Tech Trends: The Economics of Cloud Video Storage

July 14, 2021
New hybrid technology approaches are paving the way for cost-effective implementations
This article originally appeared in the July 2021 issue of Security Business magazine. When sharing, don’t forget to mention Security Business magazine on LinkedIn and @SecBusinessMag on Twitter.

The security industry is slowly undergoing what appears to be the next major shift in technology – transitioning computing and storage resources to the cloud.

The case to offload certain software applications and tasks to a cloud-based service provider can be easily made: It eliminates the expense of purchasing and maintaining on-premises hardware; it increases availability by allowing someone else to manage redundant power and fiber connections; and costs are fixed via a monthly subscription model.

While these arguments make good sense for many security-related applications, the conversation about using cloud services for video storage has always been a bit more nuanced. For one, video takes up a lot of bandwidth and storage compared to other applications. The thought of getting that video to the cloud and paying someone else to store it sounds daunting (and expensive), if nothing else. I am just as guilty as my colleagues in simply assuming that the economics will not work out in the end-user’s favor; however, it stands to reason that at some point, internet bandwidth and storage costs will reach a tipping point.

Consider this: According to the Internet and Television Association, the cost of Internet access fell 98% between 2008 and 2020, from $9.01 per Megabit per second (Mbps) to $0.64 per Mbps. If a reasonable streaming bitrate for a high-definition H.265-enabled camera is 3 Mbps, that equates to a cost of around $2 per camera if it is being streamed 24x7.

Of course, bandwidth is only half of the equation. Video storage cost is a sliding scale based on the needs of the client and is more difficult to quantify. So-called “hot” storage, where the data is immediately retrievable from the cloud, costs around $5-20 per terabyte per month. This cost can drop closer to $1 per terabyte for “cold” storage, where the  end-user accepts a delay of several hours to retrieve data from the cloud.

Newer and smaller cloud storage providers continue to enter the market at lower price points, as long as the end-user is willing to accept a contract with a provider that is not a household name. A mix-and-match combination of providers and solutions may make the most sense, where video data is initially placed in hot storage and then moved to cold storage after a certain number of days, potentially with a different provider altogether.

The Hybrid Approach

With so many cloud offerings and service tiers, how would end-users manage the data transfer to multiple service providers? One option would be the use of a software package that manages the process, such as Tiger Bridge by Bulgaria's Tiger Technology, which works with enterprise video management platforms to transition video storage to the cloud. End-users have complete control over which combination of cloud storage providers they use, how much video is stored with each, and for how long.

“A key to Tiger’s software bridging solution is built-in lifecycle management,” explains Lance Kelson, Tiger Technology’s EVP. “Tiger seamlessly transitions data from the modest on-prem storage to hot and immediately accessible cloud storage tiers from any provider. Going a step further, data can also be transitioned to low-cost archival storage tiers in the cloud. This is all transparent to users and applications. This functionality is 100% integrated into some VMS platforms, although Tiger Bridge (can be used) as a standalone application.”

Despite the shifting cost structure around cloud video storage, legacy storage hardware providers will maintain their importance to the industry for the foreseeable future. A hybrid approach that includes some level of on-premises storage is always recommended to deal with Internet outages.

“Hybrid cloud has emerged as the preferred approach, offering many key advantages in protecting camera data – the ultimate objective of any video management solution,” Kelson says. “A properly implemented hybrid strategy does not require an always-on cloud connection and is immune to partial or full outages. Contrast this with an approach that require an always-on connection, where camera data can easily be lost to service disruption or bottlenecks. The increase in the number of cameras, need for higher resolutions, longer retention periods and desire for off-site data all favor a hybrid cloud solution. As existing hardware ages, end-users have the ability to use less expensive on-prem capacity and shift extended capacities to the infinitely-scalable cloud.”

Kelson further notes that there are additional advantages to storing video in the cloud. “The abundance of cloud-based AI services can add significant value to organizations,” he says. “This includes automatic indexing, detection and analysis of data already being stored and protected in the cloud. This can now be done on-demand much faster and more economically for many. Leveraging these cloud services will become a key aspect of cloud adoption.”

Even with lower costs and helpful tools to help manage the use of cloud-storage providers, adoption is still in the early phases, Kelson says. “Worldwide cloud adoption is still under 5%, so we are still in the early stages,” he explains. “Most are still learning the benefits of cloud – especially the high level of data durability offered with cloud storage. Further, many also do not know that such a solution exists without the requirement of more hardware, or the need to learn a new cloud discipline.”

The bottom line for integrators is that the economics suggest it is time to start paying attention to cloud video storage as one part of an enterprise video storage solution that includes on-premises hardware storage.

The ease at which an end-user can scale their cloud storage should help the transition, and tools like Tiger Bridge can further assist by making the technical implementation achievable.

Brian Coulombe ([email protected]) is Principal and Director of Operations at Ross & Baruzzini | DVS. Connect with him on Linkedin at or Twitter, @DVS_RB