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Best options for video data storage include cloud, tape

Video data storage presents some challenges, such as dealing with large file sizes and compliance. Here's what to consider when assessing storage options for video data.

Video cameras are virtually everywhere, but what isn't as well understood is how to properly store countless hours of video data once it's been captured.

Writing and reading data has always been much less than half the battle when it comes to any type of storage, including video data storage, said John Annand, infrastructure team director at IT research and advisory firm Info-Tech Research Group, based in London, Ont. "Choose a storage medium that works with your standards and control objectives to minimize the operational headaches," he said.

Tape cartridges

When looking to choose a video storage medium, tape provides a couple of fundamental advantages. Paul Speciale, chief product officer at storage software firm Scality, based in San Francisco, said that tape is a useful medium for video storage because it is removeable and can be easily air gapped. Tape media's low cost -- when measured from a dollar per gigabyte perspective -- is another important advantage.

"However, newer disk and cloud-based solutions are negating some of these advantages, especially as the cost of tape management for the long-term can dramatically increase its overall total cost of ownership," Speciale said. "This is especially true for large data sets, such as for video surveillance and long-term retention periods, where periodic tape refreshes and data migrations are mandatory for keeping the media reliable."

Speciale also said that the amount of physical space tape storage requires can make the media less than an ideal long-term backup technology.

"Making tapes reliable means having multiple copies of data on multiple tape drives," he said. "Customers often make two and sometimes three separate copies, further negating the cost advantages of tape."

Leading tape cartridge drive vendors include IBM, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Quantum and Overland Tandberg.

The cloud

Video data storage in the public cloud provides a high level of scalability and enables users to expand their storage needs without worrying about running out of room or having to erase old data. Additionally, it keeps enterprise video data storage organized and accessible versus rummaging through piles of old tapes, Speciale said.

Public cloud storage also offers the benefit of replacing upfront capital expenditures with more easily digestible operational expenditures. "But the overall total cost of ownership must be evaluated carefully, because public clouds [can] impose additional fees for data egress and access operations, which can balloon the overall cost of storing large data, such as videos," Speciale said.

Leading cloud providers for video data storage include Amazon S3, Cloudian, Wasabi, Panzura and Microsoft Azure.

Hard drives, SSDs and other media

Some specialty vendors, such as Pivot3, whose surveillance business is now part of Quantum, continue to tweak the edges of what's achievable in video backup technology. By using hyper-converged systems with petabyte hard drives and solid-state or NVMe caching, it's now possible to store video on what would traditionally be considered primary storage.

Annand said that some of these video data storage media are "tightly coupled" with video recording hardware and can effectively compress and dedupe video data.

Best practices

Lifecycle management is one of the largest challenges of all data management practices. "Video just ramps this problem up to 11," Annand said. "The size of the data store is massive, and between linear time and exponential resolution growth from 480p to 1080p to 4K, the capacity needs scale geometrically."

Video data, and the need for video data storage, is here to stay, so plan for the long haul, Annand said. "Any shortcuts will cost you dearly once your data really starts to grow."

Remember that while uses may start out as precise, they can quickly fall victim to all sorts of "what-if" scenarios, Annand said. "The duty of care with video information is massive, because it's most frequently collected passively with only implicit consent from the people in the video," he said. "This can create a regulatory nightmare for compliance, especially as societal positions around privacy evolve."

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