How Much Storage Do I Need to Back Up My Video Surveillance Footage?

A decorative image showing a surveillance camera connected to the cloud.

We all have things we want to protect, and if you’re responsible for physically or virtually protecting a business from all types of threats, you probably have some kind of system in place to monitor your physical space. If you’ve ever dealt with video surveillance footage, you know managing it can be a monumental task. Ensuring the safety and security of monitored spaces relies on collecting, storing, and analyzing large amounts of data from cameras, sensors, and other devices. The requirements to back up and retain footage to support investigations are only getting more stringent. Anyone dealing with surveillance data, whether in business or security, needs to ensure that surveillance data is not only backed up, but also protected and accessible. 

In this post, we’ll talk through why you should back up surveillance footage, the factors you should consider to understand how much storage you need, and how you can use cloud storage in your video surveillance backup strategy. 

The Importance of Backing Up Video Surveillance Footage

Backup storage plays a critical part in maintaining the security of video surveillance footage. Here’s why it’s so important:

  1. Risk Reduction: Without backup storage, surveillance system data stored on a single hard drive or storage device is susceptible to crashes, corruption, or theft. Having a redundant copy ensures that critical footage is not lost in case of system failures or data corruption.
  2. Fast Recovery: Video surveillance systems rely on continuous recording to monitor and record all activities. In the event of system failures, backup storage enables swift recovery, minimizing downtime and ensuring uninterrupted surveillance.
  3. Compliance and Legal Requirements: Many industries, including security, have legal obligations to retain surveillance footage for a specified duration. Backup storage ensures compliance with these requirements and provides evidence when needed.
  4. Verification and Recall: Backup recordings allow you to verify actions, recall events, and keep track of activities. Having access to historical footage is valuable for potential investigations and future decision making.

Each piece of information about video surveillance requirements will affect how much space your video files take up and, consequently, your storage requirements. Let’s walk through each of these general requirements so you don’t end up underestimating how much backup storage you’ll need.

Video Surveillance Storage Considerations

When you’re implementing a backup strategy for video surveillance, there are several factors that can impact your choices. The number and resolution of cameras, frame rates, retention periods, and more can influence how you design your backup storage system. Consider the following factors when thinking about how much storage you’ll need for your video surveillance footage:

  • Placement and Coverage: When it comes to video surveillance camera placement, strategic positioning is crucial for optimal security and regulatory compliance. Consider ground floor doors and windows, main stairs or hallways, common areas, and driveways. Install cameras both inside and outside entry points. Generally, the wider the field of view, the fewer cameras you’ll likely need overall. The FBI provides extensive recommendations for setting up your surveillance system properly.
  • Resolution: The resolution determines the clarity of the video footage, which is measured in the number of pixels (px). A higher resolution means more pixels and a sharper image. While there’s no universal minimum for admissible surveillance footage, a resolution of 480 x 640 px is recommended. However, mandated minimums can differ based on local regulations and specific use cases. Note that some regulations may not provide a minimum resolution requirement, and some minimum requirements may not meet the intended purpose of surveillance. Often, it’s better to go with a camera that can record at a higher resolution than the mandated minimum.
  • Frame Rate: All videos are made up of individual frames. A higher frame rate—measured in frames per second (FPS)—means a smoother, less clunky image. This is because there are more frames being packed into each second. Like your cameras’ resolution, there are no universal requirements specified by regulations. However, it’s better to go with a camera that can record at a higher FPS so that you have more images to choose from if there’s ever an open investigation.
  • Recording Length: Surveillance cameras are required to run all day, every day, which requires a lot of storage. To help reduce the instance of storing videos that aren’t of interest, some cameras can come with artificial intelligence (AI) tools that will only record footage when it identifies something of interest, such as movement or a vehicle. But if you’re protecting a business with heavy activity, this use of AI may be moot. 
  • Retention Length: Video surveillance retention requirements can vary significantly based on local, state, and federal regulations. These laws dictate how long companies must store their video surveillance footage. For example, medical marijuana dispensaries in Ohio require 24/7 security video to be retained for a minimum of six months, and the footage must be made available to the licensing board upon request. The required length can be prolonged even further if a piece of footage is required for an ongoing investigation. Additionally, backing up your video footage (i.e., saving a copy of it in another area) is different from archiving it for long-term use. You’ll want to be sure that you select a storage system that helps you meet those requirements—more on that later.

Each point on this list affects how much storage capacity you need. More cameras mean more footage being generated, which means more video files. Additionally, a higher resolution and frame rate mean larger file sizes. Multiply this by the round-the-clock operation of surveillance cameras and the required retention length, and you’ll likely have more video data than you know what to do with.

Scoping Video Surveillance Storage: An Example

To illustrate how much footage you can expect to collect, it can be helpful to see an example of how a given business’s video surveillance may operate. Note that this example may not apply to you specifically. You should review your local area’s regulations and consult with an industry professional to make sure you are compliant. 

Let’s say that you need to install surveillance cameras for a bank. Customers enter through the lobby and wait for the next available bank teller to assist them at a teller station. No items are put on display, only the exchange of paper and cash between the teller and the customer. Only authorized employees are allowed within the teller area. After customers complete their transactions, they walk back through the lobby area and exit via the building’s front entry.

