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Ten years ago video surveillance was primarily known as a security measure used by major corporations and financial institutions for protecting assets and monitoring perimeters. Analog cameras were strategically placed for remote viewing by security personnel, often in combination with a human guard controlling access to premises.

Videocassette recorders (VCRs) recorded the captured video on tapes.  Tapes were archived for a certain amount of time for post-event analysis and identification, and then reused. The recorded content was often poor because of both the limited resolution of the cameras and the use of worn-out tapes.

vhs-tape-against-white 2
Older analog VHS tapes

Then came 9/11 and, along with it, an increased desire for tougher security measures throughout the world. Fortunately, at around the same time, major technological breakthroughs in the video surveillance world ushered in significant improvements.  On the heels of IP networking for computing came IP networking for video surveillance systems.  IP video surveillance management software makes it possible to centrally manage an unlimited number of networked cameras and store captured video digitally for easy retrieval and export for evidence. Using video encoders, existing analog cameras can easily be made part of the system, in addition to the newer, higher resolution (megapixel) IP network cameras that – because of a variety of advantages – are rapidly taking over the market.

The biggest challenge with closed circuit television (CCTV) systems is the volume of content that is recorded and archived.  As CCTV cameras move from standard definition to high definition and now to 4k resolution, the data rate is growing exponentially and demands massive capacity for storage.

There are basically two approaches to large scale storage systems for CCTV.  The first is the NVR or Network Video Recorder.  It is sometimes called a DVR (Digital Video Recorder) on smaller scaled solutions.  The second options is a large scale, mass storage solution from the IT world.  Depending upon the scale of the network, both have merit in the right circumstances.


Regardless of the video surveillance application that you use, once you record footage, you need a means to store it.  CCTV camera storage can help preserve evidence, beneficial in defending against a case.  The proof can also be used to resolve a robbery or determine the root of an inferno.  In the vast majority of countries, storing surveillance footage for a given period is mandatory.  As a rule of thumb, most security companies store the surveillance videos for one to three months.  Footage is often recorded on a rolling window, meaning after the define time period is achieved, say a 30 day roll-over, the first day of footage is recorded over by the 31st day of footage.  Only the previous 30 days of content is ever available at any one time.  Some key footage can be tagged for longer term preservation, perhaps for years, if it is needed for legal reasons.

Beyond the core storage solution, sometimes regulations require a back-up copy of all footage.  This can be challenging to do.  In most cases, you will want to maintain the back-up copy at a different location to protect it from local events like fire and break-ins.  The cloud is a common place to record back-up footage and longer term archives.

Mass Storage

An IBM Mass Storage solution

For the sake of this discussion pertaining to mass storage, I will use IBM as an example.  Other vendors are available too.  IBM Elastic Storage Server is a modern implementation of software-defined storage, combining IBM Spectrum Scale software with IBM POWER8® processor-based I/O-intensive servers and dual-ported storage enclosures. IBM Spectrum Scale is the parallel file system at the heart of IBM ESS.  IBM Spectrum Scale scales system throughput as it grows while still providing a single namespace.  This eliminates data silos, simplifies storage management and delivers high performance.  By consolidating storage requirements across your organization onto IBM ESS, you can reduce inefficiency, lower acquisition costs and support demanding workloads.

Supports massive volumes of data

IBM ESS can deliver up to 40GB/s of throughput and scale-out to exabytes of storage with IBM Spectrum Scale. Growing data can be managed and tiered across practically any storage.

Reduce Total Cost of Ownership

IBM ESS uses IBM Spectrum Scale RAID with de-clustered erasure coding to distribute and protect data. Support for RESTFUL APIs allows for reduction in OPEX.

Seamlessly extend storage to the cloud

Enjoy the benefits of both on-premise and off-premise storage with hybrid cloud storage capabilities. Native tiering capability allows moving data to or from the cloud based on business policies.

Global Collaboration

Share data across multiple locations as a single namespace with Advanced File Management, intelligent routing and caching.

Multi-protocol support

Support for File (POSIX, NFS, SMB), Object (S3, Swift), Block (iSCSI) and Hadoop (HDFS)

Simplified intuitive GUI

Integrated system and software management with the IBM ESS GUI, which is compatible with IBM Spectrum Control to simplify deployment, troubleshooting and administration

Network Video Recorder

A Milestone Network Video Recorder

For the example of an NVR, let us consider the Milestone offerings.  There top of the line model is the Milestone Husky M550. It offers redundant power supply, up to 10GbE over CAT6 and no limits to the amount of enterprise storage. The Husky M550A is the first server-class NVR in the industry to have a converged network adapter and leads the industry in recording rates for the 10GbE segment.

The Husky M550A offers:

  • The lowest power consumption in its class
  • An industry-leading recording rate of 1200Mb/s
  • Support for unlimited storage

In addition to up to 64TB internal storage, the Husky M550A offers you the possibility of unlimited storage.  Their newest, server-class NVR is the first in the industry to use the Intel X550 T2, a converged network adapter which provides hardware-based, high speed 10GbE iSCSI and FCoE (Fiber Channel over Ethernet) interfaces, enabling users to natively connect an unlimited amount of storage for both live video databases and archives.  Customers can extend built-in storage using enterprise class storage solutions from DellEMC, HP, Netapp and other storage manufacturers.

