By Dan Conde, ESG Analyst
This ESG White Paper was commissioned by Dell EMC and is distributed under license from ESG.
With increasing volumes of video evidence, law enforcement agencies need to understand the tradeoffs involved in making decisions that can resonate over many years. It is apparent that law enforcement agencies are now storing more video evidence from body cams, drones, in-car video cameras, and crime scenes. With so much video data being created, it has become a challenge to understand how best to address the needs of law enforcement, comply with legal requirements, and address costs and convenience at the same time.
Large-scale deployment of body cameras is still a relatively recent development for most law enforcement agencies. Although it is convenient to start using the cloud-based storage provided by the video camera vendors, it is important to understand the long-term implications of doing so for law enforcement and IT. Storage of body camera video evidence is different than storage of regular files, email, or even regular photographic evidence. Evidence cannot be easily stored in the cloud, like email and word processing can, due to regulatory compliance requirements such as data sovereignty. Hybrid or on-premises storage uses will help address the range of these requirements related to location. Silos of video information from different sources reduce collaboration unless they are combined into a shared surveillance data lake.
There are many considerations when adopting a solution for storing video surveillance and evidence data collected from devices such as body-worn cameras. It is important to understand the concerns for IT organizations and for the broader set of law enforcement agencies evaluating storage. What criteria do IT decision makers consider when evaluating storage solutions or vendors? In 2015, ESG conducted a research study investigating the general storage industry that surveyed 373 IT decision makers. Respondents were asked to
identify their organizations’ most important criteria for selecting a storage vendor or solution. While technical features are important, the two items most-often cited by respondents were related to business issues: service and support as well as total cost of ownership. This demonstrates that organizations are willing to make up-front investments in order to increase efficiency and cost savings in the long term.
Figure 1. Top Five Criteria for Selecting a Storage Vendor/Solution
In general, what would you consider to be the most important criteria to your organization
when it comes to selecting a storage vendor/solution? (Percent of respondents, N=373, three
Cost is a critical concern for government agencies, and some cloud storage plans that offer unlimited storage as part of a subscription service may seem advantageous. After all, if one cannot predict the volume of camera evidence to be collected, an unlimited storage solution seems tempting: Costs for storage will be predictable, and overage fees will not
However, for the same reason, an “all you can eat buffet” of unlimited storage subscription services may not be the right solution. There are many issues to consider before adopting an unlimited storage plan. For example, the capacity of storage one actually needs will be less than the size of the full video recording captured because unnecessary footage will
be redacted before storage. Unlike saving all snapshots for home videos or photography, there are more careful considerations for storing evidence.
Therefore, on the basis of cost per storage capacity, the unlimited plan may turn out to be more expensive than necessary, and the advantages of an unlimited storage plan may not materialize. Furthermore, in order to benefit from an unlimited storage plan, organizations may need to sign for a five-year contract, which could result in a high total cost of ownership.
A body camera could cost about $500 on average, but the storage may cost $70 to $100 per camera per month, not including maintenance and replacement costs. As an example, over the five-year contract for the police department in the city of Alameda in California, $424,753 is the total cost of purchase over five years for both equipment and media storage as disclosed in 2015. The first year fee for equipment and storage is $173,329, and media storage for the second through fifth years is $62,856. Thus $110,473 (26%) is allocated to the equipment (the body cameras themselves) and the remaining $314,280 (74%) is for media storage. Thus the total data storage costs for outfitting police officers may be significant for organizations using a public cloud infrastructure. This allocation may surprise those who focus solely on the hardware. This is similar to mobile phones, where the attention is paid to the device, but over the years, the service plan costs comprise the significant portion of the overall costs.