How Long Do Security Cameras Keep Footage? Explained

In today’s unpredictable world, where threats loom at every corner, the time security camera footage is retained can be alarmingly critical.

You need to know how long your security system preserves video records to avoid being exposed and defenseless against intruders or unforeseen incidents.

So, how long do security cameras keep footage? What is the right length of time to store it for timely review and action before it is overwritten or deleted? Keep reading to find out.

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How Long Does The Average Security Camera Store Footage?

how long does the average security camera store footage

For most businesses, the video footage recorded by security cameras is kept for 7-90 days, depending on the storage capacity and the surveillance system.

Security cameras typically retain footage depending on specific industries. For example, casinos and banks may adhere to industry standards and regulations, necessitating a minimum storage period of 6 months up to a year for security footage.

Retention Period for Each Storage

StorageRetention Period
Cloud Storage7,14,30,60, or 90 days depending on subscription plans
NVR / DVR30 days to 90 days or more depending on the storage capacity and settings configuration 
SD Card Storage 7 days to 1 month

Legal Compliance Per Industry

SectorRetention Period
Retail30 – 90 days
Hospitality30 – 90 days
Healthcare30 days to several years, depending on regulations and the nature of the footage
Financial Institutions6 months to 7 years, depending on regulations and the nature of the footage
Casinos30 days to several years, depending on regulations and the nature of the footage
Transportation7 days to several months
Education30 – 90 days
Government & Public30 days to several years, depending on regulations and the nature of the footage

Note: The retention periods are general guidelines and may vary depending on specific legal requirements, industry standards, and the nature of the recorded footage. 

How To Store Video Footage

storage options for security cameras

There are a few options to retain footage based on your needs, preferences, and resources. Security cameras record surveillance footage and 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 Solutions

Server Based Storage

Dahua NVR

Servers are a popular way for businesses to store camera footage. Servers include a Network Video Recorder or Digital Video Recorder, an external device that stores footage using one or multiple hard drives. These devices can be stored onsiteonsite 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 video footage on an onsiteonsite server: this is a personal choice based on the safety of the business location and the preferences of retail stores and business operators.


NVRs (network video recorders) operate using a network of IP cameras connected to a digital network. They allow IP footage from a smartphone app or web browser.

DVRs (digital video recorders) are the more traditional system, which works with analog security cameras connecting via a coaxial cable.

NVRs are the more popular choice for most modern security camera systems, which increasingly use cloud technology to boost remote access capabilities and convenience in today’s world.

 Check out our article here to learn more about the difference between the NVRs and DVRs.

SD Card Storage

Another option is to store your camera footage on an SD card. Most cameras have built-in memory, but you usually need an SD storage card to save more footage since this storage is limited.

Your specific storage card will affect the footage you can put on it. You can delete this footage or save it forever (or until the SD card is broken or damaged).

SD cards make practical backup security systems for surveillance footage and 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. You can store video footage in the cloud if you have an internet connection.

Cloud storage can even be achieved in facilities without electricity, such as construction sites, through wireless connectivity, 4G, or 5G. Cloud-based storage solutions offer 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 several factors, including the storage method, the number of CCTV cameras, and the specific application.

In security camera systems, where footage is recorded to your hard drive, you usually have between a week and a month of video storage available.

This means you can only see surveillance camera footage from as far back as that time unless you offload the video files onto an external storage device such as a computer or thumb drive.

Though security cameras usually have 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 retail stores are likely to grow and require more surveillance, it is important to consider this, too, as it will help you choose a high-scalability storage system.

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What Happens to Old Security Camera Footage?

camera footage

Once your security camera hard drive has reached maximum storage capacity, it will simply overwrite old security footage and replace it with new footage. Older footage is automatically erased for new videos, ensuring you always have the most recent video available.

It is convenient to ensure your video storage is within the storage capacity of your camera system for old footage.

Still, this also means that once the old footage is erased, you will never be able to reaccess it. If you delete camera footage manually, you can adjust this setting in your server.

