The complete guide to cloud video surveillance

Video    Gratiela Dumitrica, May 11 2022
10 mins

The use of cameras as surveillance devices dates all the way back to the 1940s when Germans used them to monitor rocket launches. As technological advancements happened, video surveillance became easier to implement in any location and business. 

According to marketing firm IHS Markit, 1 billion cameras will be watching the world by the end of 2021. However, unlike when video footage was recorded onto tapes and stored in a locked room, nowadays, many businesses and households use digital recordings stored on hard drives or external storage devices. 

For a one-camera setup placed outside the home, this works well. However, if you have several cameras recording 24/7, this can rapidly fill up hard drives and computers, leading to network lag and systems experiencing issues from slower speeds. 

But, another way has become more popular in the last few years—cloud video security.

What is cloud video security?

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Cloud video security is a relatively new concept, but the technology has been around for a while. You have probably already experienced cloud storage through your work, as many businesses use this, especially since Covid-19 is an ideal remote working solution. 

Just like cloud storage for business, instead of storing your video surveillance footage onto hard drives, recordings are stored and backed up in the cloud, allowing easy, uninterrupted access. This way, you can view and manage all your footage on the cloud, which means it can be accessed from anywhere in the world, making it an ideal solution for remote video monitoring.

Why is video security migrating to the cloud?

There are many different reasons for migrating video security to the cloud. One of the core reasons is security. With hackers getting more intelligent and more sophisticated in their approach to breaching networks and accessing data, cloud video is a smart solution as most platforms have strong security due to the nature of the tool. 

Other reasons why video security is migrating to the cloud includes:

  • Freeing up valuable hard drive space
  • Reducing network issues and lag 
  • Recordings are easily accessible from anywhere, anytime, and from any device
  • Scalable with the ability to pay for the storage that you need when you need it

The challenges of NVR and DVR security systems

NVR (Network Video Recorders) and DVR (Digital Video Recorders) are still common storage options for companies to use for perimeter surveillance and closed-circuit television (CCTV) security systems. 

However, with both of these types of security systems, some challenges arise.

DVRs:

  • Low-quality images and lower frames per second (FPS) - may not pick up on number plates, faces, other details, etc. 
  • Needs additional cables for audio and power, which can easily be tampered with or destroyed - no ability to integrate wireless cameras
  • Less coverage of area means you need to have more cameras set up to cover a larger perimeter
  • Limited to how many cameras can have audio recording due to the limited audio inputs on a DVR
  • Cannot remotely access or manage your footage as the DVR is not connected to the network 
  • For companies with several branches/offices, this means you need to travel to that location to view the footage
  • The maximum transmission distance is 300ft, so not realistic for larger warehouses/sites

NVRs:

  • High hardware and maintenance costs
  • Remote access is limited to view video footage - to view footage, each device needs to install a piece of software and is more complicated if accessing footage away from the vicinity of the camera
  • High data loss risks - if there is a network outage while the camera is trying to transfer the footage to the NVR, the footage will be lost forever, and you won’t know this until you try and search for a certain piece of footage
  • NVRs need constant security updates, which can be easily overlooked; if not updated, these become a weak link to hackers and can even serve as a foothold into a company’s network.

The benefits of video cloud surveillance

There are many benefits when it comes to cloud video surveillance which takes into account many different factors from footage quality, storage location, and even accessibility, and include:

  • Increased storage space for footage
  • The footage is secured with high-class security to help prevent hackers from accessing it
  • Provides additional backup in case of a server malfunction
  • Centralized viewing platform even for footage from different offices/sites
  • New features to make viewing and retrieving footage easier 
  • Scalable and flexible for any size business from SMEs to enterprise companies

To help you discover more about the benefits of implementing cloud video surveillance, read our blog post, which goes into more detail about the topic.

Cloud video surveillance cameras

What are the main differences between a cloud video surveillance camera and standard DVR/NVR CCTV camera systems?

One of the main differences for a cloud video surveillance camera system compared to security cameras connected to NVRs or DVRs is that your footage is automatically managed and backed up onto the cloud. With cloud CCTV cameras, you can access all saved footage through one viewing platform, which can be accessed from anywhere. 

