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Do NVR-based systems put video surveillance data at risk?

Research firms have found that surveillance data production doubles every 18 months
Video surveillance plays a significant role in any comprehensive security plan, and the value derived from surveillance continues to expand

Across the globe, organisations are challenged by a diverse risk landscape and a dynamic operational environment. The safety and security of people, assets and intellectual property are a No. 1 priority, and stakeholders look to gain continuous insight into what is happening at any given time. The ability to identify threats early and efficiently mitigate and investigate events allows an organisation to develop a more proactive stance to security.

Video surveillance plays a significant role in any comprehensive security plan, and the value derived from surveillance continues to expand. The advancement of high-resolution video technology dramatically improves the quality of video evidence and demand for information continues to grow. Research firms have found that surveillance data production doubles every 18 months. Additionally, video is expected to account for more than half of the data being generated by the Internet of Things (IoT). New use cases, longer retention times and lower camera costs are driving this data explosion.

Surveillance system failures

As the value of video increases, it is more susceptible to being lost than ever before. Surveillance system failures can be catastrophic, leaving organisations exposed to increased risks, vulnerabilities, and operational interruptions. When a failure occurs, live or recorded video becomes inaccessible, recording is disabled, and data can be permanently lost. Some industries, such as gaming and government, are governed by standards that dictate the way video is recorded and captured. Recording failures can lead to fines from regulatory agencies, non-compliance with open records laws and even crippling lawsuits. An inability to access video forensically can inhibit closing a case. Modern organisations cannot tolerate downtime or data loss.

The security industry has long
relied on NVRs and DVRs to host
video surveillance implementations,
often due to cost and familiarity

The security industry has long relied on NVRs and DVRs to host video surveillance implementations, often due to cost and familiarity. NVRs are simple appliances based on Direct Attached Storage (DAS) servers with bundled Video Management Software (VMS). These appliances can be acceptable for small, static applications where data loss and downtime are tolerable, and no future growth is planned. But for most sophisticated security applications, this is not acceptable.

Threats to data security

Here are the five ways in which NVR-based surveillance systems lead to a higher potential for downtime and video loss:

1. Single points of failure

NVRs introduce critical single points of failure. If a box fails, access to live video is lost, recording stops and recorded video is gone — potentially forever. Additionally, appliance or component failures prevent access to live and recorded video and halt real-time recording. VMS failover only partially solves these problems, offering no protection for previously recorded video or integrated applications and requiring costly redundant hardware, software and licensing.

2. Poor manageability

Systems with more than one NVR must be managed as multiple systems, which is a very manual and time-consuming process. In fact, IT departments shifted away from DAS in the 1990s to enable all systems to be managed and monitored in one simple, centralised manner. NVRs do not offer this level of streamlined system administration. Also, failures can go unnoticed because boxes have to be monitored individually to ensure performance.

3. Lack of flexibility

NVRs cannot scale or access needed resources from other machines inside a larger system. Adding another NVR introduces another stand-alone system, leading to highly inefficient utilisation of system resources. As business and security plans evolve and budgets change, systems must scale compute, storage and bandwidth resources simultaneously to adapt to ever-changing requirements.

The advanced resiliency and efficiency of SAN are now available in a simpler and more cost-efficient form factor optimised for video surveillance applications
Hard disks storing video data are three times more likely to fail than those used in non-video applications

4. Inefficient performance

Video surveillance is a very write-intensive workload, and direct attached storage is not designed to meet the demanding needs of security applications. DAS systems are intended for read-intensive applications, and because video data is highly variable and unpredictable, NVRs must often be overprovisioned to plan for the worst case scenario. NVRs can perform adequately during ideal conditions, but performance suffers during spikes of video data and degraded system operations, which leads to video loss and image degradation.

5. Fault tolerance

Hard disks storing video data are three times more likely to fail than those used in non-video applications. RAID technology developed in the 1970s is not sufficient for protecting against the increased likelihood of multiple simultaneous failures, exposing systems to permanent data loss and severely limited performance during extremely long disk rebuilds.

As you can see, organisations that leverage NVRs are placing highly valuable video data into a highly ineffective, underperforming and unreliable basket. These systems do not offer the protection needed to store video for extended periods of time and are not designed to handle the write-intensive needs of surveillance applications.

SAN vs. DAS

Storage area networks (SAN) offer
improved resiliency, efficiency,
and scalability vs. DAS because
storage resources are used efficiently
and the data is better protected

Storage area networks (SAN) offer improved resiliency, efficiency, and scalability vs. DAS because storage resources are used efficiently and the data is better protected. SAN infrastructure can also scale from medium-sized solutions to vast multi-petabyte storage systems. But traditional SAN solutions can be expensive and complicated, often requiring teams of highly trained people to manage. Furthermore, most SANs were designed for general-purpose IT applications, and as a result, do not perform well in write-intensive video surveillance environments.

The advanced resiliency and efficiency of SAN are now available in a simpler and more cost-efficient form factor optimised for video surveillance applications. Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) delivers enterprise-class IT server and SAN storage solutions that are purpose-built for video surveillance environments and in many cases, at a price point competitive with DAS and NVRs.

Cost-effective protection

Video data is of tremendous value to stakeholders, and therefore, finding cost-effective, scalable and secure ways to protect this information is paramount. IT innovations — the same ones driving the next evolution of the storage market — can improve video storage administration while ensuring sensitive data remains secure, leading to more resilient security and business intelligence efforts. The HCI market is booming — IDC projects that it will grow 94 percent to $1.5 billion by the end of this year — and enterprise leaders are highly motivated to deploy these innovations. With their proven performance and data protection, these technologies will continue to proliferate security and surveillance installations as they allow users to address today’s needs while preparing for the growth of tomorrow.


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