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Video Data Storage: Local, Cloud or Both?

Consider accessibility needs, geography and that data storage requirements will continue to grow.

September 21, 2021

6 Min Read
Video Data Storage: Local, Cloud or Both?
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By Tim Palmquist

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Tim Palmquist

Conversations about technology often boil down to one topic: data. Whether a customer is asking about 5G smartphones, artificial intelligence or fiber-optic cables, it always comes back to data. Worldwide, we produce an average of 2.5 quintillion data bytes per day, according to a Forbes estimate. This number is only projected to increase with the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT). Such a staggering amount of data calls for a commensurate level of storage.

Enter data centers. These centralized locations collect, store and process large amounts of data utilizing computing and networking equipment. Most large- to enterprise-scale businesses take advantage of data centers out of necessity. Some businesses use data centers not necessarily due to their size, but rather their unique needs. For instance, companies using security cameras (in some cases, thousands of them), must store and transfer large numbers of video files. How do they do it? And how do they ensure they have adequate bandwidth?

Traditionally, video surveillance footage is recorded by video management software (VMS) connected to cameras and stored in robust, on-premises servers. Over time, as more cameras are added to the network and video resolutions increase, data storage requirements grow. These factors, combined with the need for accessibility and administration across geographies, introduce the inevitable conversation of cloud-based versus hybrid solutions to address these needs.

On-Premises Compute and Storage

For decades, local servers have been the preferred choice for video. Video data is big. It takes a lot of bandwidth to move it around, and often leads to a lot of costly storage. On-premises solutions are popular because they use local data infrastructure and traditional computing and storage solutions that most organizations’ IT departments purchase and maintain.

On-prem solutions are also convenient. Some companies maintain an on-site data room with racks of equipment that support their business operations. Local IT personnel can easily support and maintain all the equipment — including cameras and VMS — and value the control they have over their servers, storage and associated data.

However, for all their hardiness, on-prem solutions have their shortcomings. In many cases, businesses will over-invest in their compute and storage needs, rounding up their estimates to ensure they’ve procured adequate processing and storage capability. This results in some inefficiencies and overspending. This room for error, combined with on-prem solutions’ limitations related to remote access and administration, often leads customers to search for alternative ways to store video data.

Cloud-Based Solutions and Storage

In recent years, cloud-based storage solutions have become increasingly popular for several reasons.

Cloud-based solutions are stored in large data centers and have the advantage of being more secure, resilient and manageable. Data centers often boast of the advantages of cybersecurity protocols, optimized patching, updates, maintenance and a high degree of redundancy and physical plant security. These are often difficult for individual businesses to replicate in their own data room and equipment environments. If a customer is highly concerned with these factors, cloud-based storage may be the solution for them.

Additionally, with cloud-based storage, companies buy only what they need at the time. This flexibility helps a growing organization’s deployment strategy scale as needed. The ideal customers for cloud-based solutions are …

… organizations needing ubiquitous access to their data across geographies with flexibility to scale.

The main drawback of storing video data in the cloud is that it may be expensive, because video creates a lot of data traveling from on-prem cameras to the recorder. Transmitting all this video data can be costly in a cloud-based storage solution. The ingress and egress costs from the data center provider can be prohibitive for video data, so it’s certainly a topic to be addressed with prospective customers.

Hybrid Solutions

In cases where a lot of data is at play (such as with VMS), the marriage of on-prem recording and storage, combined with cloud-based compute and management, is becoming an attractive and practical option for customers.

Hybrid solutions will likely be the best answer for data-intensive applications for years to come. This approach creates a lot of options to meet the objectives of an array of organizations, each with its different needs. Cloud-based management, easier distributed administration and flexibility with data movement and storage are all advantages of the hybrid approach.

The hybrid option also caters to third-party innovations and plug-ins that complement the VMS in the best way. Some third-party solutions reside well in the cloud while others require on-prem compute next to either the data or the operator. Not all third-party solutions are created equal, and a hybrid deployment can create the right mix of flexibility to meet the dynamic needs unique to each customer’s environment.

Identifying the Best Option for Customers

On-prem, cloud and hybrid solutions all have their benefits, and each can serve different customers based on their specific need.

  • On-prem solutions have a variety of benefits. They’re local and can be seen, felt and touched anytime. For many organizations, this control and accessibility is a very important factor. Many companies already have capable data room investments and prefer to keep their solutions and data in-house. This remains the most common type of deployment that is seen with video technology.

  • Cloud-based solutions offer the convenience of easier remote administration, centralized updates, elasticity to scale and simplified deployments across geographies. Cloud-based solutions are especially attractive to organizations with many locations but relatively few cameras at each location. They would likely appreciate the equitable accessibility across their offices, and they would have optimal flexibility for the amount of storage they purchase.

  • Hybrid solutions come with the most flexibility. An organization can mitigate costs by balancing where it locates its compute and storage. It can achieve accessibility, administration and data integrity in a dynamic manner that evolves with its needs. As you speak with customers about video data storage, find out what their priorities are when it comes to cost, accessibility, security and maintenance.

VMS is the epitome of big data and today there is no clear one-size-fits-all solution. Many factors will need to change before cloud-only storage is the no-brainer choice for companies that work with a lot of video data. Until then, drill down on your customers’ business needs and make your best recommendation.

Tim Palmquist is vice president, Americas region, for Milestone Systems. He has more than 28 years of experience in the technology industry and is passionate about driving the opportunities of the open platform business model, believing that customers are best served by the innovations of a partner community working in cooperation together. You may follow him on LinkedIn or @milestonesys on Twitter.

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