Video Surveillance Data Storage: Cloud vs. On-Prem vs. Hybrid

A decorative image showing several video surveillance cameras connected to a cloud with the Backblaze logo on it.

Depending on your industry, you may need to install and run video surveillance. And once you have footage, you might be required to store it for a set period of days, months, or even years. This leads to the question: Where are you supposed to keep it all?

Not all storage systems are created equal, so it’s important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each option before making a decision. In some cases, government and industry regulations will require you to use a certain type of storage system. Ultimately, you will benefit from knowing how the system functions, what risks are involved, and how to select a technology provider.

This article will help you consider the pros and cons of on-premises, cloud, and hybrid storage systems. As you read, keep in mind that the amount of storage you need for your enterprise will depend on the number of cameras you have, the quality of the video footage, the length of time you are required to retain the footage, and various other factors. 

First Things First: Your Backup Strategy

No matter how or where you store your video surveillance footage, the most important thing you should do is establish a backup strategy that follows the 3-2-1 backup approach. That means you should have three copies of your data on two different media with one stored off-site. In this post, we’ll weigh the pros and cons of whether you keep that off-site copy stored at an off-site location like, say, an Iron Mountain storage facility, a remote office, or data center, or whether you keep that off-site copy in the cloud. 

You might think we’re biased as a cloud provider. Of course, we’d love it if you choose to keep your backups with Backblaze! But the main thing we want to emphasize is that you should have a backup plan for your video surveillance footage (or any data, really!) whether it includes Backblaze or not. And, because you have to store one of those copies off-site, it’s miles easier (pun intended) to store in the cloud than to physically drive or mail hard drives to a secondary location.  

What Is On-Premises Storage?

Storing video footage on-premises means your data is stored on physical media—that is, servers, network attached storage (NAS), storage area network (SAN), LTO tape (linear tape open), etc.—in a physical location on your premises. We’ll talk about two forms of on-premises storage as they pertain to video footage: NAS and SAN.

Are NAS Devices Good for Storing Video Footage?

NAS devices have a large data storage capacity that provides file-based data storage services to other devices on a network. Usually, they also have a client or web portal interface, as well as services like QNAP’s Hybrid Backup Sync or Synology’s Hyper Backup to help manage your files.

A photo of a Synology NAS.

One of the benefits of NAS is that it’s easy to set up and use, and you can upgrade internal drives over time. The main drawback when it comes to storing video surveillance footage is that its storage capacity is limited. Even if you buy a bigger device than you need right now, eventually you’ll run out of space and need to buy more, especially if you’re storing large amounts of video surveillance footage.

Is a SAN Good for Storing Video Footage?

On the other end of the spectrum, SANs are engineered for high-performance and mission-critical applications. They function by connecting multiple storage devices, such as disk arrays or tape libraries, to a dedicated network that is separate from the main local area network (LAN).

SANs offer high-speed data access, critical for handling large video streams from multiple cameras and allow for seamless scalability. As video surveillance systems grow, SANs can accommodate additional cameras and storage without disrupting ongoing operations. They also provide enhanced data security by isolating block-level storage within the operating system layer, to protect against failures and unauthorized access. Managing SANs can be a bit complex, necessitating skilled administrators familiar with SAN architecture. Additionally, implementing SANs incurs upfront expenses for hardware, software, and expertise, while their reliance on centralized controllers poses a risk of impacting multiple cameras in case of failure.

What Is Cloud Storage?

Cloud storage enables you to securely store data and files in an off-site location. You can access this data through the public internet.

When you transfer data off-site for storage, the cloud storage provider (CSP) hosts, secures, manages, and maintains the servers and associated infrastructure, ensuring that you have seamless access to your data whenever you need it.

What Are the Benefits of Cloud Storage for Video Surveillance Footage?

  1. Scalability: Cloud storage services allow you to dynamically adjust capacity as your video surveillance data volumes fluctuate. 
  2. Avoid capital expenses (CapEx): By leveraging cloud storage for video surveillance, your organization benefits from paying for storage technology and capacity as a service, rather than incurring the capital expenses associated with constructing and upkeeping in-house storage networks. As data volumes grow over time, your costs may increase, but there’s no need to overprovision storage networks in anticipation of future data expansion. 
  3. Security: Cloud surveillance systems enhance data security with unique user accounts and data encryption ensure that only authorized personnel can access the footage. This controlled access minimizes the risk of unauthorized viewing or tampering.
  4. Accessibility: Cloud storage relies on an internet or network connection so authorized users can access surveillance footage remotely from anywhere using smart devices or web browsers. Whether you’re at the office, traveling, or even at home, you can review camera feeds without being physically present on-site. Keep in mind if the connection is lost or disrupted, access to video footage becomes challenging. This dependency can impact real-time monitoring and retrieval of critical data.

