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Bandwidth and Storage Calculators

Kieran

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Bandwidth and Storage Calculators
Knowing how much storage and bandwidth you're going to need for the system you're designing is absolutely critical. It's all well and good designing a fantastic CCTV system but if you don't have the bandwidth infrastructure to support what you've envisioned or the HDD storage capacity to record for as long as you need, then you could get stung.

We like to recommend the Western Digital Purple series of surveillance hard drives for CCTV purposes.

We have many customers who are very surprised by the amount of storage required to record high-resolution cameras continuously for example, and it's a bitter dose of reality when they discover that the cost of recording multiple 4K cameras for 60 days can become outlandish very quickly!

Thankfully, there are plenty of calculators available online that use linear equations to give an approximation of your storage and bandwidth requirements with a given set of variables, such as resolution and frame rate.

  • Our Blog - We have a bandwidth and storage calculator from JVSG embedded into our blog which is excellent at designing simple systems like CCTV for your home. Very straightforward to use, and it has proven very useful.
    Worth checking out - it's free!


  • IP Video System Design Tool - This is the full version of the above bandwidth and storage calculator from JVSG which we use in the office. It's a paid-for service, with a much wider toolkit and frequent updates available compared to the condensed version on our blog. Overkill for most, but very useful for any installers.

  • Manufacturer's Own Calculator - Many manufacturers develop their own bandwidth and storage calculators to supplement their product line, and often these provide the most comprehensive support for first-party features. For example, Hikvision's Disc Calculator allows calculations to be made using Hikvision's H.264+ proprietary smart video encoding whereas others can't. AXIS Design Tool can do the same with their Zipstream smart codec, too. Useful for one-manufacturer systems.

NOTE: These calculators are only approximate. Actual storage and bandwidth requirements can vary greatly based on image complexity, motion in the scene and camera quality. Use any figures from a calculator as guidance only.

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Using a Bandwidth / Storage Calculator

The entire point of using a bandwidth and storage calculator is to calculate your requirements based on your own settings, so there's obviously no "correct" settings. I'll cover what each setting you're likely to encounter means below.

Here is an image of the calculator embedded into our blog with some common settings.



In summary, the above shows that six cameras recording continuously at 1920x1080 (2MP) resolution with 12fps, using H.264 encoding, will requre 2586.3GB (or 2.6TB) of Hard Drive space to record for 14 days. You will also need 17Mbps of available bandwidth to access the cameras, which should be fine for most local networks but could prove a struggle for remote access - most of our upload bandwidths are quite low in comparison to our download.

This is often surprising for a lot of people, especially since most of us are used to smaller storage requirements of your average home PC. Before H.264 was in widespread use, cameras required far more bandwidth and storage with less efficient codecs. Now, we have H.265 looming on the horizon, so things are constantly improving.

Each of the options you are likely to encounter with any calculator are covered below.


The Camera Resolution field is a list which contains a number of typical camera resolutions which you can select from. This figure is the number of pixels each frame will contain and in what format. Increasing the resolution will directly increase the size of each frame, and thus the bandwidth and storage required to record from the camera.

1280x720, 1920x1080 and more recently 4MP resolution will all be very common calculations, as Hikvision's 4MP series has proven extremely popular and has somewhat set the benchmark for a low-cost camera's resolution.


The Compression option allows you to define what compression format the camera will use when recording. For most cameras nowadays, this will be H.264 which is currently the most efficient, although H.265 will see increasing use over the next few years. Older cameras will often only be able to use MJPG or MPEG-4 compression, which is less efficient than H.264, or a combination of options.

I'd always recommend selecting H.264 (High Quality) or an option of similar ilk of given the chance - it's best to plan for the largest requirements and having adequate storage / bandwidth rather than the alternative.


The Frames per Second (FPS) option will allow you to define the desired FPS setting for your camera(s). For most CCTV applications, an FPS of 12 - 15 is often more than adequate as you're only really after grabbing a few stills of someone's face as opposed to the smooth playback we're used to with 24+ fps. An FPS of 15 gives you 15 still images per second of a suspect, which is often plenty enough to pick one or two optimal ones from.

Increasing the FPS of your camera, like resolution, will greatly increase its bandwidth and storage requirements. The opposite is true when decreasing FPS.


Most calculators will also allow you to select a desired number of cameras to use during your calculation, and also how many continuous days of recording you'd like to retain footage for.

In the above example, I'm calculating options for a CCTV system comprised of six cameras to retain footage for 14 days, which is typically plenty for a residential application. The calculator will then display the amount of storage and bandwidth I'd need to achieve this.


The above fields display the results. You would need a hard drive(s) with a large enough capacity to meet the displayed results, and an NVR / network infrastructure capable of handling the displayed bandwidth.

As mentioned above, increasing the resolution of your cameras can drastically increase the storage requirements of your system. In the below example, I've increased the resolution of the six cameras from 1920x1080 (2MP) to 2288x1712 (4MP) and kept the other settings the same. The previous 1920x1080 results are present for comparison's sake.


As you can see, increasing the resolution of the cameras from 2MP to 4MP nearly doubles the required storage and bandwidth from 2586.3GB to 4815.8GB and 17.10Mbps to 31.85Mbps.

The same can be seen when you increase the FPS of the cameras instead.


Increasing the FPS from 12 to 20 also drastically increases the amount of storage and bandwidth required. As previously discussed, a high frame rate is often unnecessary in CCTV, especially considering the increased costs of storage and network infrastructure as a result.

Of course, if you increased both the resolution AND the frames per second of the cameras, your requirements would increase even further.

Increasing the Days of Recording will also of course directly increase the required storage space to record for the greater amount of days (bandwidth will remain the same).


These equations are linear. If 14 days of recording at these settings requires 2586.3GB, then we can work out that one day requires 184.7GB (2586.3 / 14), and thus 30 days requires 5542GB of storage (184.7 x 30), which the calculator confirms.

Very helpful at getting a feel for your requirements!

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Whilst this embedded calculator in our blog (above) is fine for most systems, it doesn't allow you to calculate a system comprised of cameras with different resolution and FPS settings without doing them one-at-a-time, independent from each other, noting down the results for each camera and totalling them yourself. For a small system, this is often fine, but for medium-large systems or installers this can prove a headache.

As discussed, JVSG also produce a paid-for bandwidth and storage calculator we use in the office, called IP Video System Design Tool which allows you to mix-and-match cameras of different settings, as per below.


Definitely saves us time, and a few headaches!

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Many manufacturers also produce their own bandwidth and storage calculators which factor in proprietary features that may not be covered by third-party calculators.

For example, Hikvision have produced their own Disk Space Calculator which allows you to calculate requirements when using their smart video encoding technology, H.264+ which is otherwise not possible with JVSG. This feature could save you a significant amount of storage and bandwidth, so it's absolutely worth keeping these options in mind.


In the above example, I used the same 1920x1080 at 12fps settings as before, this time using H.264+ encoding as opposed to H.264. The projected storage requirements decreased from 2586.3GB to 916GB, a drastic saving (if accurate!).

Interestingly, Hikvision's calculator gives wildly different storage values for the same given variables as systems in JVSG and other tested calculators, so it might be worth taking them with a pinch of salt.

As with all calculators though, these are approximations and may not reflect your system's actual requirements in practise.
 
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