You can even perform similarity searching to identify objects or people of interest using smart technology. This means you don't need to spend much time searching through hours and hours of footage.

With cloud video security cameras, the setup is simplified with less equipment required to operate the deployment. This contributes to cloud security camera systems being a lot easier to scale and maintain. 

What are the different types of video surveillance cameras?

When you are looking for the ideal surveillance camera for you and your business, you want to consider several factors, from footage quality to the size of the camera. There are many different types of surveillance cameras but here are some of the most popular:

  • Bullet camera - named bullet after its long-cylindrical shape, this is one of the most common CCTV cameras in the market.

  • Dome camera - Another common camera in the market, the dome CCTV camera has a vandal-resistant dome-shaped casing in which the camera is placed inside.

  • Fisheye camera - Fisheye security cameras possess an ultra-wide lens that is capable of recording incidents with a number of dynamic angles, including 180 and 360-degree panoramic views. 

  • C-Mount CCTV - an adaptable CCTV camera due to the detachable lenses which can be switched to alter the distance and field of view. These are bulkier than the previous cameras, so are more obvious to passers-by but they often come in a rugged case, which protects the camera from harsh weather conditions.

  • PTZ Pan/Tilt/Zoom- As you can probably tell from the name this camera gives you more control over what is being recorded and where it is pointing. This camera can often do the job of several cameras due to this.

  • Day/Night CCTV - These cameras can adapt day and night regardless of lighting conditions due to extra sensitive chips inside which capture crisp, and clear images at any hour. This camera can also withstand direct sunlight, glare, and reflection making it ideal for outdoor use.

  • Infrared/Night vision CCTV - This camera is perfect for dark areas. Utilizing Infrared and night vision technology, these can record in pitch black condition. They are usually pricier than most due to their highly technical nature but are perfect for areas that need to be monitored even in complete darkness.

  • Network/IP CCTV - IP or Internet Protocol cameras are connected over a network. This means you can view live footage wherever you are in the world. This footage can be stored on DVRs or NVRs and are good for owners who are often away from the office or business location. 

  • High Definition (HD) CCTV - HD cameras provide video in higher resolution. These range from 720p, all the way up to 4K and help identify objects, faces, and number plates easier.

  • WiFi CCTV - Because they are not connected to a wired network, WiFi security cameras can be installed farther than traditional CCTV cameras without losing the high-specification security camera features such as 4K resolution, motion detectors, and environmental sensors. The lack of wires also means these cameras are easier to blend into the environment. This makes them ideal for areas in which you don’t want to ruin the surrounding aesthetics, such as museums, churches, or tourist attractions.

  • LPR Cameras - cameras with License Plate Recognition (LPR) technology use powerful machine learning and AI capabilities to detect and read license plates to aid users in identifying vehicles on the scene.  

What are the main considerations when selecting a cloud video surveillance solution?

Before you deploy a new cloud video surveillance solution, there are several factors to take into consideration. Here are the main aspects to think about when selecting a cloud video surveillance:

How stable is your current internet connection?

As cloud video surveillance is hosted online, you need to ensure your network is reliable and fast enough. The network speed requirement will vary depending on how many cameras you will have connected and their location. 

A basic internet connection is enough for a couple of cameras, but the more cameras you have on your system, the better your network needs to be. 

Ensure you have enough bandwidth to cater to all your cameras, so you don't lose footage or cause internet speeds to slow down for your employees.

Data storage rules and retention timelines

Another aspect to consider is your current video footage requirements, namely, how long do you need to keep the footage for. 

Many providers will set a default timescale of 14 or 30 days and will charge you a premium for storing the footage after this time. 

So, if your storage guidelines exceed these, you may have to pay extra. Alternatively, consider whether you really need to store it for that long and whether you can amend your current rules.

You also need to be mindful of your local footage retention laws. Different states, countries, and industries have strict requirements; lack of compliance leads to hefty fines. 

