Master Technician Series: How Software Relieves Strains of Storage Complexity

Virtualization software and common management structures can ease installation quandaries for integrators and administration requirements for end users. Virtualization brings the advantages of the cloud infrastructure with reduced IT complexity. It enables streamlined installations and system configuration while still reaping the benefits of advanced IT functionality.

It’s not new news. Security managers are constantly searching for new ways to gather, manage and store data to secure their organizations and run their departments more efficiently while maintaining budgets and contributing to the overall success of the business. The use of video surveillance is a valuable tool to help end users effectively maintain a secure environment; therefore, more video surveillance tools are deployed at an ever-growing rate.

With more IP cameras, especially high-resolution models, more surveillance video is being captured and analyzed today than ever before. At the same time, customers of all sizes and market focuses are finding new ways to capture and leverage information from multiple devices — video surveillance cameras, access control systems, video analytics and physical security information management (PSIM) platforms — to develop reports and identify trends both to enhance security and to optimize internal operations.

Technology plays a significant role in the enhancement of safety across all markets as recent events, such as the Boston bombings, have demonstrated. When deployed properly, video surveillance helps security professionals address potential vulnerabilities in a more timely fashion. Of course, surveillance video is only useful if it is clearly and reliably captured and effectively stored and protected.

So with that stage set, welcome to Part I of SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION’s latest Master Technician series: “Storing and Protecting Video Surveillance Data.” Brought to you by Pivot3, this four-part series has been designed to educate readers about recent advances in video surveillance technology with a special emphasis on best practices and techniques to manage and safeguard this digital information as effectively and efficiently as possible. This first installment covers storing video surveillance data. Ensuing episodes will respectfully address value of, protecting and exploiting the data.

An Avalanche of Video Data

Today’s advanced camera systems use more bandwidth, and require greater storage, than ever before. Video surveillance systems have gone digital, and the resulting torrent of data is tremendous. Many users are shocked to realize that a single megapixel camera can generate a terabyte of data every day, resulting in staggering amounts of data to store and protect over time.

According to Homeland Security Research Corp.’s report, “Intelligent Video Surveillance, VCA & Video Analytics: Technologies & Global Market — 2013-2020,” the 165+ million video surveillance cameras installed worldwide in 2011 have captured 1.4 trillion video-hours of surveillance. By 2020, it will top 3.3 trillion video-hours.

This is precisely the reason that today’s storage providers design technology that can effectively and reliably house such invaluable and ever-growing surveillance data. These systems not only deliver capacity, but also help improve fault-tolerance and uptime for both the surveillance applications and storage, which is especially important for critical security networks. After all, even one dropped frame could have increased the chances that the Boston bombing suspects would go free.

It is disturbing to imagine what might have happened if that now-infamous video data of the Boston sidewalk had not been properly captured and stored. Officials may have been forced to rely solely on video and photos from the public to identify the suspects — like the proverbial needle in the haystack — and there is no guarantee they could have been identified that way. However, since the surveillance footage was safely stored at a secure, centralized location, officials were able to quickly unlock its secrets.

A properly designed shared storage system, purpose-built for the unique requirements of IP video surveillance, can offer a better performing and more fault-tolerant, scalable and cost-effective solution compared to traditional server-based “islands-of-storage” platforms. Additionally, a properly designed shared storage system can help end users and integrators alike take full advantage of the benefits of higher resolution and real-time video produced by today’s advanced IP cameras.

Not All Data Is Created Equal

Some enterprise users of video surveillance today manage petabytes of storage, a unit of information equal to 1,000 terabytes. As IP-based systems continue to be deployed along with megapixel cameras, storage needs are projected to balloon. SOURCE: IMS RESEARCHStorage administrators are experts at managing storage farms. However, most IT systems and network professionals are not accustomed to dealing with the massive capacities and bandwidth requirements that video storage imposes. Surveillance cameras never stop streaming content, and this is a complete reversal of what most traditional storage solutions are designed to accommodate. Not addressing the write-intensive storage differences leads to unreliable systems with data loss and higher costs.

If the system is not designed specifically for massive amounts of write operations, the cost of deploying a storage solution increases dramatically. The ability to securely and completely capture all high-resolution frames at very high frame rates during high-burst record-on-motion events is not a design parameter for general purpose IT storage systems. Video surveillance-specific storage generally involves a different design incorporating advanced failover technology and solid-state flash to handle the spikes.

As the surveillance industry continues to transition from analog to digital, the deployment of IP-based surveillance solutions is gaining significant momentum. The market for video surveillance storage has changed from one of tape-based recording to hard drives and shared storage. With hard drive capacity doubling and the cost of storage innovations dropping, storage is less expensive, more efficient and progressively more powerful.

At the same time, video storage requirements are becoming increasingly IT-centric, requiring systems integrators and end users to have a deeper knowledge of the suitable storage and IT technologies available and the impact each option has on a surveillance system. To add to the challenge, enterprise-class surveillance deployments are not only larger and more data-centric, but also require a high level of fault-tolerance. However, as IP technology has advanced it’s taken some of the complexity out of the equation.

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