How storage media is keeping pace with video surveillance data

Video surveillance systems create large amounts of data that needs storage.

Almost by definition, video surveillance systems require a tremendous amount of accompanying storage. Cameras that record around the clock generate sizable files, many of which will be accessed only infrequently and as such are prime candidates for archiving solutions. Using DIGISTOR Enterprise Archive, companies can take advantage of dependable cold storage via Blu-ray Discs.

The switch from analog surveillance cameras to digital IP cameras has put increasing pressure on video storage media. According to MarketsandMarkets, IP cameras will be rapidly adopted until at least 2018, as surveillance firms seek to take advantage of higher resolution and image quality improvements over analog. However, the accumulation of more IP footage means that companies must find a way to comfortably store video shot at high frame rates.

"A large number of cameras are used in IP video surveillance systems, which are bound to generate the need for more storage," explained MarketsandMarkets. "The migration from analog to IP has more than doubled the need for storage capacity. Rising expectation for better picture quality will further lead to the requirement for more memory space."

One possible solution is to edit old and/or noncritical video down to a lower frame rate to save space. Similarly, the H.264 compression standard has become an increasingly popular way for businesses to reduce storage overhead and move files to different media.

For companies that require higher quality and original frame rates, however, data archiving solutions may offer a better way forward. DIGISTOR's enterprise solutions feature Blu-ray jukeboxes that can safely shelve terabytes of video and other data for years, making them superior to common alternatives, such as magnetic HDDs or tape, which may consume more power and fail more easily due to mechanical components.

Video storage becoming more affordable
Writing for Officer.com, Ray Heineman chronicled the long term decline in the price of physical storage. Even as enterprises face the prospect of big data applications and IP cameras generating enormous amounts of information, they can still turn to cost-effective storage that keeps video assets on premises.

"[S]torage costs have dropped by a factor of well over one million since 1984," electrical engineering professor and Brookings Institute fellow John Villasenor told Officer.com. "Not surprisingly, that fundamentally changes the scale of what can be stored. Memory costs do not become a major obstacle to video surveillance unless the system is truly massive. Even then, the obstacle will only be temporary."

Although some companies have used public clouds to back up data and video, doing so creates several risks. Without ample bandwidth, cloud services can perform slowly or simply stop working. Villasenor argued that the affordability of physical media for video backup meant that the cloud may actually be one of the costliest ways to store data, a position echoed by Space Monkey co​-founder Alen Peacock in an interview with Enterpreneur. The cloud, Peacock asserted, requires long-term infrastructural costs that can add up without a business noticing.

By using DIGISTOR Blu-ray recordable media and data archiving solutions, businesses can avoid both cloud pitfalls and magnetic storage media. High capacity disks and easy-to-use software make it more feasible than ever to maintain a comprehensive video archive for years.

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The benefits of SSD drives in industry, part 1

SSD drives can meet the complex storage needs of industrial businesses.

For enterprises in industries like aerospace, medical care and data center operation, reliable, versatile storage is essential. These organizations have highly specific, rigorous needs, and it is imperative that they be able to seamlessly integrate durable storage media and equipment into their complex networked environments. The often volatile operating conditions at their on-site facilities raises the stakes even further, necessitating storage that can work in extreme temperatures, withstand vibrations from nearby machinery and operate peacefully alongside other mission-critical devices.

A DIGISTOR Industrial SSD is the perfect fit for industries that face these conditions every day. DIGISTOR's solid-state drives offer endless customization options for capacity, security features, read/write speeds, form factor and NAND flash type, meaning that enterprises can procure storage solutions designed to satisfy specific business cases. Going forward, flash storage may become the norm in heavy industry, now that more organizations are realizing that it provides clear benefits over tape and magnetic storage in an increasingly affordable package.

Reliable solid-state storage: The ideal solution for complex data centers
SSD drives have enjoyed a gradual rise in industrial use. In the past, flash storage in the enterprise was mostly limited to tiny devices like SD cards and CompactFlash. Companies held back on large SSDs because of what they perceived as high cost of ownership, especially in comparison to capacious HDDs. However, the technological refinement and declining price of NAND flash means that the tide is turning.

Writing for Electronic Engineering Times, Swissbit AG's Roger Griesemer chronicled the inroads that industrial SSDs have made in the enterprise. More specifically, SSD drives have proven ideal for handling the massive amounts of data that enterprise applications now generate routinely and often automatically. As data centers expand to keep up with these storage needs, operators must contend with possible outages and high electricity bills.

