Should you store your video evidence in the Cloud?
A soon-to-be-launched cloud storage option from Digital Ally might be the right choice for your agency
In recent years, storage of digital files has become increasingly more cost-effective, in part due to the cost of physical media decreasing due to advances in the technology used to construct it. In terms of in-car video in law enforcement, what that’s meant, in part, is that it’s been possible to store more video locally on the in-car DVR (usually on an SD card) and then transfer it to a server at the station house for archival purposes.
Depending on the amount of video being stored and the staff available to maintain it, however, there’s a chance that the cost of physical storage, and the requirements needed to maintain archives, might start to become cost- or time-prohibitive for many agencies. Digital Ally will soon be launching a cloud storage video management solution that is designed with these needs in mind, specific to law enforcement concerns, but they caution that the question of whether or not this solution is the best for you depends on a lot of variables, including a few key questions which your agency must answer before determining which is in fact the best option. So, what are the benefits of storing your videos in the cloud, and how does it compare to having them on a local server?
One argument long made for having in-car video files stored locally — on a physical server at the station or in a municipal building — has been the need to have access to those files and to have control over them to ensure that they aren’t distributed outside of authorized channels. Such a system can have some inherent limitations, but also many advantages.
First, your agency must have an IT professional available in order to maintain the integrity of the server and its data, along with managing the system as your department’s needs change. Too often, local servers and networks become neglected, creating security concerns. The motto “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” cannot apply to technology, because there is always innovation taking place. Those innovations can be for the greater good or have malicious intent. Answering these concerns could mean a financial investment in hiring IT staff and buying the server itself, as well as occasional costs for maintenance and related items.
However, your department is likely to already have computers in place that are managed by IT professionals, so a locally hosted server is often easily feasible.
Second, a physical server is limited in how much it can store by the size of the hard drives inside of it. This creates a strong need for a video policy that takes the server’s storage capacity into consideration, requiring upfront planning. Without a clear plan, you can run out of room unexpectedly, and it can be a lengthy process to acquire funding for the additional drives, or storage, that must be purchased and deployed. A “quick solution” to that additional storage is often less than ideal from an IT perspective, setting your department up for future hardships. Upfront planning with your IT professionals and an outlined video policy will prevent complications and create an ideal solution.
Third, local servers have built-in redundancy to protect against internal data loss, however, if there were to be a fire (or other natural or man-made disaster), is the physical location of the server protected? Just like paper records in a file cabinet, or evidence room contents, you should have a data loss prevention plan for your server. IT professionals will always recommend backing up your data. For natural disasters, offsite backup is recommended. This can be costly; however, it is the best insurance plan for your data.
Additional benefits of this system over a cloud solution include the ability to always have direct physical access to those drives without dependence on an Internet Services Provider to maintain your connection. For some agencies, this can be integral to their policy regarding the evidentiary security of digital records and information. Another consideration is that local servers may prove to be lower-cost in the long term — although they may have a higher up-front cost, the ongoing costs are lower compared to a cloud service, which requires a monthly or annual service fee per device, user, or the amount of data used.
Going to the Cloud
Cloud storage decentralizes the storage of files to scalable banks of physical servers hosted by a third-party provider. This removes the requirement for dedicated IT personnel to manage a local server solution. Most often, those data centers are also hardened against natural disasters and setup for continuous backup. Although they are not completely immune to data loss, they are some of the most secure areas in the country. Furthermore, data centers can provide redundancy to geographically different regions all over the world. This creates the ideal disaster-proof backup of your data if the worst should happen. However, this level of protection is not typically included with cloud storage.
On the potential downsides, cloud storage, while very secure, has a theoretical possibility of being penetrated by a sophisticated hacking attempt. Such malicious intrusions are few and far between, but the loss of local control over data storage creates a slightly increased risk. Even the best cloud storage providers are not impervious to data theft, however, they have the personnel to manage the cloud, and any potential security risks, keeping your data secure.
Another very important consideration in your storage decision is the simple fact that you must have a fast and reliable internet connection available, as well as an Internet Provider that will not limit the amount of data you upload to the cloud. Depending upon the infrastructure in your area, especially for more rural agencies, this might mean you cannot access your data when you need to. With the speed at which technology surges ahead, this is becoming less and less of a concern, though.
The Bottom Line
Each solution provides distinct benefits over the other. Ultimately, this decision will be based on your agency’s available resources. A cloud solution will require less maintenance and security. On the other hand, local storage may be a perfect fit for utilizing existing infrastructure, personal, and policy for a more streamlined solution.
Digital Ally is there to guide you through the process and help your agency make the right choice in regards to security requirements, data integrity, cost, and even to assist with policy. They strive to not only provide reliable camera systems, but the total solution. After all, capturing the evidence is only the beginning. So give them a call or an email today and take advantage of their expertise to ensure that your agency is ready for the future of video evidence storage.
To find out more, you can contact Digital Ally directly at 800-440-4947 (+913.814.7774 international) or www.digitalallyinc.com.