How Long Does The Average Security Camera Store Footage?

how long does the average security camera store footage

Storing security camera footage for an adequate length of time is extremely important to the safety of your business. Lost footage could mean turning up empty if you ever need important evidence in case of a crime or dispute. And it is crucial for identifying threats and patterns of security risks that could have a lasting impact on your business. But what is the right length of time to store security camera footage, and how can you store the most footage without paying more than necessary? Keep reading to find out.

How is Video Footage Stored?

storage options for security cameras

First, let’s take a look at the methods used by today’s security cameras to store video footage. There are a few different options for storing video files, based on your individual needs, preferences, and resources. Security cameras used to record video onto VHS tapes or DVDs, but these clunky methods have been replaced in modern systems. Most of today’s security camera systems use one or more of the following:

  • Servers
  • Hard Drives
  • SD Cards
  • Cloud Storage

Server Based Storage

Dahua NVR

Servers are a popular way for businesses to store camera footage. Servers include NVRs and DVRs, which are external devices that store footage using one or multiple hard drives. These devices can be stored onsite, or away from your business. Storing your server in a different location from your business is a better option if you are worried about criminals breaking into your facility and obtaining access to the server. However, for smaller applications, it is common to store footage in an on-site server: this is a personal choice depending on the safety of the business location and the preferences of business operators.


NVRs (network video recorders) operate using a network of IP cameras, which are connected to a digital network. This allows IP footage to be accessed from a smartphone app or web browser. DVRs (digital video recorders) are the more traditional system, which work with analog security cameras connecting via a coaxial cable. NVRs are the more popular choice for most modern security camera systems, which are increasingly using cloud technology to boost remote access capabilities and convenience in today’s world.

To learn more about the difference between the NVRs and DVRs, check out our article here.

SD Card Storage

Another option is to store your camera footage onto an SD card. Most cameras come with built-in memory, but since this storage is limited, you will usually need to purchase an SD storage card to save more footage. The specific storage card you choose will affect the amount of footage you can put on it. It is possible to delete this footage, or save it forever (or until the SD card is broken or damaged). SD cards make useful backup systems in combination with a video server.

Cloud Storage

Storing video footage in the cloud is a great alternative or addition to server and hard drive storage. Many modern IP cameras come with cloud storage, with options to buy more storage as necessary. As long as you have an internet connection, you can store video footage in the cloud. This can even be achieved in facilities without electricity, such as construction sites, through wireless connectivity, 4G, or 5G. Cloud storage offers high convenience and security in modern applications.

How Much Storage Do Security Cameras Have?

security camera

The amount of storage in a camera system depends on a number of factors, including the storage method you are using, the number of cameras you have, and the specific application you are using. In security camera systems where you are recording footage to your own hard drive, you will usually have between a week and a month of video storage available. This means you will only be able to see footage as far back as that time, unless you offload the video files onto an external device such as a computer or thumb drive.

Though cameras usually come with built-in memory, most businesses use additional devices to save security footage long-term. Before buying a security camera, it helps to consider which storage methods and devices the camera is compatible with, and how much built-in storage it offers. If your business is likely to grow in size and require more surveillance down the road, it is important to consider this too, as it will help to choose a storage system that offers high scalability.

What Happens to Old Security Footage?

camera footage

Once your security camera hard drive has reached maximum storage capacity, it will simply overwrite older footage and replace it with new footage. Older footage is automatically erased to make way for new videos, ensuring you always have the most recent video available. This is convenient in making sure your video storage does not exceed your system’s capacity, but it also means once the old footage is erased, you will never be able to access it again. You may be able to adjust this setting in your server if you would rather delete camera footage manually.

How Much Storage Do I Need?

The right amount of video storage for your business varies widely depending on the size of your operations, the recording space you have at your disposal, the amount of footage there is to store, and whether your cameras record continuously. Most businesses will want to store at least a month’s worth, as this ensures any events that you may need to look back on will be accessible. Here are some common lengths of time for different security applications:

  • Home security cameras often store only a week or two of footage.
  • The standard for hotels, supermarkets, construction companies, and similar medium sized applications is around 30 to 90 days.
  • For larger enterprises, it is often recommended to store footage for 3 months.
  • High-risk areas that store large amounts of cash, such as banks and casinos, often store footage for 6 months to a year.