Fortunately for enterprises, one of the key benefits of a DIGISTOR SSD is that has a low power consumption rate, which is enhanced by its ability to let the administrator shut down specific portions of the drive not in use. Even in that state, the drive still maintains awareness with the operating system and reliably stores data. With power-efficient SSDs, industrial enterprises can ensure that storage management does not become another issue in their data centers.

"In comparison to HDDs, SSDs are less noisy and more reliable, energy efficient, and shock and vibration proof," explained Griesemer. "Add to this a longer operational life span – nearly 10 years as compared to only a few years with HDDs – and their only disadvantage today is their increased price per density, which is continually decreasing."

Even before SSDs reach true price parity with HDDs, their reliability may provide the impetus for enterprises to switch to flash. DIGISTOR SSDs utilize robust Error Correction Code in combination with Redundant Array of Independent Silicon Elements, resulting in data protection rates that are up to 100 times better than enterprise HDDs. Data can be kept securely, even in difficult operating conditions.

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Archive tools, SSDs ideal for video and data storage

Blu-ray provides a reliable way to back up large amounts of data and video.

After recording uncompressed footage, videographers may end up working with numerous custom files, encoded in various codecs and containers via their editing software. As such, it is important for them to make regular, comprehensive backups that preserve the originals, as well as the different versions for possible usage later on. Data archiving solutions like DIGISTOR REWIND can also safely write large files to Blu-ray, meaning that users will have a stable, local archive of their video libraries that is accessible without having to log in to a cloud-based interface.

Photographer and blogger Chase Jarvis recently highlighted the importance of photographers and videographers making redundant, separately stored backups of all images, including a clean copy of their originals. He recommended hard drives, but for these purposes, media professionals may instead turn to a more reliable medium like a DIGISTOR External SSD that is portable, durable and high-capacity. With USB 3.0 compatibility and no required drivers or power adapters, these SSD drives have up to 512 GB of flash storage and run conveniently on the power from the USB bus.

"In order for your backup protocol to be effective, it is absolutely crucial that your files be in at least two different locations as soon after creating the images as possible," advised Jarvis. "Creating two copies of the original data is the most important step in backing up data. However unlikely, hard drives and memory cards do sometimes fail."

However, in addition to writing data more rapidly than an HDD, DIGISTOR SSDs run with no moving read/write heads, lessening the prospect of costly mechanical failure.

How much data does video create?
Going forward, having access to scalable and dependable storage will only become more important. In an article for the Data Center Journal, contributor Alex Rabbetts shed light on how video in particular creates a tremendous amount of data: Even an hour of video footage can take up tens of gigabytes in storage.

"[Video] will generate huge quantities of data that need to be stored," wrote Rabbetts. "The days of storing (or losing) hundreds of rolls of film have long gone and have been replaced by data."

Rabbetts highlighted the challenges that video and television professionals face in keeping video and other information safely archived yet readily accessible. Magnetic tape, HDDs and cloud-based solutions have often been used to address this issue, but they all have key drawbacks, such as low durability or possibility of outage, which prevent them from being as stable as Blu-ray alternatives.

DIGISTOR offers Blu-ray recordable media with up to 100 GB on each disc and a long shelf life. With REWIND, archiving is a matter of dragging and dropping files from a computer to the mounted Blu-ray burner. For enterprise data centers, rising storage requirements for video and other files can be addressed by the DIGISTOR Enterprise Archive that features a Blu-ray rack that can safely hold terabytes of data for years, without the high energy usage or costs of an HDD array.

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A closer look at video codecs and containers

Video can be shot in an ever-increasing number of different codecs and containers.

A DIGISTOR Professional Video SSD provides a convenient, reliable and high-capacity medium for capturing and storing uncompressed video. When using an SSD for video capture, however, a videographer may often work with a variety of different video formats, so it is key to know the differences between them, and what their implications are for writing to storage.

Videomaker contributing editor Kyle Cassidy pointed out that videographers typically have a large, high-quality digital file that serves as the master copy. From that, they can make a variety of copies suitable for different distribution methods, such as DVD, Blu-ray or online streaming. The original file should be kept at its uncompressed size. Copies may need to be compressed in order to be more readily sharable, but videographers should avoid additional compression that can produce low-resolution images.

"While digital files do not degrade in quality during copying, every time they are compressed with a 'lossy' compression they lose data, so converting your uncompressed DV formatted files even into a high-quality MP4 will result in a loss of quality," explained Cassidy.

