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Caught on Tape, Now Keep it Secure: LTO Technology and Video Surveillance Benefits and Best Practices

The video surveillance industry has evolved dramatically over the last 50 years. From the days of whirring VCRs, where individuals were literally, “caught on [VHS] tape”, to the introduction of digital video recorders and spinning hard disks – and now, an era of network-based video surveillance and associated IT infrastructure. During this transition, the hard disk drive displaced VHS tape as the typical media for storing video surveillance footage. However, with the number of higher megapixel cameras on the rise and longer retention requirements end-users are struggling to deal with the data and cost requirements associated with storing this amount of footage. In systems with long-term data retention, end-users can now use file-based tape storage such as LTO (Linear Tape Open) technology in combination with disk, to effectively meet their requirements in a cost effective manner without compromising on the quality of the video stored or the length of time the video footage is retained.

The Three main drivers of greater video surveillance storage requirements:

  • Greater numbers of cameras
  • higher specification of cameras
  • Increased value of data & longer retention times

Greater number of Video Surveillance Cameras

The number of video surveillance cameras sold globally in the last decade has increased year-on-year. In the 2017 calendar year, the market forecasts there will be over 127 million video surveillance cameras sold via professional channels.  98 Million network surveillance cameras will be shipped globally through professional sales channels, almost 29 million HD CCTV surveillance cmaeras will be shipped globablly through professional sales channels and 400,000 body worn cameras will be shipped to law enforcement agencies globablly.

Several overall factors are driving the demand for cameras:

  • Increased awareness of the technology
  • Security climate
  • Legislation
  • Multiple uses
  • Price decreases

Higher Specification of Cameras

One of the most important requirements of a video surveillance camera is be able to automatically adapt to changing environmental conditions and produce consistently usable images. Image quality is complex with many different components. Several of the components of a better quality image can be measured through the camera’s specifications. The market has measured an uplift in the specification of cameras across several different parameters.Resolution: Currently the most common network camera shipping is 1080p resolution but there will be continued growth in shipments of higher resolution cameras. Four megapixel cameras are increasing in popularity and with vendors marketing 4K resolution cameras for wide area surveillance even higher resolution cameras are expected to gain market share. Equivalent 4K resolution video is four times the file size of 1080p.

Currently of the 98 million network surveillance cameras shipped globally, 3% will be 4K resolution or above.  In 2020, 29% of network surveillance cameras shipped are forecast to be 4k resolution or above.

Increased Value of Data & Longer Retention Times

The vast majority of recorded video surveillance footage is never reviewed. As much detail as possible should be retained until it can be determined which parts are relevant or valuable. For security purposes the value usually relates to the recording of a security incident. However, the uncertainty of which parts of recorded video are going to be useful often means trade-offs between the quality at which video is stored and the length of time it is stored.

LTO Technology and Video Surveillance - LTO and LTFS

Linear tape open (LTO) technology is an open format of magnetic tape data storage jointly developed by HPE, IBM and Quantum.  In the non-video surveillance wider IT market, LTO technology is primarily used for data back-up, disaster recovery and long term data retention. It is often used for making multiple copies of data and for cold storage offsite in vaults. Since the 2010 release of the fifth generation, LTO technology has included the linear tape file system (LTFS). LTFS utilizes partitioning to create an index which points to the requested file positions on the tape. This means that data can be dragged-and-dropped and viewed in a similar way to hard disk drives.

The LTFS format provides a self-describing cartridge which means applications do not require any additional information to read the data stored. In the event of a disaster where loss of data occurs, data can be recovered from tape.

In a tape library configuration used for long-term retention the time to locate and start reading data is slower than a disk array. However, this is offset by the potential to offer tape as a lower- cost, high-capacity alternative to hard disk drive arrays for longer term retention. Tape does not substitute disk as primary storage.

The LTO format has a published technology roadmap with future specifications. What the LTO technology roadmap means in terms of video surveillance storage.