Storage space requirements

This is heavily linked to the previous consideration but just as important. Think about how much storage space you may need. If you aren't sure, consider your current video surveillance setup and how much space is currently occupied on your hard drive, storage device, etc. 

With cloud video surveillance, you will often be given a choice of storage capacities, so having an idea of what you need at the start will ensure you get a more accurate quote and don't end up running out of space later on. 

The storage space requirements will all depend on how many cameras you have, how long they are running for each day, what resolution you need them running at, and how long you need to keep the footage for. 

Integration with other systems

It isn't always just the camera setup you need to consider when it comes to video surveillance systems. Many companies have door entry systems and building automation integrations as well. 

Think about your current physical security deployment to know what potential integrations you will need. Planning this in advance will make it easier to transition to cloud video surveillance, as you will be able to discuss what needs to be integrated before it is set up. 

Budget 

This is an essential factor to take into consideration. What budget do you have for this new cloud video surveillance solution? 

You may find that start-up costs are lower, but there is likely to be a monthly subscription cost as you are storing data on the cloud. Having an idea of your budget before you start discussions will make it easier to find out what solution is more suitable for your company.


What are video analytics?

With the increasing evolution of machine learning and, generally, artificial intelligence capabilities, video surveillance systems have become more innovative and more advanced in their technology. Video analytics is the term for this advanced recognition and identification system used in many new surveillance deployments.

Using this technology, you can ask the software to locate a specific number plate or spot people, vehicles, and other objects on your footage. 

The software also processes live footage, identifies people, vehicles, or other objects, and catalogs them to make it easier for users to search and analyze the footage. This technology allows users to gain better situational awareness and search for footage faster and more accurately. In addition, it also provides large metadata on the activity captured in the footage to generate reports on traffic analysis or visualize density in the form of heatmaps

This software is already being used worldwide for such aspects as smart parking, whereby the camera will perform license plate recognition of vehicles going in and out of the car park, alongside many different industries.

However, the technology has many more features to enhance your surveillance solution. It can identify if flames or smoke suddenly appears in live footage, identify people moving suspiciously, loitering, traffic patterns, or even vehicles not obeying traffic laws. 

There are many more tasks video analytics can carry out, and these are just the tip of the iceberg.

How do video analytics help businesses?

One of the main purposes of video analytics is to automate your video surveillance system. This means you don't need someone watching the live footage 24/7. 

The technology will continually monitor all live footage and send a notification to the chosen user or users to alert them to anything suspicious or anything you have asked them to look out for. Simply put, video analytics will keep your buildings, facilities, and people safe without the need for human interaction and constant supervision.

However, the benefits don't stop there. 

You can also ask the software to run tests to identify trends for such factors as peak times for footfall traffic, monitor queues of shoppers for retail, how many deliveries you receive, etc. 

You can use this data for a range of activities, from buyer personas to identify if there are times where security is decreased or where you may need more employees to cover specific shifts. 

This is data that would be extremely complicated or even impossible to gather manually, as it would require someone to watch the footage for a significant amount of time. 

Through the use of video analytics, your business is able to save a considerable amount of time and resources on security as well as reporting and optimization. 

Plus, the technology will continue to learn while it carries out these tasks through machine learning. This means that the video analytics will be continually enhancing and adapting tit's surveillance and identification methods to give you the best level of service it can.

How long should I/can I store footage for?

Just like sensitive data such as credit card details and passwords, video footage is classed under the Data Protection Act as the clips could be used to identify a person. This means that there are several rules as a business you need to follow to avoid any data breach, including storing it securely and in an organized manner. However, when it comes to the storage duration of the security footage, this can vary from company to company. 

The average period is 31 days, and this is also the recommended amount by the police. However, if your workplace is located in an area thought to be a low risk, you may consider lowering this to 14 days, and for higher risk areas, this can be increased. This is useful, especially if you have a good reason, such as the location of the cameras being pointed towards a high footfall area such as a town center. 

However, keeping footage for longer than necessary can potentially lead to severe consequences and fines, so make sure the period you allocate is justified and relevant to your business.