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Cloud Storage vs. Local Storage

January 28, 2019

There is a lingering debate within public safety about the benefits of cloud storage vs. local storage. For a long time, there was skepticism and misunderstanding of cloud storage. Recently though, there has been a major shift in public safety agencies from local to cloud storage, which has become the industry standard. The main factors to consider in choosing cloud vs. local storage for your agency are security, speed/accessibility, and cost.


Local servers require special maintenance and often have no fail-over plans.
photo credit: Bob Mical Cisco Switches via photopin (license)

Local storage was perceived to be the most secure form of storage, as data is physically held in servers inside of the agency. However, there have been recent events that have changed this thinking. Natural weather disasters have hit hard in recent years, wiping all the data on local servers along with the other damage caused. Footage has been deleted accidentally from local servers (see Oakland Police Loses Quarter of Body Cam Footage). Even outside of public safety, large public companies like Sony have had their local servers hacked.

Microsoft has a special U.S. Government cloud service available to public safety agencies, which Visual Labs uses to store footage. For international and private clients, Visual Labs uses Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud to store footage. Both Microsoft and AWS have strong safeguards in place to protect customer privacy and all data is stored in highly secure data centers. The United States Departments of Defense, Education, Energy, Homeland Security, Justice, Interior, and Treasury all use cloud based storage just to name a few.


Download speed is one benefit of local storage, but improved bandwidth and faster internet speeds have negated this advantage. Cloud storage allows for accessibility of footage anywhere with access to the internet. If there is an officer involved shooting and the command staff is off site at a conference or training, the accessibility of cloud storage can be crucial.


Local servers are perceived to be a cheaper option at first glance. However, servers quickly fill up with footage that is difficult to manage, as certain footage must be kept longer than others due to retention schedules and state laws. Agencies end up having to purchase new servers sooner than expected, quickly running out of space in their department to put the servers and leaving IT managers overwhelmed.

"Even with the recurring costs of cloud storage, Visual Labs will actually save us money in the long-term."

The Irmo, South Carolina Police Department purchased body cameras and local servers in 2016, but revisited that decision in 2018 and switched to the Visual Labs smartphone body camera solution. Captain Courtney Dennis says, "With Visual Labs, we were able to combine the functionality of several devices into one, and we no longer had to manage a local storage infrastructure. Even with the recurring costs of cloud storage, Visual Labs will actually save us money in the long-term. Plus, we will now have access to footage within minutes of the occurrence of an event."


When considering security, speed/accessibility, and cost, it is clear why most public safety agencies are transitioning to cloud-based storage.

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