  • LTO-7 (6TB RAW)
    • 13 Days x10 1080p or 7 Days x5 4k streams stored per cartridge
  • LTO-8 (12.8TB RAW)
    • 29 Days x10 1080p or 14 Days x5 4k streams stored per cartridge
  • LTO-9 (26TB RAW)
    • 58 Days x10 1080p or 29 Days x5 4k streams stored per cartridge
  • LTO-10 (48TB RAW)
    • 107 Days x10 1080p or 54 Days x5 4k streams stored per cartridge

What can LTO Technology offer the Video Surveillance user?

When utilized in a multi-tiered storage solution, an LTO tape library can be implemented as a cost effective, connected, long-term, high-capacity storage tier. End-users can manage their storage system and remain within budget as tape can provide a larger capacity storage tier and longer term retention for the same cost. This means end-users can compromise less on video quality and retention time by using tape. Every detail can be stored until users can determine later what should be kept.

The utilization of tape to store video will not be best suited for all video surveillance applications. Multi-tiered storage works well with a high number of camera feeds which require extended storage retention at maximum quality. Data is transferred automatically between storage tiers based on pre-defined policies. The capacity of each tier and policy governing data transfer between them is typically based on the likelihood of requiring the highest performance. For example, the most recent video may be kept on the highest performing disk tiers in the initial 7-14 days post-recording when access is most likely to be required. After this, it is moved to a tape tier (at which point it is deemed unlikely to be required for review). However, the key point about this configuration is that data remains available through the VMS should review be required. In addition, any video flagged up in a security or operational event of interest may have a different policy and may be retained for longer. Where events are required to be kept long term or video evidence is used, a copy may be automatically transferred to a particular tier or even duplicated to offsite storage.

Using tape in a multi-tiered storage solution for long-term retention can mean that rather than pushing data to the cloud for storage, users can retain full ownership and access to their data for minimal cost. Cloud storage can be used as an effective storage tier, particularly in collating data from small camera count multiple site installations, or as an offsite backup of a small amount of mission critical camera feeds. However, as a storage tier for high capacities or long-term retention, often there are additional costs to cloud storage which reduce its viability. For example, high bandwidth costs, access and retrieval charges. Chain of custody is also a key concern as there are often significant premiums beyond a list price for the use of a government (for example CJIS) certified secure data center.

Total cost of ownership (TCO) analysis should be used in conjunction with performance analysis to make a purchase decision for storage. A balance between cost and performance is often necessary. In many scenarios the speed of data recall offered by a tape library is not sufficient and it should be discounted. Yet, for some users if they can trade off immediate, for near immediate access speeds to their oldest data, tape can bring high capacity, long-term retention storage at price points they would otherwise have been unable to afford. Once the disk tier is configured further disk storage may only be required if additional bandwidth or camera streams are added. When only increasing the length of time data is retained building out capacity on tape can become even more economical as capacities scale.

In one example of a TCO analysis, when maintaining a storage system over a decade the comparison between a LTO tape library, an all-disk and a disk-cloud hybrid solutions found that the TCO for the LTO library solution was nearly seven times lower than the all disk solution and over five times lower than a disk-cloud hybrid solution. As an approximate cost comparison of individual media, a recent LTO technology cost audit found an average retail price of $0.02/GB RAW, for a LTO generation 7 cartridge. The HDD market tracker estimates a typical enterprise grade HDD price at $0.06/GB.


The evolution of the video surveillance industry is causing a video surveillance data explosion. The multiple uses of cameras and lower prices mean there are now a greater number of video surveillance cameras entering the market than ever before. The greater number of cameras and higher specification new models are producing increasing amounts of data. The length of time this data is being retained for is also increasing. These factors have placed greater demands on storage systems and on budgets to be capable of securely retaining large amounts of video surveillance data for extended periods.

The requirements of certain video surveillance environments for high capacity, long-term retention with infrequent recall of older footage mean file-based tape such as LTO technology paired with disk storage can provide an excellent value proposition as a video surveillance storage solution. LTO technology can offer users full access and control over their data with long-term retention and high reliability whilst keeping costs to a minimum. LTFS and the batch pre-fetch plugins, available for many leading VMS solutions, enable end-users to simply go back in time further within their preferred video management application, gaining valuable insights which may otherwise have been lost due to compromises on stored video quality or retention times.

Contact your BackupWorks.com account rep today at 866 801 2944 and find out more about LTO Tape Technology with LTFS and Video Surveillance.

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