In this post, I take a closer look at security cameras and how they record footage. I look at the difference between motion activated and continuous video recording and the different methods that security cameras use to store this footage- cloud, hard drive or micro SD cards.
As well as discussing security cameras in the home, I also talk about security cameras used by different businesses.
To start, I want to look at the two main methods that security cameras use to record footage.
Motion Activated vs Continuous Video Recording (CVR)
Most advanced security cameras record all the time.
They can be set up to record footage continuously or to only record a snippet of video when motion is detected.
When to use one over the other depends on the recording capacity of the camera and the purpose of monitoring.
There are several factors at play when it comes to surveillance, so what works for one may not work for others.
In Continuous Video Recording (CVR), the security camera captures all activities 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The footage are recorded either locally via a microSD card or through cloud storage.
CVR is used when you don’t want to miss any activity throughout the day.
CVR cameras are ideal in areas considered to be a hotbed of criminal activities or in places with high foot traffic.
CVR is particularly useful if you want to view the footage at a later time.
The downside is that it requires a large storage space to keep all the recordings.
To counter that problem, many security cameras now have loop recording wherein it will automatically overwrite old videos to make way for new ones when the local storage becomes full.
Cloud storage overcomes the storage capacity limitation but there are additional costs involved.
Motion activated recording, on the other hand, is selective of which activity to record.
The recording is only triggered when it detects motion.
More advanced security cameras can now detect human-only motion and can even recognize faces.
When motion is detected, it automatically records the activities that followed the motion, which means it can potentially miss important activities prior to detection.
When using this feature, you must consider the motion area as well as the sensitivity level to prevent blind spots and false alarms.
Do You Need a Hard Drive For Security Cameras?
The quick answer here is no.
Modern security cameras can store footage in a variety of ways and storage space is one of the top factors to consider when setting up security cameras.
People want to monitor activities 24/7 but are unable to do so because of storage space limitations.
But before you worry about that, it’s important to know the ways in which security cameras store video footage: SD Card, Cloud Storage, and DVR/NVR.
Most security cameras store recordings through the local storage using SD card (or in the case of diminutive spy cams, microSD card).
There is an SD card slot in the camera where a compatible card can be inserted.
The memory size varies (16GB to 256GB) but may not be sufficient for longer monitoring.
To address the issue of limited storage, security cameras can now use cloud storage where recordings are saved and backed up remotely over a cloud network.
Cloud storage is recommended for heavy surveillance and monitoring because the storage space is virtually limitless as long as you can afford the service.
For a more reliable way to monitor and record activities, companies opt for the DVR (Digital Video Recorder) and NVR (Network Video Recorder) security cameras.
DVR and NVR use hard drives to store video footage.
It has a larger capacity and has the option to expand the storage space through external HDD.
Cloud Storage vs Micro SD Card (Pros and Cons)
Security cameras that use MicroSD card for storage are limited by the size of the memory card.
Memory cards come in 16GB, 32GB, 128GB, and 256GB size variety.
They work sufficiently until the memory reaches its full capacity.
For this reason, people are turning to cloud storage, which allows for bigger storage options.
However, it comes with a subscription fee so it may be cost prohibitive for fledgling businesses.
Using SD cards can lessen fears about security breach since the data is secured locally and is close at hand.
Unless someone intentionally steals the card, then this storage is relatively safe.
Cloud security is generally tight, but the main issue is privacy.
People don’t feel safe knowing that their data are stored on servers that they do not have control of.
Which cloud subscriptions/storage plans offer CVR and how much per month do they cost?
Cloud storage subscription plans vary across providers.
To get an idea of the pricing plans for CVR storage, it is worth looking at the top security camera companies that offer cloud storage services.
Continuous Video Recording storage plans for Arlo, Nest, Amazon Cloud, and Ring are as follows:
$19.99/month (30-day plan)
$30/month (30-day plan)
- Amazon Cloud
$19.99/ month (30-day plan)
$15/month (30-day plan)
$10/month (60-day plan)
How is cloud storage kept secure?
There’s this notion that cloud storage is not secure enough and it is vulnerable to hacking and security breach.
The truth is that cloud storage has a range of security options to ensure that your data is safely stored.
Cloud storage providers implement security measures including baseline protection and encryption.
Video footage stored in the cloud are encrypted.
This means that providers use complex algorithm to encode information.
Stored data become encrypted files so they appear gibberish to unauthorized users.
Only an encryption key can decode the data.
Encryption is then supplemented by authentication and authorization processes to ensure that only authorized users can access the data.
These processes include using usernames and passwords.
How long do shops/banks keep CCTV footage?
There is no clear-cut rule on how long CCTV footage must be kept, but generally, shops keep footage for 30 to 90 days, depending on their surveillance needs.
Banks and financial institutions, including ATMs, need to keep their CCTV footage for 180 days.
Since there is really no hard and fast rule on the length of time footage must be kept, the decision would depend on the surveillance needs and compliance requirements set out by governing institutions and regulatory boards.
How many hours of 1080p can 1TB/2TB of storage hold?
There are many variables that affect the size of the video or footage that can fit in 1TB or 2TB storage.
These include resolution, compression, bitrate, and number of cameras.
Roughly, for a 1080p HD resolution, over 500 hours can fit in a 1TB of storage and more than 1000 hours in a 2TB storage.
In terms of how long a security camera can continuously record activities in a 1TB storage, it is safe to say between 20 to 30 days.