Seamlessly and transparently interconnecting to the Video Management System and the Intelligent Video Analytics platforms are essential for any storage solution, regardless if it is a mass storage or NVR solution.  To address the changing surveillance data needs of organizations all over the world, vendors are introducing a robust portfolio of surveillance solutions built on a data lake architecture.  For example, the EMC Surveillance Solutions offer an open platform, best-of-breed EMC Federation distributed, centralized and cloud storage technologies, and an extensive partner ecosystem.   EMC argues that any storage solution needs the following characteristics:

Open Platform

Move away from black boxes, proprietary appliances and siloed storage solutions to best-in-class platforms for storage, compute, and networking. EMC’s open, surveillance architectures and broad portfolio of connectivity options mean no more “rip and replace” due to mismatched surveillance requirements.

Scalable Storage

Storage is the foundation layer of any surveillance architecture.  It must support an open platform capable of managing disparate data sets (from multiple devices) while addressing the challenge of scale head-on.  EMC offers three different storage architectures; distributed, centralized and cloud.


Today’s surveillance users want more than just a place to dump their data.  EMC offers an open platform that readies large amounts of data for analytics. Take data from your disparate sources and apply it to value-adding activities such as video indexing, anomaly detection, traffic and trajectory analysis or city transportation optimization.
A hybrid storage solution that blends NVR, Mass Storage, and a tape library
Store video in multiple locations where it can be secured and accessed most efficiently. The option for internal storage is direct attached storage (DAS), network attached storage (NAS), and storage area network (SAN) deployments. Benefits include:
  • Flexible options for storing video and audio in loops, one-time archives, or event clips triggered by external systems
  • Cost-effective, IT-caliber storage devices
  • Support for redundant storage and remote long-term archives
  • Expandability as your system or requirements grow
  • Ability to institute lifecycle (retention) management rules for stored video to ensure availability of the data


Designing a video surveillance solution requires decisions on 8 fundamental questions. This article helps beginners understand the options and trade-offs involved in designing a solid surveillance solution.  The 8 fundamental questions are:

  • What type of cameras should I use?
  • How should I connect cameras to video management systems?
  • What type of video management system should I use?
  • What type of storage should I use?
  • How should I record video?
  • What type of video analytics should I use?
  • How should I view my surveillance video?
  • How should I integrate video with my other systems?


As the use of camera security surveillance system grows due to increased security concerns, so the demand for the better image quality.  Also the demand for the longer video retention times are growing due to the legal compliance.  The increase in data produced due to higher image qualities and the longer retention means more data to be stored and archived at the storage level.

With the more data generated from the higher resolution cameras and longer retention, storage system plays an important role in the video surveillance architecture.  The storage system in the architecture is as critical as the cameras in the surveillance infrastructure.  Different types of the storage systems can be selected in the same architecture based on the video data life cycle requirement.

Some of the key following points needs to be consider before selecting the storage system

  • Majority of the video surveillance data is never reviewed.  Video surveillance systems are write intensive and storage should be geared enough to handle the continuous writes.
  • Seamless data movement across various storage tiers like SAS, NL-SAS, Tape system and Object storage throughout the life cycle of the video content.
  • How easily is your solution scalable based on the future requirements?

To address the ever increasing and challenging storage requirements of the video surveillance systems, IBM offers a validated storage solutions with the Industry leading solutions from the Genetec and Milestone systems.  IBM team has performed extensive testing and provides a range of options for the medium to very large enterprise solutions based on your requirements.

LTO Tape for longer term archives is a popular choice to back-up spinning disk or solid state online storage systems

In summary, storage is a vital element to any CCTV solution.  Depending upon the scale of the CCTV network, different storage options are to be considered, ranging from stand alone DVRs, to an array of NVRs, and Mass Storage solutions.  Even a hybrid of these solution is now seen as federated storage solutions are being deployed.

While storage can be expensive and challenging to manage, it is a critical component to every CCTV solution.  The alternative of having cameras but then not having the footage to review is untenable at best.  So, plan your storage solution well to meet your investigative needs, legislative needs, and security needs.


About the Author:

Michael Martin has more than 35 years of experience in systems design for broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless and digital communications technologies.

He is a Senior Executive with IBM Canada’s GTS Network Services Group. Over the past 13 years with IBM, he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He was previously a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN: TSX).

Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO: TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX: TSX.V). 

He serves as a Member, SCC ISO-IEC JTC 1/SC-41 – Internet of Things and related technologies, ISO – International Organization for Standardization, and as a member of the NIST SP 500-325 Fog Computing Conceptual Model, National Institute of Standards and Technology.

He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and on the Board of Advisers of five different Colleges in Ontario.  For 16 years he served on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section. 

He holds three master’s degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has diplomas and certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology.