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10 considerations for storing video evidence on the cloud

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“Where am I going to store all that?”

“Where am I going to all store that?” is the first response a police chief or sheriff has as they explore a video solution, whether body cameras, in-car video systems, video surveillance systems, or interview recording. The question ultimately comes to one between the cloud and a local data center. We’ll try to help clarify that decision.

Video evidence is now everywhere in Law Enforcement, and the challenge is how to store that evidence securely while offering easy access to those who need it. New laws passed in many states require prompt availability of video, retention for defined periods of time, and in most cases, particular methods of marking and categorizing video for future use.

  • Law Enforcement video storage requirements are expanding.
  • Video quality is improving, along with video size.
  • The costs of storing and managing video come at significant cost.
  • Cybercriminals are becoming bolder and more effective every day.

Why is do we care about where we store our video?

For years, law enforcement agencies had someone on-site who stored video, managed access, and made it available to those who needed it. Many of these videos were VHS tapes recorded by an in-car system or a system set up in a police facility. After time, there was often a room jammed full of these tapes, in some sort of order, that hopefully someone still understood. Eventually, as the cases passed through the system, those tapes were erased and re-used or destroyed. Anytime a video was requested, someone had to find the tape, make a copy, and get it to the requester. Each step of this required the time and effort of someone in the department.

With the arrival of digital video recording in law enforcement, many departments assigned a PC or bought a server to accommodate the video collected. Like the crowded tape storage room, the drives in those devices eventually filled up, and the agency had to assign someone to remove unneeded videos or purchase more new equipment to house it. With more equipment, each piece requires more maintenance and IT resources. These systems allowed access to the video database, often through a LAN connection on-site with different permissions for different ranks or positions. Locally hosted solutions are also vulnerable to hackers and ransomware.

Like the room full of tapes, sharing a video requires someone to find it, copy it, and share it, often on a DVD or USB drive, either of which no more secure than a VHS tape—anyone who picks it up can access it, view it, copy it, or distribute it.

In either case, neither method provides an accessible or secure method for managing videos. Budgeting had to be made for physical space, equipment, and people to make it happen. Storing videos and making them easily accessible, which seemed an afterthought at the beginning, has become a large enterprise for most agencies.

Now, many video solutions providers offer cloud storage solutions that allow for automatic uploading and cataloging of video. The cloud-based systems offer a scalable and secure environment that grows with the agency’s needs and simplified methods of accessing, reviewing, and sharing video evidence. These systems are accessible through a web-browser and allow for access to video based upon agency policy and the position or rank of the user.

One constant concern is the long-term costs of storage, which can be large. When comparing to the long-term expenses of hardware, IT staff, software, and risk of loss, theft, or misuse, the relative costs come into line.

Evidence storage is now the subject of many regulations at the federal, state, and local levels. The local IT staff, who also deal with forgotten passwords, jammed printers, and various connectivity calamities, is hard pressed to keep up with the current standards and requirements.

Cloud storage providers offer storage that’s guarded by teams of cybersecurity professionals and stored in multiple, redundant locations that reduce the possibility of data loss or incursion. While the information is accessible from anywhere, individual user access, with permissions customized to the mission and need of the user, eliminates contact with sensitive information incidentally or intentionally.

Digital Ally is an Amazon Web Services partner, and this offers our clients the security and peace-of-mind that comes from the Amazon Web Services Government Cloud. Access is via the EVO Web Portal and well-controlled. Designed specifically for law enforcement and customization to the specific needs of your agency is simple.

The ProVu Share Portal allows for easy, safe access to relevant videos for other agencies, prosecutors, or relevant third parties. This is also customizable to your situation and eliminates the costs and risks associated with physical reproduction and handling of video evidence.

The ownership of your videos is never in question with Digital Ally. You own your videos, and should you change partners at a later date, download of the videos to your servers is easy.

Where do we go from here?

The decision between local and cloud-based storage should not be taken lightly, and should be around a few factors:

  • Security—would you be better served by a large, secure enterprise or locally managed servers?
  • Accessibility—do people routinely need access to videos from places other than their offices?
  • Sharing—how much does it cost to have someone burn DVDs and USB drives?
  • Safety—is your current solution redundant and disaster-proof.

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