Understanding codecs and containers
Video applications have a container that encases the data, as well as a codec that permits the compression and decompression of the file, usually in a lossy way. When creating a file version for a particular medium, videographers may need to consider the aspect ratios, usable bit​ rates and platform-specific support of these containers and codecs.

For example, the popular Audio Video Interleave container does not have a method for specifying an aspect ratio, meaning that videos meant to be seen in 16:9 could show up in 4:3. However, this issue is less prevalent on video players that allow users to select an aspect ratio.

The H.264 codec, which uses the Advanced Video Coding High Definition container, is a standard way for compressing Web video and Blu-ray data, and is notable for its ability to work at both low and high bit​ rates. In the case of Web video, it sends a low resolution stream for quick loading, whereas with a home HD movie it would instead use a high bit​ rate for maximum quality.

In a paper for Media Matters, Texas Instruments' Jeremiah Golston underscored the importance of being comfortable with a wide range of codecs. He characterized modern codecs such as H.264 and WMV9 as offering up to twice the quality of their predecessors, with improved compression ratios.

"The proliferation of multiple standards and proprietary algorithms make it difficult to select one standard especially since hardware decisions are often made far in advance of the product deployment," wrote Golston. "Also t]he growing trend toward networked connectivity means that many products will increasingly have to support more than one standard." 

DIGISTOR's SSD drives ensure that videographers can capture uncompressed video for editing and reproduction. Specifically optimized for Blackmagic hardware, these SSDs are available with up to 480 GB of capacity and can be bought in convenient multi-drive packs.

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Nirvanix cloud shutdown demonstrates importance of physical storage

Nirvanix's shutdown should prompt enterprises to rethink their data storage strategies.

To enterprises that handle large amounts of application data, completely cloud-based storage may seem like the best way forward. However, the recent shutdown of startup Nirvanix has brought some of the cloud's shortcomings to the fore and underscored the importance of maintaining physical backups. A solution like the DIGISTOR Enterprise Archive can provide enterprises with reliable storage at considerable scale, using a Blu-ray jukebox that keeps terabytes of data safe for the long- term.

Reporting on the issue for CRN, Joseph Kovar and Kevin McLaughlin explained that Nirvanix provides public, private and hybrid cloud storage for businesses, but it stated that it would be going offline by the end of September 2013. Its customers appear to have been caught off-guard, having received no advance notice that they would need to explore other options. For companies that operate at a major scale and also rely on Nirvanix for disaster recovery, the announcement has put them in a bind.

"When you have, say, a petabyte of data in a cloud, it is not easy to get it out," an anonymous source told CRN. "It takes time to federate the data. It might still take a year to move it all electronically."

Cloud costs and risks
The cloud's nominal selling points are its affordability compared with on-premises IT infrastructure and its scalability. However, none of that matters if servers go down or the provider shutters operations, in which case it is critical to make physical data backups by writing to media like Blu-ray discs via tools like DIGISTOR data archiving solutions. By comparison, redundant cloud backups can quickly become expensive, requiring synchronization between multiple services.

For small providers like Nirvanix, the prevailing cloud business model may also be tough to maintain. Cloud storage may sometimes appear inexpensive to buyers, but only because established cloud players can afford to undercut competitors on cost.

"Storage is a very capital-intensive business for cloud providers," one partner told CRN. "Let's say you spend $8 million on a storage system and the next day Google starts giving away 'x' amount of storage for free. As a cloud provider, you can't keep up – you have to amortize and depreciate the system you just bought."

Enterprises without local backups may have trouble meeting Nirvanix's shutdown deadline. InformationWeek editor Charles Babcock explained that cloud migrations can take days or even weeks, depending on the provider's storage write speeds and bandwidth allotments.

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Moving Day is Here! This is How to Contact Us.

Digistor BlogWell, that day is finally here. DIGISTOR is moving to a new larger facility. Please bare with us as our phone lines will be down for a few days. We should be back up Tuesday September 24th. If you need to contact us, please either email us directly or fill out the contact form on our website: http://www.digistor.com/Contact_Digistor_Today

We wanted to share a few perks of the new move:

  • Our design and testing lab is three times larger
  • Expanded production facility for our Assembled in USA line of products
  • Dedicated distribution warehouse
  • Its 35 seconds down the road from our current location, we get to stay in Campbell, CA
  • We have more skylights than ever!

See official Press Release for more information.

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The advantages of working with uncompressed video

Uncompressed video ensures high quality and more sophisticated editing.

