Video storage is an important consideration in any surveillance project while simultaneously being one of the most overlooked. Let’s face it: storage does not exactly provide the “wow factor” of analytics or 4K image quality, but it is the backbone on which entire video security systems are built. If you cannot retrieve and review footage in a timely manner, all the other shiny features you have incorporated into your security surveillance solution is for naught.
Of course, the very nature of video storage has undergone significant changes recently. A decade ago, when you walked the aisles of a tradeshow floor, it was common to find companies that specialized in providing storage appliances and infrastructure. Very few of those businesses still exist today and those that do have completely overhauled their business model.
The cost of retaining video footage has dropped tremendously in recent years, so much so that oftentimes we talk about storing video now in petabytes rather than terabytes or gigabytes. In fact, you probably have greater storage capacity in your cell phone today than many video appliances did during the 2000s.
The one thing that hasn’t changed in all of this time is the need that organizations have to store their video data, which is not only dictated by internal policies but also by governmental compliance regulations depending upon the industry in which your enterprise operates. And while many security professionals still rely on these legacy-type appliances, an increasing number are also migrating their systems and much of their storage to the cloud.
Though on-premises storage is still mandated by some organizations, many are now leveraging a hybrid cloud (combination of on-premise and cloud storage) or even a pure cloud (completely cloud-based) solution to help alleviate retention burdens on the business. Using either of these methodologies means that organizations do not have to worry about the prospects of a NVR failing that could result in critical video data being lost. Another option that sometimes gets lost in the conversation and that has benefits for on-premise, cloud and hybrid cloud video deployments is edge storage.
What is edge storage?
If you have been around the security industry for any length of time, you’re probably already acquainted with the concept of edge storage, which essentially involves incorporating storage technologies, typically an SD card, into cameras to reduce the amount of data that has to be transmitted back to the headend of the system.
There are several benefits of this storage methodology. First, it reduces the bandwidth consumption of the cameras themselves, which reduces the strain placed on the network. This is especially helpful in environments with high camera counts or a large number of high-resolution cameras that consume an outsized amount of bandwidth in their own right. Secondly, storing video at the edge enables the user to leverage the full processing power of their backend systems (VMS, analytics, etc.) and take full advantage of the data being generated. For some enterprise security leaders, that could involve using analytics to improve business operations or pinpoint other trends relevant to the organization.
How Edge Storage Works in Cloud Environments
When it comes to combining edge storage with the cloud, “edge cloud” surveillance architectures enable security professionals to store video on a local device, such as a gateway, that can be sent to the cloud as needed, thereby saving bandwidth and reducing network latency. For example, let’s say a business has several distributed sites within a certain geographical region but does not have the budget to afford the outbound bandwidth necessary to continuously send video from those locations to the cloud. By taking advantage of an edge storage solution and recording the video on-premises, that same business can elect to view video on-demand via the cloud in the aftermath of relevant security incidents and subsequently achieve substantial savings on bandwidth costs.
The Case for an Edge Cloud Mode
The example above is just one of several instances where an edge cloud surveillance model could make sense for a business. Although every organization has its own unique set of requirements based on their respective industries, the applications below are prime candidates for leveraging edge cloud offerings:
- Locations with high camera counts: While businesses with only a handful of surveillance cameras need not concern themselves too much with bandwidth considerations, the same cannot be said of end users who have hundreds or even thousands of cameras deployed throughout a campus. Like the previous example, organizations that find themselves in this category could realize significant cost and network latency savings with an edge cloud setup.
- Heavily regulated industries: While there are many organizations that would like to explore cloud surveillance options, there are many who have been hesitant due to the regulations they face related to security and surveillance. Businesses in gaming/casinos, financial institutions, and medical/recreational cannabis growth and distribution, for example, face strict guidelines from federal, state, and local authorities as it pertains to video recording and retention. An edge cloud solution provides these verticals with the ability to store video onsite, an absolute must in some cases, while also enabling them to customize retention times across facilities and devices.
- Dispersed/remote sites: Large, enterprise-scale organizations usually have multiple offices and/or facilities around the world that are managed from a central location, such as global security operations center (GSOC). The edge cloud model gives businesses of this scale a better way to manage these sites without the need for additional bandwidth.
While reduced bandwidth consumption and network optimization are typically the chief goals of those seeking to switch to an edge storage model, there are also other benefits for security professionals who choose to go this route, which include:
- Cloud archival: Rather than storing pertinent video on-premises in perpetuity, leveraging edge storage in conjunction with cloud means that an organization can offload certain footage to the cloud without having to worry about losing that data if something happens with their onsite appliances.
- Centralized video management and configuration: Perhaps the biggest selling point of cloud video, in general, is the ability to centrally manage and configure surveillance networks remotely without having to worry about manually updating individual devices and systems. An edge cloud model enables security professionals to still take advantage of this and all the other benefits the cloud has to offer while still retaining the onsite storage piece they require.
- Edge-based analytics: Another added benefit of an edge cloud solution is that it allows events to be detected at the edge with alerts then being sent to the cloud in real time, which can then be passed on to security personnel without delay.
While surveillance technology continues to grow by leaps and bound with each passing year, the basic requirements for many security professionals do not. Indeed, as more businesses learn how to take advantage of intelligent analytics, storage requirements are only going to increase. The time to prepare is now.