How is CCTV Footage Stored? [An Overview of CCTV Storage]

Whether you just purchased a new home security system or just curious about the main components involved with video surveillance systems, questions do arise and spark our curiosity about CCTV systems and security-related technology. It’s an ever-changing world revolved around lightning speed capabilities of capturing moments, storing information and using cloud-based systems to perform these tasks in the blink of an eye.

Regardless what your reason may be for digging into these systems, curiosity sure arises. It did for me as well. One of the questions I wanted to know more specifics on was simple. How is CCTV footage stored? After doing some research, here is what I’ve learned on the topic.

So, how is CCTV footage stored? CCTV footage is stored in a variety of ways. It depends on the system. CCTV footage can be saved to a hard disk known as DVR/NVR. CCTV footage can also be stored in a cloud-based system. Lastly, CCTV footage can even be saved to an SD card in some circumstances.

Cloud Storage (RIng, Left) vs NVR storage (Zosi, Right)

A Deeper Look at How CCTV Footage Can Be Stored- Some Key Components

Your standard or typical video surveillance system contains a few crucial and main pieces. First, you have the CCTV. You also have the DVR/NVR and in most circumstances some way of viewing of the footage. This often entails using either a standard monitor or some form of mobile device to view the footage.

In this scenario, your DVR/NVR are the two devices handling the storage for the video that is being recorded and captured. The DVR which stands for Digital Video Recorder and NVR (Network Video Recorder) will come stocked and loaded with a hard drive ranging in storage and speed capabilities.

Most of these hard drives will range in storage capabilities ranging anywhere from 8TB to 32TB. That’s a massive size hard-drive for those who are not familiar with hard drive sizes.

However, the video makes up and requires much more data storage, so these can fill up and run low on storage substantially faster than one would think. With a hard drive of this size, the CCTV footage can be stored for long durations without causing many issues to the system or the user.

The SD Card Storage Method for CCTV Footage

An alternative storage method used in CCTV and Video Surveillance systems is the SD card storage method. Keep in mind, that SD cards are small in nature and aren’t going to have the same capabilities of the larger DVR/NVR devices. This doesn’t necessarily make them less effective, it just means they work differently.

In most circumstances when SD cards are used as the primary storage for CCTV footage, it will be motion activated recording. This will limit the amount of data being stored and transferred to the SD card. In plain English, without action/movement enabling and triggering the motion sensors and the camera, there won’t be any other footage to watch.

If you are in the market to have a system equipped that is full live steam and recording 24/7, this would not be the best approach. In this situation, you would want to use a DVR/NVR set up.

Although bulky, they have the storage and capabilities to record and store more footage. Plain and simple.

Cloud Storage. Another Method and Location Your CCTV footage Could Be Stored.

Cloud storage for CCTV footage is more often provided by security brands and companies as opposed to just options you can pick up at a local electronics store such as BestBuy. Cloud-based storage options are however becoming extremely popular due to the ease of access and flexibility that they provide the users.

CCTV footage stored in cloud-based systems will allow the user to access the data from anywhere where you can find a reliable internet connection. Cloud-based storage also provides the added benefit of protection against theft and fire.

However, it’s not all sunshine and butterflies with cloud-based storage. First, it has monthly subscription fees, and if you need a large amount of data stored, they can quickly start getting expensive, and the cost could stack up quickly.

The Ever So Trustworthy Flash Drive- A Final Method for CCTV Footage Storage

A Flash Drive is another method for storing footage from your CCTV system. A flash drive is going to have much more limited storage capability. It also would require frequently deleting to clear space for more footage. One benefit of the flash drive is the mobility to take the footage with you on the go.

Also, you can always have multiple flash drives to allow for larger storage needs. All said and done, a flash drive is probably the worst method of the CCTV footage storage options that you could choose. If you need even a decent amount of storage capabilities, the cost will add up quickly using flash drives.

How Long Can CCTV footage be kept for?

The answer to this question varies greatly. It depends on which method of storage you are using for the footage. On average based on storage size and capabilities, you will be able to store the footage for roughly 30 days.

In some situations, footage can be stored for longer periods such as 90 days before the footage is written back over by new footage. The examples of 30 and even 90 days are often the storage available and capabilities of larger systems and systems used for businesses.

For the average user needing to store CCTV footage, most likely you will only be keeping the data for up to roughly 1 week.

How Long Will One TB Last on CCTV Storage?

This is another question with varying answers. This depends on if the video is a live stream and 24/7 recording or motion activated. For the live stream, it’s going to depend on the number of channels the system is recording.

If you have 16 channels recording, 1TB of storage will last for 8 days for CCTV footage. If you are using 8 channels, you can get 10 days out of the storage, and if you are running 4 channels, you are looking at nineteen days of storage capabilities.

Can You Ask to See CCTV Footage?

This answer surprised me. Yes, you have every right to request the footage and recordings from a CCTV system of yourself. Most of these CCTV systems will only have the footage you are wanting for about 30 days. You are always permitted to request the footage in writing directly to the owner of the CCTV system.

You are not however allowed to seek footage of anyone except yourself except in the situation that you are law enforcement at which time a warrant can still be requested by the CCTV owner to grant permission to turn over the storage to law enforcement officials.

How Long Does A Shop or Stores CCTV Storage Last?

The answer to this question reverts to our previous examples. In most situations, CCTV storage in shops and stores are running multiple channels. This will dramatically impact how much storage they can hold and for how long they can hold it.

Most businesses or shops keep the footage for 30-90 days depending on the size of the company and the kind of CCTV system being used.

Is CCTV Footage Used as Evidence?

Yes. CCTV footage can be used as evidence and is often used by law enforcement agencies for a variety of crime-prevention related activities. A key thing to keep in mind about this footage is that it needs to be watermarked and time stamped to be permissible and hold up in court as “hard evidence.”

Additionally, CCTV footage and owners of the systems need to always ensure the integrity of the footage and recordings is never in question for CCTV footage to be used as substantial legitimate evidence.

Putting It All Together- CCTV Footage Is Stored in A Variety of Ways for A Variety of Reasons

CCTV storage and surveillance systems will continue to evolve continuously in the upcoming years. As of right now, many methods are used for the actual storage of the footage.

Also, many factors can impact how long and how much data can be stored when using these systems. If you are considering purchasing your own CCTV system, it’s wise to speak with a professional and go into detail about what capabilities and needs you truly want for your system.

Some individuals are perfectly fine using only the motion activated CCTV systems, and some believe that having 24/7 recording abilities with the DVR is an absolute must-have. The needs and uses vary, but at the end of the day, CCTV systems are still an incredible way to protect what matters most.


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