Storage solutions for surveillance

CCTV Handbook 2021 IT infrastructure

Integration is a complex issue in the security and especially in the surveillance industry. When it comes to storage, simply knowing where your video is stored, what you need to access it quickly and securely and how to handle the amount of storage video generates, is complex. These days, even the basic task of what to store, where, has become a challenge.

Surveillance solutions today have the choice between edge storage, on-site (server/data centre) storage, or cloud/remote storage via a third party operator – or a mixture of the previous options in a hybrid solution. Each of these options has pros and cons, depending on what your situation and environment requires.

In order to provide some insights into the surveillance solutions on the market today, Hi-Tech Security Solutions spoke to Clifton Greeff, from Duxbury Networking, as well as Vaughn Tempelhoff from Forbatt SA. Both companies distribute a range of surveillance solutions, including storage systems.

Forbatt represents three companies that offer a variety of storage solutions: Kedacom, TVT and NUUO. Tempelhoff included comments from each of the overseas suppliers, which we will refer to by their company name in the article.

The right storage solution

How does one decide on the optimal storage setup for your surveillance operation? Edge storage means you don’t need to continually send high-resolution video back to the control room and you can even do some analytics on the camera. However, many companies want to or are required to store their surveillance footage for 30, 90 or more days, which makes edge storage a risky option. So what would be the best solution?

Greeff says a storage solution will always be based on the environment and needs of the client. “Most common is the use of in-house servers where there is a single-site environment. This will typically be an NVR/VMS recorder as it is still the most cost-effective and secure method of storage, offering redundancy on different levels through RAID configurations and failover options. This is also most sensible when there is a high requirement for video retention.”

He adds that edge storage is typically used in environments that are either smaller systems with no NVR, remote (like an ATM or in-vehicle) with flexible retrieval options, or for redundancy on a local network. “These decisions will normally be driven by cost,” Greeff notes, “so this will most typically be used in a remote environment as this negates the cost of a local NVR and can limit bandwidth use. Cloud storage is still quite a small part of our market with some traction in international markets. This has a lot to do with connectivity stability and costs in Africa.”


Clifton Greeff.

A hybrid option, he says, is more suited to complex environments and could also be offered for specific high risk or important cameras.

Tempelhoff echoes that an optimal storage solution depends on the end-user requirements, noting that it can be costly and should therefore be carefully planned for. “Most end users will determine their storage requirement dependent on their business they are running. For example, a retail business with a monthly stock-take will want to keep footage in excess of five weeks. This will give them the ability to reference back should any discrepancies arise. Generally, the amount of data you need to store will depend on your video (resolution, bitrate, framerate, compression and amount of motion hours).

Most surveillance systems deployed in South Africa currently, make use of conventional hard drives installed into recording devices, making the sending of data inevitable, adds Tempelhoff. Rare occasions will see the deployment of edge storage or cameras with built-in SD cards. Currently, the most popular solution is still in-house servers as in most cases you have control of your video.

When deciding between the different storage options, Kedacom says end users should consider whether they want to have to download video from the edge each time they need to examine it or when they want to back it up. The alternative is whether they are willing and able to store large amounts of video data (and other security data) on-site for long periods of time. Finally, using a centralised storage platform is often the better choice as it can be expanded as required and offers easier management, including options such as user authority, recording classification, storing strategy, data security etc.

NUUO adds that edge storage for cameras uses SD cards, which are not as durable without redundancy and have less capacity compared to traditional hard drives. “So, if the user requires all footage to be stored for 30, 90 or more days and the data is important to them, they should consider in-house servers since it is more cost-effective and provides better storage redundancy compared to cloud servers or edge storage.”

From TVT’s perspective, budget and the environment will decide on the best solution. Cloud is not the best option when it comes to environments with poor connectivity and ‘risky connections’. There is also the question of the total costs of cloud storage and processing power and perhaps most important of all, the data is not under your direct control.

On-site storage, on the other hand, does not depend on your Internet connection, only the LAN and there are also fewer cyber risks. And the data is under your direct control.

What about the S&ST; architecture

Hi-Tech Security Solutions readers will recall that Security and Safety Things (S&ST) has developed its own camera operating system, used by various vendors, which allows for AI and analytical apps to be downloaded from the organisation’s store and used on a surveillance camera – much like a cellphone. (Read more at www.securitysa.com/11564r and www.securitysa.com/12595r.) In this scenario, edge storage and processing is seen as the best solution as everything is done on the camera and your cameras can be moved around, allowing you to load different apps for different use cases. The only transmission to a control centre would happen when the AI on board detects an anomaly that demands attention.

Greeff notes that this style of architecture is most often used in remote sites where there are bandwidth constraints and only the most important events are transmitted. Typical examples are ATMs, transportation/in-vehicle, kiosks and industrial automation. With the improvements in machine learning and deep learning analytics on the edge, this has become more popular, but is still limited in its adoption.

Tempelhoff adds, “Most of our vendors do not support this as there is no sense in adding additional services when the camera already supports loading of analytics.”

In many cases, the monitoring scenario the cameras face would be almost static or still, which will result in a lot of useless recording data being stored, says Kedacom, further leading to lower efficiency when querying specific recordings. Moreover, since the capacity of edge storage is limited, the storage space will be easily consumed and the high read and write rate will ultimately damage the lifespan of the SD card.

Edge storage can be optimal in this scenario, says NUUO, however, analytics features are not 100% accurate and in surveillance industry, stored data for future evidence is more important. “So we would suggest edge storage to be used in combination with in-house servers.”

A definite advantage of edge storage is to save the recording when there is a network failure between camera and servers. NUUO supports edge recording and its management platform will retrieve the recording from the edge when the network is up and running again.

Writing is the catch

There is also the question of the internals of your storage systems, namely the hard drives. ‘Normal’ hard drives used in business are more focused on reading data so that users don’t have to wait too long to load documents and data. When writing to disk, if the system has to wait an extra 0,5 seconds before the data is actually written to disk, users won’t even notice. (This is, admittedly, an over-simplified explanation).

In the surveillance scenario, the opposite is true. Constantly writing streams of video is critical and buffering too much (or incorrectly) and bottlenecks could result in lost frames. Reading occurs less frequently as systems collect metadata (if not done immediately) or when operators query the stored video. Using a normal hard drive for surveillance will stress the device and result in a reduced lifespan.

Storage companies have therefore developed hard drives specifically for the enormous writing requirements of surveillance. Of course, larger installations need more than one hard drive so these are most often built into storage arrays with additional software to manage the flow of data.

‘Surveillance drives’ are most typically used in NVR appliances offered by camera manufacturers, generally using devices from Western Digital and Seagate, with 4 TB and 8 TB drives most often used, explains Greeff, although larger capacities are also available. “However, in large and complex enterprise solutions, there is a call for more than just video to be stored. Data such as audio, metadata from edge video analytics and storage from event servers (such as events driven from access control, intrusion, fire integration and facial recognition) must all be stored. This will all require specialised servers with the appropriate enterprise drives to manage required workload and throughput.”

Tempelhoff goes a step further, stating, “Under no circumstances is it suggested to ever use a normal PC hard drive for surveillance as they just cannot handle the amount of traffic sent. Conventional CCTV systems send more data to disk in one month, than most laptop drives transfer in their life expectancy. Hence, one cannot skimp and there are no shortcuts.”

Specific solutions

In conclusion, Hi-Tech Security Solutions asked the various companies to highlight the specific storage options they provide to their customers.

Greeff says Duxbury offers the new Milestone Husky IVO, purpose-built with Dell hardware and Intel processing power, offering optimised performance and reliability for Milestone video management systems. The company also offers Milestone Protect on AWS for cloud storage requirements (read more about the solution at www.securitysa.com/11926r).

“Other offerings include Axis Camera Station appliance recorders and Hanwha Techwin’s Wisenet NVRs. In addition, we supply special builds on Dell and Supermicro for enterprise systems using FF Group licence plate recognition and SAFR facial recognition. Finally, we offer solutions using SD cards with flexible retrieval for ATM and in-vehicle solutions, using Milestone and Radinium.”

Forbatt mostly supplies Seagate as storage devices to its partners; however, it also supplies the storage solutions of the various brands it represents.

The Kedacom brand includes the following solutions:

• NRU Access Mode: It supports iSCSI connections, but can also directly connect to the main VMS platform. The main platform can connect up to 31 central storage systems to obtain large-capacity storage with approximately 200 Mbits/sec forwarding capability.

• S.M.A.R.T. Technology (Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology): The objects monitored by SMART include the main parts of the hard disk, such as magnetic heads, disks, motors, circuits, etc. It uses the monitoring circuit of the hard disk and the monitoring software on the host computer to analyse and compare the operating conditions, historical records and pre-set safety values of the monitored objects. When there is a situation outside the safe value range, it will automatically warn the user.

• KART Technology: Kedacom’s own innovation, which combines with the stripe alignment technology of the file system to reduce the read compensation to less than 1%, improving the reliability of the hard disks in RAID configurations and increasing the system I/O throughput by more than 30%.

NUUO provides turnkey solutions that combine a recording system with an enterprise storage server to achieve a stable storage system. “For that we provide a variety of server models to fulfil customer requests and can support from four bays to 24 bays and up to 384 TB per server. All the servers can be connected to each other to achieve an unlimited capacity.”

The NUUO solutions also provide hard drive health checks, server health checks, system abnormality and disconnection notifications, failover, RAID, redundant power supply and more.

TVT has solutions from the consumer segment to the enterprise. These include IP cameras with on-board storage for consumers, to larger systems with an added NVR and the company’s own VMS.

For more information contact:

• Duxbury Networking, +27 11 351 9800, [email protected], www.duxbury.co.za


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