Single Server Video Surveillance Systems Often Provide a False Sense of Security

As the use of analog closed-circuit television (CCTV) in video surveillance applications fades, the role of Internet Protocol (IP) based systems is transforming the industry. IP video surveillance systems enable camera placement practically anywhere on the network and live camera feeds can be accessed from any authorized computer, laptop or other device (such as a smart phone) using a wired or wireless Internet connection. The increasing popularity of IP video surveillance is being felt on a global scale. The safety and security of many small businesses, large industries, schools and government organizations all now depend on these systems. Video surveillance has value in helping monitor crowds, streets, parking lots, stores, banks, industrial sites and many other types of public and private property. Small local governments are now using security cameras to protect transportation facilities, such as bus stations and bridges.

The Cost of Down Time

Because all organizations are different, their security needs and risk profiles are also different. In most installations, video data must be recorded 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, with no gaps, no frame loss and without downtime. When computer systems are running fine, it’s easy to think that nothing bad will ever happen. But security systems can fail due to storm damages, power failures or inadequate power supplies. Mechanical breakdowns can occur from computer memory errors, a bad CPU chip or logic board, bad drivers or overheating. A loss of service level for a few crucial moments might demolish one firm’s reputation, create a significant liability for another, or cost a third organization a few hundred dollars, and another firm millions. Depending on the function in a company that the system fulfills, downtime has a specific and often overlooked cost. Large organizations running a surveillance application with 100 to 1,000-plus cameras have the benefit of large resources with server rooms or architectures that are Cloud-based with dedicated servers to perform specific tasks to ensure system availability and reliability. However, in a small organization with 1-8 cameras, a personal computer with a direct-attached hard disk may be adequate. But in mid-sized organizations, relying on an entry-level single server based on low cost commodity hardware that records the video from 9 to 100 IP cameras 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, provides a false sense of security. Although these systems have an affordable initial purchase price, they act as a single point of failure and can prove to be very costly in the long run, both in dollars and the loss of invaluable sensitive data.

Reducing the Probability of Downtime

A highly available video surveillance system provides connectivity at all times. A simple and affordable way to grow capacity -- as well as ensure continual uptime with no loss of video -- is to use a more robust server system with built-in redundancy. An example of such an appliance is an Echostreams Griffin4P system that contains two hot-swappable identical server-class motherboards clustered internally over Ethernet in one single enclosure. This appliance supports eight dual-ported 3.5-inch Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) hard disk drives for up to 32 terabytes of storage for the surveillance video footage. When running under a clustering operating system like Windows Server 2012, such an appliance can support automatic fail-over when one of the motherboards fails and continue the video recording operation. The Griffin4P also features dual-output hot-swappable redundant power supplies that make it easy to replace a faulty module without shutting down the system. Each power supply has adequate power to operate the system, but a faulty one may be easily replaced. Systems such as this also often feature a built-in battery that serves as an uninterruptable power supply in case of total power failure.

Lower Total Cost of Ownership

The cost advantages of using a single redundant server versus using multiple servers extend beyond just the purchase price. Power and space savings can also be considerable. For example, a pedestal system that has two server nodes is small enough to fit underneath a desk, and will lower the total cost of ownership of the system through its performance-per-watt savings. And unlike video surveillance offerings that use proprietary hardware, a system built on standard components allows new third-party applications, additional users, cameras and external storage to be easily and cost-effectively added over time. As security applications have become more critical, the network has become more and more important to businesses. A network design should provide a level of redundancy where no points of failure exist in critical hardware components. This design can be achieved by deploying redundant hardware and by allowing hardware to be swapped without interrupting the operation of devices. When it comes to protecting human lives or critical assets, no organization should be lulled into a false sense of security.