How Long Do You Need to Keep Video Recordings?

Video surveillance laws vary from state to state and by industry. While many industries across the country are required by local or federal regulations to maintain visual security, the amount of video storage required varies from business to business.

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For example, medical marijuana dispensaries in Ohio require 24/7 security video to be retained for a minimum of six months, and the footage must be made available to the licensing board upon request. However, the insurance industry standard is one-year retention for marijuana dispensaries. 

For most industries outside of those governed by the state or federal government, the storage requirements are a lot more lenient or are at the discretion of the business owner. Keep in mind that specific events can be exported and stored separately from your video recorder’s hard drive and kept indefinitely, which takes very little space when compared to adding or rotating storage.

However, it’s important to consider the potential liabilities of not keeping your recordings long enough or not using enough cameras in an attempt to save money. You’re less liable in court if you store your footage for as long as possible for incidents like potential theft, fraudulent worker’s compensation claims, or any other incident that may have taken place without being immediately reported.

Even if there are no set rules for video retention for your industry, here are a few things you should consider when deciding how much storage you need.

How much storage do I need?

If you’re considering the purchase of a security system, you may be asking yourself what determines the amount of storage that you need. There are a number of factors that go into determining how much storage space is used, including:

  • Resolution – The higher the resolution your cameras record, the faster your storage space will be taken up. This amounts to your security cameras being able to record for a shorter period of time.
  • Number of cameras – The more cameras you have, the more storage space and bandwidth is required.
  • Compression – Some applications use video compression in order to use up less storage without losing resolution or quality. The better compression your application uses, the longer you’ll be able to store recorded footage.
  • Storage space – The larger the hard drive (or multiple hard drives, SSD, or SD cards), the longer you’ll be able to record and keep stored security camera footage.
  • Bitrate – The more data that is processed and the higher the bitrate, the better video quality you’ll receive, but you’ll also use up more storage. Below is a table that shows the minimum required bitrate using the standard H264+ compression, up to the maximum bitrate for recording as much detail as possible. Keep in mind that the right amount of processing power could mean the difference between capturing the details of an intruder’s face or license plate, or being left with an unusable pixelated image.
Image Resolution Frames per second Average bitrate Maximum bitrate
720p 30 1.8 mbps 2.5 mbps
720p 25 1.4 mbps 2 mbps
1080p 30 2.5 mbps 5 mbps
1080p 25 2 mbps 4 mbps
4MP 30 3.8 mbps 8 mbps
4MP 25 3.2 mbps 6.7 mbps

Setting a bitrate below the above values will result in noticeable low-quality video from your security cameras. Don’t forget that you’ll need the available bandwidth on your network to ensure that you can transmit the video from the camera to recorder. If your existing network can’t handle the current amount of data, you can reduce image resolution or frames per second to reduce the bitrate and lighten the load on your bandwidth.

Network or direct attached storage

If you’re looking to make the most out of your security camera system but don’t want to upgrade your storage, there are other ways to maximize efficiency. Besides lowering bitrate, you can also set your cameras to record only on motion, which will start recording only when your camera picks up movement. Keep in mind that motion detection isn’t always suitable for every business or individual camera.

Workers’ comp injuries

Annual payments for workers’ compensation claims annually top $60 billion, with nearly 10 percent of those costs paid on fraudulent claims. Did you know that many states allow injured workers one to three years to file a workers’ comp claim? If you’re in an industry where workplace injuries are common, you might want to consider long-term storage and RAID options

Fraudulent claims can unnecessarily drive up your workers’ comp premiums. These false claims have led workers’ comp bureaus in all states to put greater scrutiny on injury claims – negatively impacting those who have a genuine injury. 

Security cameras are often used by employers to monitor activity and identify potential insurance fraud. Businesses are required to post signage informing employees that they are being monitored, which is great because employees who are aware of security cameras in the workplace are less likely to attempt to fake an injury and file fraudulent claims.

Surveillance footage can provide concrete evidence for actual injuries while helping to limit your liability to fraud when an injury is faked or when an employee is injured due to their own negligence.

It’s important to keep in mind that security cameras in the workplace cannot violate privacy laws. For example, most states don’t allow cameras in restroom areas or other places with reasonable expectations of privacy.

Remember to check how long your state will allow workers’ compensation claims after the incident or manifestation of the injury in order to determine the minimum amount of time you’ll need to store video recordings.

Loss prevention

Security cameras are also known to reduce theft, guard your facility from vandalism, prevent or capture break-ins, and detect the formation of crowds without compromising your customers’ in-store experience.

By keeping an eye on your cash registers, accounting office, and inventory, you can track and identify incidents from customers and employees alike. However, in order to prosecute, you’ll have to determine the guilt of the perpetrator using your stored security footage. It’s important that you record at a high enough resolution and bitrate to not only capture the incident on camera, but also the face or license plate of the perpetrator.

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One of the biggest mistakes companies make is waiting to install security cameras until after an incident occurs. If you haven’t already experienced threats from thieves, vandals, or employees, odds are you’re either due for an incident or you aren’t catching theft when it does take place. Look into getting security cameras for loss and crime prevention today.

Track incidents

When an incident does occur, don’t just leave it on your network video recorder or attached hard drive. If you think there is an incident you may need to revisit later, be sure to save the footage on a local or external hard drive — and log the incident. 

Keeping a log will make it quick and easy to recall footage when needed. Otherwise, finding specific footage from an incident several months or more in the past that you have no record of may be time-consuming and difficult. Keep in mind that long-term storage won’t do you much good without the ability to narrow down the timing of the specific event or incident you’re searching for.

Helping your company meet storage requirements and needs

Are you still unsure about how much storage you need? Our certified security camera experts use a formula to calculate how much storage you’ll need, based on storage space, bitrate, number of cameras, and desired time to keep recorded footage.

Whether you have everyday storage needs that could be met with an NVR or need the redundancy and long-term storage of RAID arrays, our security consultants can help you find the right video storage length for your business. We focus on delivering the solutions you need and never try to upsell you on huge storage systems unless your business truly needs them. 

Tony Denier, Camera Security NowWith our free site visit and consultation, our security professionals deliver the storage and security solutions that best meet the requirements of your industry. More than just a sales call, our experts review your entire site and provide a 100 percent accurate quote for your security needs. Get a fast, easy quote for all of your security camera and video storage needs today!

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