that the storage provider is reliable and follows best practices for ensuring data security and durability at rest and in transit.

Law enforcement and security agencies can enjoy the benefits of Cloud 2.0 with next generation cloud storage providers if they do the research to find providers that can truly deliver the performance that is needed and be mindful of the bottom line.