For videographers and media professionals, uncompressed video recording is the best way to capture accurate and high-quality footage, whether for filmmaking or documenting an event like a wedding. In addition to offering better color accuracy, clarity and file stability than compressed instances, uncompressed videos are also increasingly easy and efficient to store, using a Professional Video Series SSD from DIGISTOR, which ensures rapid writing and reliable long-term storage. With up to 480 GB of capacity, these SSDs are the perfect way to record in uncompressed HD, which is not supported on most off-the-shelf SSD drives. Drives from other manufactures may also lack the specific optimizations that DIGISTOR SSDs feature for Blackmagic hardware. 

The advantages of uncompressed video
Why is uncompressed video the ideal for the professional videographer? In the simplest terms, uncompressed video recording produces higher-quality images. Compressed video often has issues with slightly off-color gradients and electronically generated backgrounds, which are created during the compression process. Videomaker contributing editor Kyle Cassidy explained that compression, while not always noticeable in small doses, can become a major distraction when overused. Typically, compression is utilized for representing redundancies as a single unit.

"[C]ompression is a bad idea in the long run precisely because of its success in removing redundancy," explained compression expert Kevin Marks.  "If you have a single bit error in a compressed stream it will make the rest of the frame, or possibly many frames, corrupt. In the worst case it can destroy the rest of the file from then onwards."

A Creative Planet Network article sounded a similar note in assessing the videography community's attitudes toward compression, adding that special image effects may suffer when using compressed video. Similarly, chroma key compositing, or the replacement of an image like a background with a different one, may be more difficult to perform with compressed footage. Although the source stopped short of declaring a definitive link between compression and shallow bit-depth in audio, it noted that compression may compound many of the issues traditionally attributed to bit-depth problems.

Uncompressed video in postproduction
With storage continually increasing in capacity and affordability, the practical need for compression may also be disappearing, giving videographers greater freedom in how they film and edit. A key benefit of shooting uncompressed video is that it is easier to apply postproduction techniques to it later.

Speaking to Creative Planet Network, Discreet product manager Maurice Patel explained that much of the value in a video is often added during postproduction. To make the most of color correction, filters and chroma keying, videographers need access to as much file data as possible, and they can only get that by working with uncompressed video.

"If the service you sell is one of also changing images [pixel by pixel] then compression will be a significant handicap and can cause a rapid decline in image quality," said Patel. "Compression reduces the freedom and flexibility to make any change you want to the image, whenever you want to, in the postproduction process."

With a DIGISTOR SSD, videographers can capture uncompressed video for high-quality editing and reproduction.

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SSDs becoming more cost-effective than magnetic storage

SSDs are a speed and productivity upgrade over HDDs.

While many users experience the benefits of NAND flash storage via the SSD drives that ship with their notebooks or mobile devices, aftermarket drives are also viable ways to revitalize PCs with speedier performance. Similarly, external SSD drives, such as a DIGISTOR Portable SSD Hard Drive, can provide speed and extra storage to any Windows or Mac OS X laptop via convenient USB connection.

SSDs have a number of advantages over HDDs, including the absence of mechanical heads and quicker access times. However, even as they become more prevalent across numerous devices, consumers may not be regarding them in the right way, often viewing SSDs as too expensive compared to magnetic storage. For now, SSDs do come in generally lower capacities than HDDs, but they are catching up, plus they are already more cost-effective in terms of their effects on productivity and bandwidth usage, according to InfoStor contributor Greg Schulz.

"A better comparison [than capacity differences between SSDs and HDDS]  is the cost for performance or productivity, such as how many [input/output operations per second], or bandwidth per second, or value of response time, transactions, files or videos and web pages or other work done," wrote Schulz. "For example, while a HDD-based solution might have a cost of doing some work of $2.58 per transaction, an SSD device could be in the $0.18 range."

At the same time, SSD buyers must consider what type of flash cell arrangement fits their needs. Multi-level cell technology is less expensive than single-level, albeit with less durability and slower write performance.

SSD longevity
Writing for The Straits Times, Vincent Chang examined the recent impact of SSDs on both slimline Ultrabook laptops and older computers, arguing that flash storage is becoming more popular due to recent declines in per gigabyte cost.

While PC OEMs may put high price tags on laptops that ship with SSDs, aftermarket options can provide all of the same benefits in a more affordable package. SSDs write at up to four times the speed of a 7,200 RPM HDD, and they are lasting longer than before.

"[M]odern SSDs offer between three and five years of warranty, which is fairly conservative," wrote Chang. "The actual write endurance varies between the type and make of SSDs, but unless you find yourself copying more than 100GB of data daily, you are unlikely to reach the limit in 10 years."

