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Store outside the core

The last major change in CCTV storage technology was when recording moved from VCRs to NVRs with hard drive disks, but now new storage techniques are fighting for market share.

May 13, 2016  By  Colin Bodbyl

While hard drive disks in a local NVR are still the most popular choice for storage, two other techniques are quickly gaining popularity, Cloud storage and SD card or “edge” storage.

Cloud storage has rapidly gained popularity over the last few years for storing everything from family photos to company documents. Cloud storage has many things working in its favour including that it is constantly backed up so redundancy is standard. Up time on cloud storage is typically over 99.9 per cent and video can easily be accessed from anywhere in the world. As storage needs increase, end users can also add more Cloud storage with the click of a mouse, opposed to adding hardware, which would be necessary when adding storage to a local NVR.

For video surveillance however, Cloud storage has other unique challenges, the largest one being that HD video surveillance systems stream an enormous amount of data. For single camera systems that only store video on motion, Cloud storage is an acceptable choice. However, for commercial systems that either need constant recording, or have dozens of HD cameras, the Cloud often cannot handle the bandwidth. While streaming HD movies into a home is now commonplace, this type of streaming relies on download bandwidth. Storing video in the Cloud relies on the upload speed of your Internet connection, which is typically far slower than download speeds.

For Cloud storage providers in the video surveillance space the challenges are obvious. The best solution these companies can provide is a hybrid version of Cloud storage, where traditional storage is still used onsite with only the most critical video being backed up to the Cloud.


On the opposite end of the spectrum is SD card storage, also known as edge storage. Integrators had mixed responses when manufacturers first introduced edge storage. Some thought it a brilliant method for reducing the cost of expensive NVRs. Others were concerned about the security of storing video on the camera. After all, what if someone destroyed the camera? All the recorded video would be lost.

The truth is, edge storage is near perfect on paper. Storing video on each device significantly reduces the costs of the NVR and in some cases means users do not need an NVR at all. Storing video at the edge also means that there is no load on the network or bandwidth usage unless someone is actually viewing video from the camera.

The challenges with SD card storage stem from their intended use. SD cards were not designed to read and write video 24/7 for years on end. At best SD cards are designed for short intense bursts of use followed by hours or days of downtime. When SD cards are used as a storage method for constant video recording their lifespan is drastically reduced, and users risk SD card failure where recordings are completely lost.

While neither Cloud nor SD card storage works well as a primary means of storage for medium and large video surveillance systems, both technologies are excellent choices for redundancy or fail-over storage. Streaming video to the Cloud is a reliable backup for critical cameras or events. SD cards offer an excellent method for failover recording, should a camera lose connection with the NVR.
Both technologies are also well suited for very small systems of less than four cameras. Rather than forcing homeowners to purchase an NVR to record a single camera, manufacturers can provide cost effective SD or Cloud storage options.

Local NVRs with hard disk drives will remain the dominant form of storage for video surveillance in the near future. However, it is a refreshing change to have both inexpensive options for small systems as well as alternative solutions for creating redundancy in larger systems.

For an industry that has historically been tied to VCRs and more recently NVRs any new storage options are a welcome change.

Colin Bodbyl is the director of technology for UCIT Online (www.ucitonline.com).

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