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Storage improves surveillance

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When the first event music, “Video Killed the Radio Star” premiered in 1981, it started a video revolution. A lot has changed since then, but video’s relevance in our culture has increased.

With our obsession over video and corresponding camera capabilities such as HD and 4K, it’s easy to miss an equally crucial component that can make or break the effectiveness of an entire surveillance system: storage. Unfortunately, many surveillance professionals are using the wrong drive. Rather than being designed for continuous capture of HD or FHD video from multiple cameras, a drive that is not optimised for surveillance systems can drop frames or even consume more power, generating more heat and  create  major reliability issues. This could drastically reduce the life of a drive, adversely affecting the read and write operations in a surveillance system. These solutions may cost the customer less upfront, but could eventually affect a business when performance, reliability and reputation are compromised.

The right surveillance storage solution should offer high performance, efficiency and capacity that has been tested in harsh surveillance environments. How can you tell the difference?

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: What to Look for in Surveillance Storage

There are several specific things to look for when evaluating whether a drive has been designed with surveillance in mind:

• Always on: A surveillance system works 24×7. If the storage drive hasn’t been designed for constant, never-ending read/write operations, it won’t be able to keep up.

• Performance Reliability: Some drives, like WD’s Purple surveillance-class hard drive family, include special technology (called AllFrame in this case) that improves playback performance and works with ATA streaming to reduce errors and frame loss.

• RAID-enabled: To increase peace-of-mind for your customer, you may also want to look for a drive with RAID or Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disk capabilities. A drive with this capability can use two or more hard disks to create a safety net for failed hardware by ensuring that the image is still being captured even if one drive isn’t working. This lessens interruptions in productivity and decreases the chances of data loss.

• Low power consumption: While “low power consumption” might not be first on your list of things to look for in a hard drive, the need for always-on capability makes this crucial. Having a drive that calculates the optimum seek speeds won’t generate as much heat, even in passively-cooled storage enclosures, making it more reliable and friendlier to your customer’s wallet.

• High camera count support: A high number of cameras, an NVR system or a longer retention period will require higher storage use and an even greater need to ensure you have chosen a drive that will meet the customer’s needs. Look for one with up to 6 TB of capacity on a single drive.

• High system bay count support: The right drive will include hardware vibration sensors to enable higher drive-count systems as well as higher system and hard drive workloads.

• Extensive compatibility with cameras: Needless to say, the drive you select needs to work with the cameras you are planning to install. One that works with most of the different cameras you could install will make it even easier to keep the right drive on-hand, regardless of your current installation scenario.

• Rugged exterior: In some cases the drive may need to live and perform continuously in harsh environments. In this case, you’ll want one with tarnish-resistant PCBA protection.

• Easily upgradable: In an ideal world, your customer occasionally asks to upgrade or expand their existing surveillance system. A drive that scales with a system when the need arises makes your job easier.

Considering the importance of storage in surveillance systems, it is also helpful to use a capacity calculator to help determine how much storage is needed for the length of time data is to be maintained for a particular surveillance system. Vendors like WD (www.wd.com) offer calculators and drive selection tools to help find the right drive and capacity that best suits your needs.

Rather than selecting the inappropriate drive for your surveillance solution, spend additional time conducting research into which drive is engineered for a surveillance environment and is able to meet the specific demands of the application. It can save hassle, money and even guarantee conviction of a perpetrator of a crime in the long wrong.

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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