The more storage you need, the bigger your hard drives will have to be (unless using cloud storage), and the higher the prices you will need to pay on storage space.

Storage options for security camera

How Does Camera Resolution Affect Storage Capacity?

4K resolution comparison

Video shot in higher resolutions will use up more bandwidth in your video storage system than lower quality video. Many different camera settings go into determining your video quality and how long footage may be stored, such as resolution, frame rate, compression type and levels, bitrate, and more.

However, reducing the resolution of your security cameras could result in footage that is useless, as important details such as facial features and license plates could be too blurry to make out. This means it is important for all businesses to balance an adequate camera resolution with a proper amount of storage. 3MP cameras or higher are generally needed for capturing all the necessary details.

What If I Want To Keep Footage For Longer?

Dahua NVR

The most straightforward way to get more video storage is to buy more space, but this is not always an option, as it can be expensive for your business. Here are some strategies business operators can use to keep video camera footage for longer, without compromising on important matters such as camera resolution:

Scheduled Recording

Recording continuously means your storage system is filled with a lot of footage that is probably not relevant. One way to combat this and maximize the life of your video storage is to use scheduled or motion-detecting security cameras. By scheduling cameras to only record at certain times of the day, you can eliminate large chunks of unnecessary recording to cut down on the storage space used. For example, cameras can be set to only record at night, more than doubling video storage time.

Motion Detection Cameras

If you want your security system to remain vigilant at all times without using up unnecessary storage space, you can opt for motion detecting cameras that only record when there is movement in the area. Motion detection combined with commercial alarm monitoring provides high accuracy and security. With modern security cameras that have line crossing functions, you can create a specific area of your business to monitor for movement and unauthorized entry. With today’s security cameras becoming more intelligent and adept at spotting intruders, investing in smart cameras is a great way to enhance security and video storage space.

If you use motion detecting cameras, remember that areas with a lot of movement will trigger more recording and take up more storage space. For example, if your business is on a busy street, your storage could fill up considerably faster than if your area experiences little motion. Many modern cameras allow users to adjust motion detection settings to best target any relevant events without using up all their storage, allowing them to work properly in a variety of settings.

Export Footage

Exporting your camera footage onto a computer or a separate hard drive such as thumb drive is a good way to keep the footage indefinitely, without taking up space in your main video storage system. A smart way to use this method is to export only important events or pieces of footage you might need to reference later. By reviewing your camera footage and and backing up important moments onto another device, you can vastly improve the space and cost-effectiveness of your system. This device can be stored in a location away from your business, ensuring no intruders can break in and gain access to your security footage.

Video Compression

H.265 camera storage

Video compression reduces the size of your footage to make more room in your storage system. Compression uses a codec to go through your video footage and get rid of unnecessary files, and make existing files smaller, without impacting the final quality or content of your video. This conveniently frees up space and lets you store more footage on your server or SD card. The two main types of compression in modern security camera systems are MJPEG, H.264, and H.265; nearly every modern IP camera has a video compression codec.

IP Camera Storage

cloud security camera app

IP (Internet Protocol) cameras offer a range of benefits when it comes to storing footage:

  • Higher Frame Rate
  • Better Image Quality
  • More Storage Options And Flexibility
  • More Coverage
  • Supports Unlimited Servers
  • Makes Remote Management Easy
  • Cloud Compatibility

IP cameras offer the most flexibility and modern convenience for commercial video storage. By storing video in the cloud, the amount of footage you can store is not limited by physical space. However, it will still cost money to increase the amount of storage available to you, as the capacity is provided by a third party.

how long do security cameras store footage

The flexibility of IP camera storage means businesses that use these systems have a wide range of options for storing their surveillance footage. For example, multiple IP cameras can link to one server, saving continuous recordings onto one secure device. It is possible in many cloud camera systems to remotely view and manage your security footage in an app or web browser, making it easy to store video on an off-site NVR.

IP cameras can also be easily combined with SD card storage, to save motion-triggered recordings or to act as a backup alongside cloud storage. SD cards can be a good option for IP cameras in spaces with an inconsistent internet connection, or for businesses that simply don’t want to pay for cloud storage.

Want to learn more about video storage and get a professional opinion on how long your business needs to store footage? Get in touch with our security camera experts at Safe and Sound today!

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