Dedicating a career to the surveillance industry should be a first and foremost choice to contribute to the safety of all. Therefore, when it comes to security, no stones should remain unturned to ensure the optimal performance of the systems installed. However, somewhere down the line, something often goes wrong.
I can comment only what I see as representative of a digital storage vendor for the surveillance market, perhaps similar observations can be made on other components of a typical surveillance infrastructure. More than 200 of our NVR systems have been deployed since we launched our business and, being locally-based, we have a very close eye on the first level support provided during the life-span of those systems. All these systems are handling between 60 to 600 cameras each, in industries such as mining, retail, large corporates, entertainment, etc.
On the 200 systems we recorded that only 10 of them are connected to a UPS (uninterruptible power supply). In a country that took the credit for inventing the term ‘Load Shedding’, this is quite alarming.
Beside the immediate unavailability of any form of display in the control room, losing the power on any storage unit can result in a loss of data or data corruption, and in a worst-case scenario, an impossibility to restart the unit without a complete reconfiguration. This is true for any storage vendor, regardless of the sophistication of the technology.
The truth is that the migration from DVR to NVR has been completely under-estimated. A single modern NVR can today host a capacity that exceeds the capacity of storage of the biggest data-centre only a decade ago. Many, if not most surveillance sites should be termed ‘mission critical’ sites. Almost all NVR vendors offer options for this type of site, such as dual storage controllers for redundancy, RAID-6 (allows up to two drives to fail in a RAID array), battery protection and so on.
But, returning to our statistics, on 200 systems, zero of them have a controller for redundancy, zero of them are using anything better than RAID-5 (only one drive can fail at the time in a RAID array). The principal motivation could be the cost, obviously, but a single UPS costing in the region of R10 000 would be a massive improvement – a miniscule component of the total cost of the project.
Furthermore, most of the SIs offer SLA to the final customers with some sort of guarantee of availability during the lifespan of the contract. As a hardware vendor, I find it extremely brave to guarantee the availability of an infrastructure without chasing the potential single point of failure.
As far as storage for CCTV is concerned, RAID technologies and hard drives are not a kind of magic wand, they are not cement-proof (yes, some systems are deployed with no protection while buildings are still in construction), or waterproof (you will be surprised what we see on the support side), and definitely not power-outage proof.
In 2018, more than ever, NVRs are highly sophisticated pieces of technology that require special attention, such as constant low temperatures, constant humidity rate, clean environment, power protection and restraint of access.
The last ‘restraint of access’ is an interesting one. We have recorded on various sites that multiple hard drives have been pulled ‘out and in’ resulting in invalidating the RAID array, destroying existing footage and preventing new ones from being recorded. For anyone that wants to commit a crime on a site, it is a much better method of neutralising the entire CCTV system than stealing cameras.
I will conclude that like everything in life (and security is a matter of life), the most important piece is the foundation, your digital storage infrastructure. Your NVR is the foundation of a CCTV infrastructure, neglecting this part or cutting corners to save costs makes irrelevant the most advanced cameras in the world and more importantly ultimately represents a safety risk.
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