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Ultrabooks and SSD defragmentation

Laptops are becoming thinner, and they often feature SSD drives.

Ultrabooks are quickly becoming popular choices for consumer PCs. Although they sport the traditional clamshell design and keyboard/trackpad input of a laptop, they also have speedy SSD drives and extended battery life, meaning that they combine some of the best features of both PCs and mobile devices. However, procuring and working with an SSD-enabled Ultrabook can be a tricky process. Consumers may be better off avoiding inexpensive but slow models with HDD, as well as the potential fragmentation headaches that those drives can cause.

In terms of specifications, Ultrabooks typically feature an HD display and instant wake from sleep. Although they lack optical drives, their USB ports can support a DIGISTOR External Drive that provides self-powered disc read/write capabilities for additional storage.

According to IndiaTVNews' Aseem Gaurav, the next generation of Ultrabooks will feature touch screens and wireless display technology to allow for easier video streaming. They will also be required by Intel, which dictates Ultrabook specs, to wake from sleep in fewer than three seconds, underscoring the centrality of speedy SSD technology to the Ultrabook line.

Should an SSD drive ever be defragmented?
As opposed to traditional HDD-based computers, Ultrabooks should never need to have their SSDs defragmented. In the early days of NAND flash technology, drives postponed cell erasures until they had exhausted their supplies of unwritten cells. Cells whose storage had been written and then erased were simply marked as used, and performance could arise once the drive had to finally clean up old cells.

However, the TRIM command, which performs regular garbage collection on cells, addressed this issue and enhanced SSD performance. This feature is supported on the two most recent versions of Windows.

"Conventional logic dictates that you should never defrag an SSD, because the SSD controller writes data in a scattershot-fashion to multiple NAND chips and locations, using algorithms that only the controller understands," explained PCWorld contributor Jon Jacobi. "The operating system sees it as a hard drive with sectors, but the data is spread all over the drive by the controller. "

Nevertheless, some SSD defragmentation tools have come to market, promising drive optimization. Jacobi stated that such tools are likely only useful if an individual is working with an operating system that does not natively support TRIM. Additionally, defragmentation tools may force the SSD to expend valuable write cycles that could be better used for handling files.

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Looking at the future of NAND flash

NAND flash could be set for some major technological change.

What is the future of NAND flash? For several years, the price of SSD drives has been declining as manufacturers have discovered new methods for creating smaller cells that still write reliably and with minimal interference. However, SSD makers may be bumping up against the limits of current technology, forcing them to consider multi-level arrangements or possibly vertical NAND.

Reporting on the most recent Flash Memory Summit for PC​ Magazine, Michael Miller chronicled the trend toward smaller SSDs. One manufacturer showcased a drive with 19 nanometer triple-level cell memory, 1 GB of DRAM cache and up to 1 TB of capacity. Similarly, consumer SSDs are being slimmed down, with drive makers gravitating toward tiny profiles like m.2, which is smaller than either mSATA or 2.5 inch HDDs. Most major HDD manufacturers are diversifying into flash, creating SSDs and hybrid drives.

Changes in cell technology and arrangement
While SSDs have benefited from the convergence of progressively smaller cells, lower prices and higher capacity, manufacturers could still face obstacles, especially as it becomes more difficult to avoid interference and performance bottlenecks.

"It's pretty clear the basic technology the industry has been using to make flash memory, what is known as floating gate NAND, seems to be reaching its limit, with most of the makers having trouble creating working versions below 16 nm to 19 nm," explained Miller, later adding "We've heard that floating gate NAND has been reaching its limits before, but now manufacturing at smaller geometries appears to be getting very difficult, especially due to the delays in extra ultraviolet lithography equipment."

In a piece for SiliconANGLE, Bert Latamore stated that current NAND cells are often less than 20 nm in size, meaning that they allow for dense SSDs that have become increasingly useful for businesses with high storage requirements. Although possible successors to NAND, such as magnetoresistive, atomic and phase-change storage, are on the horizon, NAND still has the advantage in terms of its affordability and maturity,

"NAND Flash has benefited from massive demand generated by the boom in consumer mobile computing devices of all kinds, that drove tremendous amounts of manufacturing ramp up and associated price decreases, helping make it practical for use in much larger amounts," Latamore wrote.

To create denser storage arrays with consistent performance, SSD manufacturers may also turn to 3D or vertical NAND, which uses multiple memory cells and in some cases does not require EUV tools.

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