How intelligent storage enables effective campus surveillance
- By Wayne Arvidson
- July 01, 2017
THE STORAGE PLATFORM YOU SELECT FOR YOUR SURVEILLANCE
SYSTEM CAN EITHER ENHANCE CAMPUS
SURVEILLANCE OR LIMIT IT.
When it comes to safety on college campuses, video surveillance is
a critical tool. It has a force-multiplying effect, and campus security
officers rely on the technology to help them monitor activity and stop
violence, crime, and other threats, which are important considerations
for prospective students and their families.
SAFETY IS TOP-OF-MIND
Picking a college can be stressful. So much information is available to
prospective students that the evaluation process can feel overwhelming.
Although the relative importance of each factor will vary by student
according to their preferences, all are important to the institutions.
One factor, however, that ranks high on nearly every list is safety.
According to a 2015 survey conducted by Noodle, 74.5 percent of parents
ranked a safe environment as “highly important” when evaluating
college options. In addition, the higher education information website
CollegeAtlas.org lists safety and security among their top ten factors to
consider before making a college selection.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary
Education, Campus Safety and Security (CSS) survey, a compilation
of statistics based on information supplied by participating
institutions, the number of criminal offenses reported on college campuses
has decreased steadily since 2005. Though the trend is good
news, there were still 36,248 criminal offenses reported on campuses
in the U.S. in 2015.
Shocking news incidents and social media have heightened our
awareness of campus violence. While improving security is a top priority
for university officials, so are student privacy and freedom. Those in
charge of keeping people safe strive to maintain a delicate balance
between increasing security and creating an environment that is perceived
as being “over-policed.”
Protecting students, staff, visitors, and property is the mission of
campus security departments, but given today’s campus settings and
societal expectations, it’s not an easy job.
COLLEGE CAMPUSES FACE UNIQUE
Today’s college campuses resemble small cities. Many are sprawling
environments, covered with housing units, recreation areas, and academic
buildings, with many footpaths and public use spaces. There are
high traffic areas and low traffic areas. Every building has multiple
entrances and exits to monitor. At night, there are well-lit places as well
as dark, secluded spots. Change is a constant with street maintenance,
building renovations, and new construction taking place. There are people milling around during all hours on campus, so activity must be
monitored around the clock.
Similar to cities, campuses are gathering places for large numbers of
people. Demonstrations, concerts, and sporting events are common
and draw diverse crowds. Events like these create a burst-motion
effect, similar to what happens during class changing periods, where a
large amount of movement takes place suddenly, creating a monitoring
nightmare for security officers, before finally trailing off.
These challenges, along with newer technology, are prompting university
officials to make changes to improve their surveillance systems.
WHAT DOES VIDEO STORAGE HAVE
TO DO WITH BETTER SURVEILLANCE?
One way university officials seek to improve security on campus is
through better video surveillance. By installing more cameras, they
hope to increase viewing coverage across campus, without hiring more
security officers to walk the grounds, creating the force multiplier
effect mentioned earlier.
In addition, older analog cameras are being replaced with high resolution
digital units to improve image quality and enhance performance
in varying light and weather conditions. Dome units with 180/360
degree high-definition, network-attached cameras are the preferred
type for new installations. Cameras today can also include other sensors
such as infrared, thermographic, and audio, all creating additional
data to be managed.
The push toward high definition network cameras is not unique to
higher education; it’s happening in every industry. But the education
sector as a whole leads other markets in the rate of adoption of network
surveillance equipment. According to the Education Video Surveillance
and Security Report from IHS (dated February 2016), 50
percent of video surveillance cameras installed in the American and
EMEA education markets are network cameras.
What does this mean for data storage? In a nutshell, it means you
need more capacity. As camera counts go up and more digital units are
installed, you need more storage to handle the volume of video produced.
Determining how much you’ll need depends on a number of
factors, including the number of cameras that are installed and the
Regarding the impact cameras are having, consider this example: One
two megapixel 1080p 30 fps (frame per second) camera generates
approximately 10 gigabytes of data every day (assuming H.264 compression
at 1024 kbps). An installation of fifty of those cameras would generate
roughly 183 terabytes of data per year. Upgrading those fifty cameras
to Ultra HD 4K would produce about 730 terabytes of data per year.
Another factor impacting storage is retention time. Like other
industry sectors, retention policies in education are changing, requiring
video to be kept longer in order to protect against litigation and to
aid in prevention and prosecution efforts. In fact, administrators at a
university in Texas last year changed their retention policy from thirty
days to two years, which forced their IT department to evaluate a new
storage strategy to accommodate the expected increase in storage
capacity that will be needed.
THE STORAGE FILE SYSTEM SHOULD
BE DESIGNED FOR THE WORKLOAD
To get optimal performance out of a traditional information technology
(IT) system, you select the components based on the nature of the workload.
The same is true for a surveillance system. The combination of
camera types, video management software (VMS), and storage makes a
difference and has a direct impact on the performance of the system.
Traditional IT-centric file systems are designed to handle transactions
and are optimized for read operations. That works well for documents,
email, and other IT applications but not as well for surveillance
Surveillance workloads consist of high volumes of streaming video.
They are not based on transactions. At times, the streaming can be nearly
continuous. For good performance, the file system supporting the
surveillance workload must be optimized for write operations, not read
operations. It must be capable of ingesting streaming video from many
cameras and performing many simultaneous write operations without
incurring input/output bottlenecks or bogging down the network.
MULTI-TIER VIDEO AND DATA STORAGE
KEEPS COSTS IN CHECK
The cost of storage, in a typical video surveillance configuration, can
account for as much as 60 percent of the project budget. That creates a
problem when upgrading or expanding your campus surveillance system.
More cameras means adding more storage, but adding storage takes
a bigger slice of your budget. That leaves less money available for cameras
and other tools. It can be a vicious cycle - making trade-offs to stay
within the budget can keep you from realizing the full potential of the
system, unless more funding is secured.
Multi-tiered data storage is a good way to save money and increase
capacity at the same time. Tiered storage combines high-performance
disk for real-time monitoring and analysis with lower cost options,
such as cloud storage and tape, for archival and retention. Files are
moved between tiers based on policies.
Typical data management solutions require a separate application
outside of the video management software (VMS) to move data between
tiers. Bouncing between applications can be cumbersome when working
with video files. It’s best to use a solution that provides more control and
allows you to move data between tiers based on user-defined criteria, not
usage-based policies, without leaving the VMS interface.
With respect to cloud storage, weigh your options carefully before
jumping in. Prices vary depending on the provider and length of contract.
Most offer a low price-per-gigabyte rate to store data, but separate
charges apply for activities such as data movement operations, file
access/retrieval, deletion, and support. Make sure you know how your
data will be used, so the costs don’t surprise you.
BETTER SURVEILLANCE LEADS TO SAFER CAMPUSES
Institutions of higher education are diverse places to learn and grow.
Students are best able to broaden their knowledge and experiences
when they feel safe. Creating a safe environment is a top priority for
university officials. It’s their responsibility to their students, and it’s
essential to their school’s image, reputation, and marketability.
New video surveillance technology is playing a prominent role in
helping security professionals improve security on campus. Switching
to higher quality cameras, and installing more of
them, is driving up the demand for storage capacity.
Make sure your storage strategy will deliver
the capacity and performance you need without
limiting your ability to deliver better safety.
This article originally appeared in the July 2017 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.