IT trends impacting IP video: The viability of network attached storage

Examining niche roles for NAS devices in physical security


When it comes to personal data storage, just when you think you’ve got more than enough, you run out of space. You could always use those ubiquitous USB thumb drives that you picked up at the last tradeshow, but even as a stopgap measure they’re pretty impractical. Just imagine the stress of pawing through a box of thumb drives to find the specific one containing the critical document or file you need at that very moment.

For heavy data users – music, photo, movie and gaming lovers – the consumer industry has introduced a slew of personal storage options to solve this problem, with inexpensive, high-capacity network attached storage (NAS) devices leading the way. But are these devices ready for physical security?

Three common storage options

Manufacturers offer a number efficient storage options for surveillance. One alternative is Direct-Attached Storage (DAS) where a subsystem of disk drives is directly attached to a server to expand its overall storage capacity. A Storage Area Network (SAN) is another option, but it’s usually considered an enterprise-level solution. Data storage on a SAN is typically divided between users and appears as just another drive on which to save information. Both DAS and SAN options are geared toward the corporate environment; but what if you are a small to medium-sized business (SMB)? In that case, NAS might be a more sensible approach to ad hoc file storage. It plugs directly into the network and it doesn’t require server hardware to run.

How does NAS play out in the physical security world? With more security applications moving to the IP backbone, NAS solutions are becoming commonplace tools for expanding storage. Network video cameras, for example, typically require larger amounts of storage because image quality is much higher than standard analog video. The increased storage demand and the cost of the cameras themselves generally limited their deployment to enterprise or high end installations. But with the cost of network cameras and NAS trending downwards at a dramatic pace, network video surveillance is becoming more affordable for SMBs to deploy. You can purchase a multi-terabyte NAS solution for less than $400. Combine decreasing costs with the ease of attaching these components to the existing network, small businesses can now install HDTV-quality cameras and archive video to a NAS at costs comparable to analog cameras attached to a DVR.

NAS as contingency storage

When integrators install a surveillance solution, they typically sized the video server from the outset to provide sufficient processing power and storage for the intended application. There are certain occasions, however, when a company might need to add cameras or increase recorded frame rates for a specific period of time that would impact server performance. In these situations, a NAS device could provide an easy and cost-effective solution for increasing the amount of storage needed.

NAS as local archive

Augmenting a hosted video solution is another niche role for NAS. Integrators are now offering Video-Surveillance-as-a-Service (VSaaS), charging a monthly fee to host a customer’s recordings offsite at a data facility. Using any device that supports a web browser, the customer accesses the video by logging into a secure website and viewing live or recorded images. This model – which is perfect for the multi-site business owner who needs a few cameras at each location – reduces upfront capital costs and gives the end user the flexibility of adding and removing cameras as needed without having to worry about sufficient onsite storage capacity.

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