In recent years we’ve seen video surveillance systems gain increased popularity among both public sector bodies looking to defend public safety and companies rolling out new customer experiences, such as self-service checkouts and, more recently, “till-less” grocery shopping. With the surveillance video market recently projected to grow to more than $68 billion between 2020 and 2025, cross-sector demand is clearly apparent.

Much of this growth is also being driven by transitions from analog to Internet Protocol (IP) based video surveillance systems and digital upgrades on already existing hybrid systems. Despite the pandemic, many organizations have spent the last year updating their surveillance video solutions. And while video surveillance can sometimes raise important questions relating to consumer privacy, it now forms an undeniably important part of most organizations’ security strategies.

A boom in video surveillance data

Of the estimated 175 zettabytes that global data storage is anticipated to reach by 2025, a major part will be generated by video footage. A single 4K video camera can generate over 250GB of data per day and as we move into the realm of 8K and 10K cameras in the coming years, the volume of data generated will continue to increase rapidly. All of it needs to be stored somewhere.

The amount of data created by way of these higher resolution cameras has vastly overwhelmed many organizations’ storage budgets, and most firms are only coping with it by reducing video quality and storing data for short time periods - as little as two or three days in some cases - before it has to be deleted. Clearly, neither of these are ideal solutions and the industry is in need of less costly storage options than the on-premises hardware solutions traditionally used.

Body worn video cameras (BWVs) offer a good illustration of how innovations in video surveillance are fuelling data demands. BWVs, worn by police officers throughout the UK and more and more frequently by security guards, typically generate one or two hours of footage per day, requiring around 3GB of storage. As cameras are updated to higher resolutions and improved capabilities this figure will continue to grow. Increasingly, bodies like the Metropolitan Police are choosing an unlimited data allowance as part of their surveillance contract.

Additionally, strict regulations are also compelling organizations to keep captured footage on file for longer. For example, airport guidelines require video of on-camera injuries, thefts or conflicts to be stored for seven years at a minimum - that’s hundreds of gigabytes of data if we consider that incidents are normally captured by multiple cameras and from different angles.

Considering data sovereignty issues

An increasingly important consideration for international organizations relying on data is regulation around data sovereignty, as we’ve seen a trend emerge of protectionist behaviour by governments (in countries like the US and China) that’s reflected in their data legislation. In light of the UK having now left the EU, rules around how data can flow between the UK and the EU and beyond is something for organizations to monitor.

This is particularly pertinent in a surveillance context given many security departments and governments will need to rely on uninterrupted access to surveillance storage to protect their ability to utilise the footage as necessary and to fulfill legal requirements. While no plans have been outlined to restrict the flow of personal data to the EU, the UK is now considered a “third country” which means the European Commission must perform an adequacy assessment on the suitability of Britain’s data protection law to allow personal data to be transferred to the UK. In response to these developments, organizations should be mindful of storing their data as close to their customers as possible in the event of any future restrictions on data transference.

Balancing cost, convenience and security

Deploying a hybrid cloud approach that air-gaps video management software (VMS) on-premises, while utilising the cloud primarily for storage, is one of the best ways to make sure your surveillance video data is both backed-up and secure. In a surveillance context, most recent video would be stored locally for the sake of speed - where it usually only needs to be stored for a day or two, subsequently being copied to the cloud where it can be kept for as long as the organisation needs it. In this way, organizations can maintain operational stability (e.g. speed, bandwidth and guarding against latency) and comply with legal requirements that may require data retention for years on end.

All-in-one solutions that offer Video Surveillance as a Service (VSaaS) are also popular for many businesses looking for surveillance solutions, but there are security implications to consider. Just this month one of the largest Video Surveillance as a Service (VSaaS) vendors was compromised by a huge data breach which affected customers globally from enterprise corporations to hospitals and prisons, and saw hackers granted access to 150,000 video cameras and archived footage.

Therefore, to guard against data theft, making sure your data is encrypted and immutable, and guarded by highly secure authorization controls and user authentication, is essential to protect it against ransomware and other forms of malware. While a VSaaS solution can seem useful for security departments looking to remove the burden of excessive management and admin, a solution that offers data immutability for video storage in transit and at rest may be a safer option.

Overall, the more our video surveillance systems become more technologically advanced, the more important it becomes for companies to be mindful of how they manage their data, and make sure it’s stored in a way that’s flexible, reliable and secure. In doing so security decision makers become empowered to carry out their duties as effectively as possible.