To cloud or not to cloud

1 May 2018 Editor's Choice, CCTV, Surveillance & Remote Monitoring, IT infrastructure

The recent growth in South Africa’s data centre infrastructure has led some industry players to believe that there will be a related increase in demand for video surveillance due to increased local cloud storage options. According to recent predictions, South Africa will follow global trends with an upsurge in cloud-based services in the physical security industry, leading customers to unlock great cost savings once they’ve moved their video surveillance footage to cloud storage.

Laurence Smith.
Laurence Smith.

This will steer a shift in market interest toward Video Surveillance as a Service (VSaaS), As a result, customers will be able to upgrade their storage to meet current and future demands in a remote database by sending video data and storing video footage in the cloud.

Realistically, this is not the case locally and businesses should be wary of moving everything to the cloud just because it is marketed as more secure and cost-effective. Businesses should rather do a cost-benefit analysis of moving their video data to the cloud for storage purposes, just as they would for any other data. Such an analysis may reveal that it is far more cost-effective and practical to consider outsourcing the storage of surveillance events footage to the cloud, rather than all footage in entirety.

Not yet a reality for South Africa

Storing all video footage in the cloud sounds good in theory. It implies that customers will be able to avoid the costs and headaches involved in setting up and managing on-premise storage by simply moving all of it to the cloud. This would be the case in an ideal world, if the transfer mechanism and connectivity between a business and the remote data centre was unlimited and all-powerful. This is not the case.

In South Africa, limited connectivity infrastructure and the persistent cost of bandwidth makes it a challenge to stream large volumes of video footage to the cloud, particularly high-resolution feeds from camera systems that can contain upward of a hundred or more cameras.

Furthermore, relying on a third-party network service provider for the capacity to upload or download video to and from the cloud means that any outage could cut your organisation off from its video assets. There is the very real possibility that uploads may fail, data may be lost and information may be unavailable until network services are restored.

When video is stored on premise, there’s always the comfort of having local access and control. In addition, most enterprise-class servers and network video recorders (NVRs) include the ability to have failover servers and procedures to ensure video recording continues in the event of a temporary network outage.

Be practical about what needs to go in the cloud

Before moving video surveillance to the cloud, businesses need to remember that the majority of collected video footage is rarely used, and it is only specific events that will require a follow-up action. Merely pushing volumes of video data into the cloud does not make sense if it does not deliver any value. That’s why it makes sense to only store events footage in the cloud, and have this as a service. The key to unlocking the cost and security benefit of the cloud for video customers in South Africa’s current reality would lie in achieving a balance between on-premises storage of video footage and cloud storage for events footage. Here, data management considerations, such as how long video footage needs to be stored before being archived or destroyed, can be structured to minimise the costs of on-premises storage and management.

Not to say that the cloud holds no promise for video surveillance as it stands right now. Rather, the benefits of cloud can be exploited in other ways and enterprises are now in a position to make use of cloud-powered video surveillance analytics engines. This can help security and public safety entities in the development of comprehensive security and investigative capabilities using recorded video footage. By adding capabilities like advanced search and facial recognition, it becomes possible to automate the difficult, time-consuming processes of finding critical information across multiple video files from different camera types.

Work with what’s available right now

Cloud-based video surveillance storage and management is an emerging approach that holds massive potential for the physical security realm. However, until substantial bandwidth hurdles can be overcome, it won’t be a cost-effective video surveillance storage solution for most mid- to large-sized businesses with multiple locations and more demanding video requirements. This will require further advances in terms of video compression technology and more affordable bandwidth services. Until this hurdle has fallen, it remains important for South African organisations to bear in mind the practical realities of cloud storage for video surveillance footage and to look to the cloud for productivity and cost-cutting benefits in other ways.

For more information contact Graphic Image Technologies, +27 (0)11 483 0333,,


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