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 surveillance footage to store, and whether your video surveillance 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 the standard 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, storing footage for three months is often recommended.
  • High-risk areas that store large amounts of cash, such as banks and casinos, often retain footage for six months to a year.

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

Storage options for security camera

How Does Camera Resolution Affect Storage Capacity?

Video shots in higher resolutions will use more bandwidth in your video storage system than lower video quality.

Camera recording settings and video quality determine how long footage may be stored, as are the resolution, frame rate, compression type, levels, bitrate, and more.

4K resolution comparison

Aside from the CCTV camera storage capacity, the image quality of recorded footage may define how long security cameras can keep the footage.

However, reducing the resolution of your security cameras could result in useless footage, as essential details such as facial features and license plates could be too blurry to make out.

This means that all businesses must balance an adequate camera resolution with a proper amount of storage. 3MP cameras or higher are generally needed to capture all the necessary details.

What If I Want To Keep Footage For Longer?

The most straightforward way to get more video storage is to buy more space, but this is sometimes 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 essential matters like your security camera resolution:

Scheduled Recording

Recording continuously means your storage system is filled with a lot of footage that could be more 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 surveillance cameras to only record at certain times of the day, you can eliminate large chunks of unnecessary recording to reduce the storage space used.

For example, multiple cameras can be set to record only at night, more than double the video storage time.

Motion Detection Cameras

Suppose you want your security system to remain vigilant without using unnecessary storage space. Not all security cameras record, and you can opt for motion-activated recording that only records when there is movement in the area.

Motion-activated recording combined with commercial alarm monitoring provides high accuracy and security. Unlike other security cameras, motion-detection home security cameras are popular as they can go on for a few days without taking up too much space.

With modern security cameras with 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 security cameras, remember that areas with a lot of movement will trigger more recording and take up more storage space.

Modern security cameras allow users to adjust motion detection settings to best target relevant events without using up all their storage, allowing them to work correctly in various recording settings.

Export Footage

Exporting your security camera footage onto a computer or a separate hard drive such as a thumb drive is an excellent way to keep the footage indefinitely without taking up space in your central video storage system.

An intelligent way to use this method is to export only important events or pieces of security camera footage you might need to reference later.

By reviewing your camera footage and backing up essential moments onto another device, you can vastly improve the space and cost-effectiveness of your security system.

This device can be stored away from your business, ensuring no intruders can break in and access your security footage.

Video Compression

H.265 camera storage

Video compression reduces the size of your footage so you can have more storage space in your storage system.

Compression uses a codec to review your video footage, eliminate unnecessary files, and make existing files smaller without impacting the image quality or content. It conveniently frees up space for extended footage retention.

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 recorded video compression codec.

IP Camera Storage Space 

cloud security camera app

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, increasing your storage will still cost money, as a third party provides the capacity.

The flexibility of IP camera storage means businesses that use these security 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 do live remote monitoring and manage your security footage in an app or web browser.

IP cameras can also be easily combined with SD card storage to save motion-triggered recordings or 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 want to avoid paying for cloud storage.

how long do security cameras store footage


Why do businesses retain security camera footage for a specific period?

Most security camera footage lasts for defined periods to align with security protocols, legal obligations, and operational necessities. 

Security footage is vital for investigating incidents, ensuring compliance with regulations, and safeguarding assets. Tailoring retention periods helps balance these crucial aspects and efficient resource utilization.

Can I access and review footage beyond the retention period if needed?

Once footage is deleted or overwritten, it is typically not recoverable, highlighting the importance of timely access and review when necessary.

It underscores the significance of prompt access and review when needed, emphasizing the importance of adhering to retention schedules and legal requirements.

So, How Long Do Security Cameras Keep Footage? 

Security cameras keep footage for 7 – 90 days, but regulatory requirements, storage capacity, and organizational policies determine this. 

While some industries may store footage for a few days or weeks due to limited storage capacity or regulatory mandates, others with robust storage infrastructure may retain footage for months or years. 

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

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