A Conversation with George Scholhamer

Video surveillance is a critical part of a business’ security infrastructure. More surveillance cameras are used today than ever before, and installations continue to expand. Because of the influx in surveillance data, video storage needs are increasing. This creates demand for flexible, scalable and highly reliable storage platforms.

Video is useful only if captured and made available for redistribution. Reliable storage solutions are critical to maintaining video data integrity and enabling immediate viewing. In most surveillance projects, video storage and servers account for 50 percent of the acquisition and ongoing maintenance costs of a high-capacity system. Users invest in these platforms to capture and store video for investigative purposes or to maintain compliance requirements.

Ironically, as valuable as these systems are, often little is done to maintain them over the long term. Thankfully, users can follow procedures to protect infrastructure investments and maximize ROI. We wanted to know how, so we talked with George Scholhamer, the vice president of sales engineering at Pivot3.

Q. What procedure is often overlooked in maintaining storage systems?

A. Many users don’t realize that leaving failed drives in place in a RAID-protected storage system will negatively affect performance and, in the worst case, lead to an unprotected array. This leaves critical data vulnerable to loss and system failure. Replacing failed drives as soon as possible is critical to keeping your system in top working order.

Q. Is it important to keep a stock of spare drives, power supplies and fans on hand?

A. All reputable storage systems protect data against failures, and most offer three-year warranties that allow users to secure replacement drives for free. Even so, it’s key to replenish spares to maintain the health of your entire system.

Some vendors offer advance replacement of parts and helpful shipping cartons and procedures to make the process easy. Check with your installation partner and product manufacturer to determine whether they will offer assistance to get you back up and running.

Q. Is it wise to enable alerts so problems are identified quickly?

A. Modern systems support IT notification methods, such as simple network management protocol, which enable operators to view events through solutions such as Lenel On- Guard or Genetec Omnicast. Customize alerts to send e-mail notifications directly to security staff when a problem is identified. Health monitoring is critical because successful notification is the key to early problem detection and reduced maintenance costs.

Q. What role does monitoring temperature play?

A. Extreme temperature changes make your system vulnerable to failures. Heat is an enemy of computer systems and is especially troublesome for mechanical devices such as disk drives. Monitor the temperature of not only the security room but also of the storage devices in your data center. Modern IP systems provide this functionality. Remotely monitoring temperature changes allows users to react quickly in the event of a failing air-conditioning system, for example.

Q. Why insist on advanced RAID 6 protection?

A. RAID 5 was the first generation of software that protected systems against a single drive failure. Since its development, more advanced systems now exist that protect up to five simultaneous drive failures and safeguard against an entire appliance failure. These systems require some additional capacity, but consider this a valuable investment given the heartache and frustration that occurs from lost data.

Q. Is it important to create an offsite event vault?

A. Every IT system includes backup for the most critical information so a catastrophic disaster or system failure does not result in lost data. Yet, this is not the norm in the surveillance world. Natural disasters, including floods and earthquakes, along with incidents of terrorism or simply human error can lead to the loss of an entire facility’s data. Therefore, it is imperative to replicate the most critical video events to an off-site facility to protect critical data and surveillance footage for investigations, corporate mandates or compliance requirements.

Q. What are the keys to protecting the power supply?

A. Many storage systems leverage redundant power supplies, but often the planning stops at the end of the power cord. Remember that each power cord must power the entire storage unit. The failure of a power supply could take down a data center because of a circuit overload.

Deploying uninterruptible power supplies protects against power supply, circuit and UPS failures, and keeps the system running. When possible, use 220 volts AC because it is much more efficient and easier to supply to a computer rack.

Q. Are periodic check-ups important?

A. Like many things in life, preventative care turns a potentially catastrophic problem into minor maintenance. Checking system logs and drive performance statistics helps identify potential trouble areas before larger problems occur. Many of today’s leading storage vendors along with their integration partners, provide a host of professional services to make this process simple and painless.

Q. How important is it to clean system components?

A. It’s a lesson we all learned from Mom -- but one that needs repeating when we discuss technology.

An environment with excessive dust or dirt affects system reliability and life expectancy. Dust and dirt collects on the internal components of a storage system as normal airflow circulates through the chassis. This creates a “blanket” that results in the internal components running at a higher temperature, which decreases the life of the system. Avoid unnecessary maintenance costs by cleaning system components on a regular basis.

This article originally appeared in the October 2010 issue of Security Today.

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