As technology marches on to the beat of Moore’s Law, the trends that face users of surveillance technology are quickly evolving. The shift from analogue closed circuit television (CCTV) to Internet protocol (IP)-based systems has brought the rapid change of the technology landscape into play in the surveillance market, as we saw in a previous post.
The benefits of IP video over analog are clear. After all, who doesn’t want better image quality and scalability? However, there are some important things to keep in mind when using IP-based technology, whether for physical security or for gathering and analyzing customer intelligence. Over the next three columns, we’ll be taking a look at the top 10 considerations for IP video.
1. Managing bandwidth
Many, if not most, surveillance technology users are still in the CCTV age. A camera produces an analogue signal that runs on cables in a closed loop to devices that commit an analogue signal to tape (or, in a more sophisticated environment, digitize and store). “Bandwidth management” was making sure you had enough cables and connections.
IP-enabled video is a different animal. By turning the video signal into a series of packets, we open the door to applications that can manipulate that data just like any other digital traffic. It also makes it possible, using wireless technology, to place cameras in areas it would be difficult or expensive to reach with a wireline connection.
But this data has to travel on the company network with all the computer (and possibly voice-over-IP) data created by the organization. And IP surveillance’s pressure on the pipes is only increasing with higher resolution.
There are several elements to consider when gauging the impact IP surveillance will have on your network: the number of cameras, their frame speed, how many hours a day, resolution, and the compression algorithm being used are among them. A switch upgrade may be in order for a network of more than 10 cameras.
Say goodbye to the shelves of VHS tapes with the date handwritten in Sharpie on the spine. Your video signal is now ones and zeroes, and it’s living in the same environment as the rest of your corporate data. That gives you three things (at least) to think about.
Storage area networking. Storage area networks, or SANs, abstract the location of networked storage from the user, presenting it as a single pane of glass. The user needn’t know what network machine the file is on. This may or may not be necessary for video storage, but if the data is going to be shared across the various corporate lines of business (for analytics, for example), that kind of accessibility is a plus.
Storage policy. How long does video data have to be stored? Do you need to keep the video from the lobby longer than the video from the loading dock? Are there privacy implications to the video data you’re holding? These are just a few of the things that will have an impact on your video storage policy. Fortunately, a lot of that policy can be turned into business rules that seamlessly automate storage within a SAN.
Storage tiering. There are three tiers of storage, and where you store your data depends on how you’ll be using it. Online storage exists on hard disks or flash memory disks connected directly to the SAN; it’s used for data that will require frequent access and fast retrieval, for example, for use in an analytics workload. Nearline storage lives on removable tape or optical media connected to the network; it’s slower to access, and it’s transitioning to archival. Offline storage requires human intervention to retrieve; someone actually has to mount a tape to a drive to retrieve the archived data.
It’s ironic that a product originally designed as a security technology is now subject to security vulnerabilities itself, but such is the nature of the network. Camera data itself can be intercepted in transit, but that’s not the real issue—encryption can take care of that.
We’re now living in the world of the advanced persistent threat (APT), a type of malware that insinuates itself onto a computer network and waits for instructions from a remote server. The consequences can range from complete visibility into the system to complete control of the system. In video security terms, the risks include theft or destruction of video data at rest on the server, commandeering of pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) functionality, or simply the disruption of the video infrastructure. The video surveillance team, the physical security team and the IT security team must work closely together to ensure an end-to-end security regimen.