- Video surveillance systems require digital storage space to record and archive past footage.
- The amount of storage you'll need depends on your desired video quality, duration and archival periods.
- There are several options for surveillance video storage, including internally on the camera, externally on a hard drive or other storage device, or digitally in the cloud.
- This article is for business owners who want to secure their buildings with a digital video surveillance system.
For small businesses with a physical location, video surveillance systems are an important tool for protecting valuable assets from theft and unauthorized access. If you're investing in a video surveillance system as a business security solution, consider the amount of digital storage space you'll need to record and archive your footage. When shopping for a security solution, you need to understand the storage requirements for various security system setups and how to ensure you have the appropriate amount for your business needs.
How much storage does a security camera need?
Digital video surveillance systems offer high image resolution, the ability to house multiple active cameras and configure intelligent video recognition, and longer archival periods. To take full advantage of these capabilities, you need a video surveillance system with the right storage capacity for your business.
A typical surveillance system can easily reach up to 10TB of data, thanks to the number of video cameras and 24/7 streaming capabilities. However, this might be too costly for businesses that only need certain capabilities. [Looking for the best video surveillance system? Check out the options we recommend.]
To ensure you're investing in the right amount of storage, determine the desired quality and duration of your videos, including how long you plan on keeping them:
- Higher video quality is best for places with strict security needs, including airports, schools and public buildings. Higher quality means higher amounts of storage – up to 16TB if you need it.
- The ability to archive footage with reduced quality is suited for small businesses, restaurants and banks. These systems can benefit from 6TB to 8TB of storage.
- Maximum security video footage is for facilities that require intelligent video capabilities, including facial recognition and analysis of behaviors and objects. These systems can easily use up storage over 16TB.
Key takeaway: Recording and archiving video surveillance footage can consume a lot of data storage space, so it's important to determine your security needs before investing in a storage solution.
Editor's note: Looking for the right video surveillance system for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.
Types of security video storage
There are a few different types of security video storage, each with its own pros and cons. You can store your footage on the camera, an external storage device, or in the cloud.
Local video storage is often considered more secure, since footage doesn't have to be sent across networks to be reviewed or downloaded. There's no risk of others accessing your footage remotely, and you don't have to rely on bandwidth or the cloud to access your footage, so you can keep cameras offline. [Read related article: Video Surveillance Laws by State]
However, locally stored footage can be lost if the storage device fails or sustains damage, and it may be much more expensive than the same capacity of cloud storage.
Here's a further breakdown of local versus cloud video storage.
Internal camera storage (local)
Internal camera storage allows your video recordings to be stored on a microSD card within the camera.
Pros of internal camera storage:
- Since it doesn't require Wi-Fi or hardwiring, there is no risk of the data being lost because of a faulty internet connection.
- Because the video isn't being transferred to an external storage source, you can view the footage on your own devices in real time with the right software.
- The videos are stored directly on the camera for easy access.
Cons of internal camera storage:
- The space you have to store video recordings is limited to the amount of storage available on the camera. The max amount of storage you have at one time is typically 512GB.
- You lose all of the footage if a camera is stolen.
- Most internal storage cameras only activate and start recording when they detect motion.
- Some cameras will overwrite old footage once the memory storage fills up.
External camera storage (local)
An external camera storage system means your footage is stored on an external hard drive. Computers, digital video recorders (DVR) and network video recorders (NVR) are the typical types of external storage. DVRs are typically used with analog security systems, while NVRs can be wireless or wired and utilize IP cameras.
Pros of external camera storage:
- Since it has more storage capacity, you can record continuous video footage or archive videos for a longer time.
- You have the option to add even more storage to the external hard drive to hold more footage.
Cons of external camera storage:
- If it's wired to your recording device, someone could damage the cords leading to the external hard drive. This would likely result in the recording being halted.
- Your camera may hinder your Wi-Fi and cause video delays if it files your recordings wirelessly.
Cloud-based camera storage
Like many forms of data, security camera footage can also be stored in a remote cloud-based server.
Pros of cloud camera storage:
- You can access your video footage from anywhere, as long as your device is connected to the internet.
- Reputable cloud storage centers typically have strong security.
Cons of cloud camera storage:
- You need enough bandwidth to upload your footage to the cloud and then to download it onto your device.
- Costs could be exorbitant if you need a lot of cloud storage space.
- Your video footage is at risk if the remote server has an outage.
Key takeaway: Your business can store security camera footage locally on an internal storage card or external device, or in the cloud via remote server. Each option has pros and cons, and the right choice for you will depend on your budget and storage requirements.
How long should you hold on to security camera footage?
There's no one-size-fits-all approach to holding on to security camera storage. It depends on the amount of space available on your surveillance camera and your business's needs. For typical small retail businesses, hotels, and grocery stores, it's recommended to store footage for at least 30 days. Larger businesses might need to save footage for three months or more.
The amount of footage you can see at one time will depend on your recording method. For instance, 24/7 consistent recording may not allow room to keep your footage for long periods, while filming based on motion or utilizing a schedule could free up space.
Key takeaway: The type of security camera you use and your business's security risks can help you determine how long to archive your footage. Unless a business is particularly large, 30 days is typical.
Choosing the best video surveillance system for your business
There are a few questions to ask yourself when choosing a video surveillance system that will work best with your business:
- What resolution do you want your camera to have? Higher resolution usually means an IP camera that shoots in at least 720p high definition.
- How high do you want the frame rate? The higher the frame rate, the smoother the video. Real-time video quality is typically 30 frames per second.
- What camera model best suits your business? There are multiple types of security systems, including ones that protrude from the wall, ones that attach to the ceiling, and those you can control by remote. [Check out the video surveillance systems best practices.]
- Do you need audio in your footage? Some cameras have the added feature of audio recording. Some even offer two-way audio so you can communicate back and forth with anyone who's on the other side of the system, such as someone trying to enter your building.
Key takeaway: When choosing a video surveillance system for your business, consider your desired resolution, frame rate, and camera model, as well as whether you want audio capabilities.