Just like our other storage strategies, there are drawbacks to cloud storage. For example, it relies on a stable internet connection. Video surveillance files are large, even when you apply compression techniques, which means that they take time and proper network connections to upload. So, if your internet connection goes down, it takes longer to get data properly stored or backed up than it would with other file types. That means you may not have real-time access to your data, or (in the worst cases) that you potentially risk file corruption if you don’t have a robust enough local storage infrastructure. 

Similarly, businesses should evaluate the privacy and data ownership concerns. Storing video footage in the cloud means entrusting sensitive data to a third-party service provider. Make sure that your CSP meets or exceeds all regulatory or compliance requirements, like SOC 2 or ISO 27001, before you store data on their platforms. 

All things considered, cloud storage offers scalability, ease of access, fine–tuned file control, and minimal maintenance, which are essential when dealing with the complexities of storing video surveillance footage.

Direct-to-Cloud Video Surveillance

Some companies choose to transfer video surveillance off-site to the cloud for backup purposes, while others push video footage directly to the cloud as a primary storage location, especially as there are several camera models and video surveillance solutions that are designed to easily push footage directly to cloud storage. When you’re choosing video surveillance hardware, it’s worth looking into whether they have this functionality, and if so, how much control you have over setting your storage destination to optimize costs. 

And, if you’re using cloud storage as the primary storage for video footage, a multi-cloud setup can be used to ensure the primary copy in the cloud is backed up. A multi-cloud setup involves using multiple cloud service providers simultaneously—so, if your video surveillance platform stores footage in their own cloud, you can still set up a workflow that backs up to a different CSP. For backup and archive purposes, organizations can distribute their data across different clouds to enhance reliability, reduce risk, create geographic diversity in storage locations for disaster recovery purposes, and to comply with data retention policies. This approach ensures data availability even if one cloud provider experiences issues.

What Is Hybrid Cloud Storage?

Hybrid cloud storage combines elements from both public clouds and private clouds (typically on-premises systems). It’s essentially a unified management approach where an integrated infrastructure enables seamless movement of workloads and data between the private and public clouds.

Using a hybrid cloud for video surveillance makes sense for lots of use cases, including backup and archive. Let’s talk about how. 

Backup: To deploy a hybrid approach for a video surveillance backup use case, you’d store all of your video surveillance footage in your on-premises systems, then store your backups in the cloud. Many NAS devices, for example, come with on-board backup utilities that allow you to store backups of your video surveillance footage directly in the cloud. You could also use third-party backup software to automatically back up your systems to the cloud. This hybrid approach gives you fast access to your footage via your on-premises storage, while protecting it with cloud backups.

Archive: To deploy a hybrid approach for a video surveillance archive use case, you’d store recent live recordings of your video surveillance footage on-premises. After a recurring cutoff date—whether in days or months—you then move old footage to a public cloud. This hybrid system allows you to access recent footage quickly while archiving older footage, particularly if you have retention requirements for compliance or cyber insurance purposes. If done right, this system can help your company comply with both short- and long-term industry requirements.

For a more in-depth look at hybrid cloud storage, check out our blog on hybrid cloud

Is Hybrid Cloud Good for Video Surveillance Footage?

Leveraging hybrid cloud storage provides a dual advantage for video surveillance: swift local access to your video surveillance footage while simultaneously safeguarding it through off-site backups or off-loading it through a cloud archive. This strategic approach allows you to harness the strengths of both public and private clouds. Moreover, it offers enhanced scalability and flexibility compared to traditional on-premises solutions.

However, it’s essential to note that implementing a private cloud system can be cost-intensive. It necessitates budgeting for hardware acquisitions and replacements over time. Additionally, you’ll likely need to allocate resources for dedicated staff to maintain servers and backup strategies.

The Verdict: Which Type of Storage Is Best for Video Surveillance?

Choosing the right video surveillance storage solution is a critical decision for any organization. On-premises, cloud, and hybrid cloud each have their merits and drawbacks. While on-premises solutions offer large data storage capacity that is easy to set up and use, they require significant infrastructure investment. Cloud storage provides data accessibility and scales seamlessly while optimizing cost-effectiveness. Hybrid cloud provides both rapid local access to your video surveillance footage and secure off-site backups. 

Ultimately, the choice depends on your specific needs, budget, and long-term strategy. Consider the trade-offs carefully to ensure seamless and reliable video storage for your surveillance system.

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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.