A 5,000-channel HD surveillance system generates approximately 10% of the data per day of the entirety of Facebook. There’s no avoiding it, video footage is data intense. How best to store it can be a tricky decision based on weighing up operational needs and budget. Here are four things to consider that might help you decide the best route forward.

1. All data isn't equal

IT data is not the same as video data, for instance, surveillance footage is often not suitable for archiving as quickly (due to retention and retrieval requirements for incident footage). What’s more, archiving data is most cost-effective if data can be heavily compressed. Given video data is usually compressed at source, there is no more wriggle room. What you see is, quite literally, what you get in terms of data volume.

2. Physical space and energy costs

Even where there are no real restrictions of physical space available, it’s important to remember that a storage option that takes up less space and uses less hardware will typically have a big impact on power consumption.

Consider a like-for-like (in terms of data volume) comparison between using traditional spinning disk storage nodes and high-density alternatives. Both offer similar benefits in terms of instant data retrieval. And because much fewer (though higher cost) spinning disks are needed, both work out similar in terms of vendor pricing. But the former will need around 2.5x as much energy to run and cool. The answer is never as simple as ‘what’s the lowest cost tech?’.

3. Redundancy and resilience

Factoring in the level of redundancy required is hugely important in terms of making the right storage choice. But certainly not in isolation.

SAN solutions become an attractive option where very large volumes of data storage and redundancy are required – especially for multi-stakeholder environments where VMS virtualization is a real benefit. However, the complex infrastructure involved and technology required means cost per storage node is also very high.

By contrast, traditional spinning disk storage solutions may incur higher costs in terms of energy consumption and physical storage space required, but they do present the lowest cost per hot failover and offer ‘build to size’ benefits due to their modular nature.

4. Is hybrid an option?

It’s also important to remember that while a singular approach to storage may not yield the perfect answer to your storage needs, a hybrid solution – i.e. pairing two different tech types, might.

A good example of this is mixing spinning disk storage with a tape library. Tape storage has the lowest media cost per TB of any option. In fact, based on media cost alone, Linear Tape-Open 9 (LTO-9), the current standard industry tape format, is 50% the cost of spinning disk. Tape storage also dramatically reduces ‘running costs’ i.e. power, cooling. But it does not offer the instant retrieval benefits most organisations need. Spinning disks, however, do.

A combination of the two means that most recent footage can be stored for instant retrieval, with other footage held on tape. There are infrastructure implications to factor in, but the principle of pairing two solutions according to specific needs is well worth considering.