As an estimate, let’s say you need at least 10 cameras around your building: one for the entrance; another for the lobby; eight more to cover the general back area, including the door to the teller terminals, the teller terminals themselves, the door to the safe, and inside of the safe; and, of course, one for the room where the surveillance equipment is housed. You may need more than 10 to cover the exterior of your building plus your ATM and drive through banking, but for the sake of an example, we’ll leave it at 10.

Now, suppose all your cameras record at 1080p resolution (1920 x 1080 px), 15 FPS, and a color depth of 14 bits (basically, how many colors the camera captures). For one 24 hour recording on one camera, you’re looking at 4.703 terabytes (TB). Over 30 days of storage, this can grow to 141.1TB. In other words, if the average person today needs a 2TB hard disk for their PC, it will take more than 70 PCs to hold all the information from just one camera.  

We’re deliberately oversimplifying this example for demonstration purposes. Keep in mind that video compression algorithms may significantly reduce these storage requirements and could play a role in determining storage requirements for video surveillance footage. There are several types of video compression, and different surveillance companies use that technology in different ways. Choosing a compression format can impact both size of the video files and the quality, so keep this in mind when needing to meet mandated minimum resolutions in case of an open investigation.

How Cloud Storage Can Help Back Up Surveillance Footage

Backing up surveillance footage is essential for ensuring data security and accountability. It provides a reliable record of events, aids in investigations, and helps prevent wrongdoing by acting as a deterrent. But the right backup strategy is key to preserving your footage.

The 3-2-1 backup strategy is an accepted foundational structure that recommends keeping three copies of all important data (one primary copy and two backup copies) on two different media types (to diversify risk) and storing at least one copy off-site. With surveillance data utilizing high-capacity data storage systems, adhering to the 3-2-1 rule is important in order to access footage in case of an investigation. The 3-2-1 rule mitigates single points of failure, enhances data availability, and protects against corruption. By adhering to this rule, you increase the resilience of your surveillance footage, making it easier to recover even in unexpected events or disasters.

Having an on-site backup copy is a great start for the 3-2-1 backup strategy, but having an off-site backup is a key component in having a complete backup strategy. Having a backup copy in the cloud provides an easy to maintain, reliable off-site copy, safeguarding against a host of potential data losses including:

  • Natural Disasters: If your business is harmed by a natural disaster, the devices you use for your primary storage or on-site backup may be damaged, resulting in a loss of data.
  • Tampering and Theft: Even if someone doesn’t try to steal or manipulate your surveillance footage, an employee can still move, change, or delete files accidentally. You’ll need to safeguard footage with proper security protocols, such as authorization codes, data immutability, and encryption keys. These protocols may require constant, professional, and IT administration and maintenance that are often automatically built into the cloud.
  • Lack of Backup and Archive Protocols: Unless your primary storage source uses   specialized software to automatically save copies of your footage or move them to long-term storage, any of your data may be lost.

The cloud has transformed backup strategies and made it easy to ensure the integrity of large data sets, like surveillance footage. Here’s how the cloud helps achieve the 3-2-1 back strategy affordably:

  •  Scalability: With the cloud, your backup storage space is no longer limited to what servers you can afford. The cloud provider will continue to build and deploy new servers to keep up with customer demand, meaning you can simply rent out the storage space and pay for more as needed.
  • Reliability: Most cloud providers share information on their durability and reliability and are heavily invested in building systems and processes to mitigate the impact of failures. Their systems are built to be fault-tolerant. 
  • Security: Cloud providers protect data you store with them with enterprise-grade security measures and offer features like access controls and encryption to allow users the ability to better protect their data.
  • Affordability: Cloud storage helps you use your storage budgets effectively by not paying to provision and maintain physical off-site backup locations yourself.
  • Disaster Recovery: If unexpected disasters occur, such as natural disasters, theft, or hardware failure, you’ll know exactly where your data lives in the cloud and how to restore it so you can get back up and running quickly.
  • Compliance: By adhering to a set of standards and regulations cloud solutions meet compliance requirements to ensure data stored and managed in the cloud is protected and used responsibly.

Protect The Footage You Invested In to Protect Yourself

No matter the size, operation, or location of your business, it’s critical to remain compliant with all industry laws and regulations—especially when it comes to surveillance. Protect your business by partnering with a cloud provider that understands your unique business requirements, offering scalable, reliable, and secure services at a fraction of the cost compared with other platforms.

As a leading specialized cloud provider, Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage can secure your surveillance footage for both primary backup and long-term protection. B2 offers a range of security options—from encryption to Object Lock to Cloud Replication and access management controls—to help you protect your data and achieve industry compliance. Learn more about Backblaze B2 for surveillance data or contact our Sales Team today.


About Tonya Comer

Tonya Comer is a Senior Product Marketing Manager for the B2 Cloud Storage Platform. She has over 20 years in marketing focused on the server and storage technology industry with the majority of her time spent at Hewlett-Packard. When she's not thinking about cloud storage, Tonya enjoys traveling, spending time with family and friends, and Texas A&M football. Connect with her on LinkedIn.