Setting the College IT Security Bar
With IP surveillance cameras, campuses ensure student safety â€” but the data amassed also spurs colleges to craft smart video storage strategies. With IP surveillance cameras, campuses ensure student safety – but the data amassed also spurs colleges to craft smart video storage strategies.
Sweep. Save. Sweep. Save. Sweep. Save.
Every second of every day, 70-plus IP surveillance cameras capture images across the five campuses that make up Kellogg Community College.
Although student success remains the priority for all colleges and universities, student safety is never far behind. KCC, like many higher-education institutions, has turned to IP surveillance to enhance security at its locations in and around Battle Creek, Mich.
In turn, the college's IT and security teams have created a video storage environment to save, back up, analyze and access camera data as needed. Without the ability to quickly retrieve footage, such systems are little more than a deterrent. This was clear to Kellogg from the get-go, says John P. Di Pierro, director of institutional facilities and public safety for KCC.
“We had to make sure we could archive sufficient video data to help law enforcement,” Di Pierro says.
For that reason, KCC carefully considered its long-term data storage requirements and what it would take to create a successful video review system. It was part of the planning back when the team first considered deploying the cameras in late 2001.
Campuses that have rolled out IP surveillance point to crucial factors that make these deployments successful. These projects need to:
- align with overarching storage efforts on campus and law enforcement needs off campus;
- phase in the installation of new systems or equipment and identify savings targets that don't undercut security;
- include a long-term vision for potential archival requirements and costs.
Adding Virtual Eyes
KCC has always had an exceptional safety record, but the World Trade Center attacks in September 2001 led the college to review its security practices and look for ways to make each of its locations as safe for students and faculty as possible, Di Pierro recalls.
The capacity required to archive data for 30 days from 50 720x480-resolution cameras running at 15 frames per second using MPEG-4 encoding
Source: Cisco Systems
With a student enrollment of nearly 15,000 and limited funding for additional security personnel, the use of IP surveillance cameras provided an alternative path for quickly bolstering safety across KCC.
“We needed a way to improve our security footprint without adding” new staff members, Di Pierro says. Augmenting its physical patrols with surveillance using Panasonic IP cameras offered KCC an ideal solution.
But the data captured by these cameras amasses quickly. To monitor all the cameras continuously, KCC would have had to increase its security staff. The budget did not allow for that. Instead, the college reviews the videos to find evidence after a crime has taken place, Di Pierro says.
The mere presence of the cameras surely reduces crime and other misconduct as well, he points out. The campus cameras are not hidden from sight for just that reason.
When anyone reports an incident, the IT and security teams gather video segments from the college's networked storage system using date, time and location details. KCC then sends the appropriate video to outside law enforcement for evaluation.
Storage plays an integral role in how campuses use IP surveillance video and the systems that they install, says Alastair Hayfield, research manager for video surveillance and content analysis at IMS Research.
“It affects every aspect of the system design, from the quality of the image you can collect to the length of time the image can be maintained,” Hayfield says.
With storage prices dropping, many organizations find that they have new options, he adds. Still, when selecting an approach, each college or university must balance its security needs against projected actual storage costs, Hayfield advises.
That's the type of cost-benefit analysis that KCC undertook, Di Pierro says. For instance, although he knew black-and-white video capture would require much less storage capacity, the college opted for color because the quality of the images would help police more readily identify perpetrators. The resolution also had to be sufficient to let law enforcement officers isolate and match facial details.
KCC folded its video security storage into the school's overall storage system, and it upgraded its network of digital video recorders so it could capture substantially more content.
The college maintains video data for a period of time sufficient to respond to virtually any complaint. “We determined the longest time we would expect to wait before someone would report a crime, and we increased that period significantly,” Di Pierro says. “We've never had a situation where someone reported a crime and the video feed had already been erased.”
A Phased Approach
Kankakee Community College implemented an IP video security system in two phases starting in 2006. By the time the project was complete, most access points across the Illinois campus were covered, says IT Director Michael O'Connor.
The college's security staff uses the IP system, but the IT department designed and supports it. Accordingly, the impact on the college's network and storage was a prime consideration from the beginning. “We didn't want this to bring down any other system or overwhelm our storage media,” O'Connor says. That has led to a multiphase approach of rolling out cameras in waves.
Even so, Kankakee has not sacrificed the utility of the IP system by scrimping on resources, he says. Together with the security staff, O'Connor's team sought the best way to reduce storage requirements while providing the security tools to do the job. The solution? Slower frame speeds.
“We decided 30-frame-per-second video wasn't really necessary to identify someone,” he says. “It would be a luxury we didn't need.”
The images the college uses are of a lower quality. But, as O'Connor points out, movie-quality video isn't the goal – identification is.
By reducing the frame rate, Kankakee can keep the data for 30 days, longer than it could have if the campus had captured video at a higher frame rate. So in virtually all cases, O'Connor says the college can accommodate requests for historical footage.
To lessen the impact on the school's data storage system, Kankakee bought a 7.2-terabyte RAID array specifically for the IP camera data. The system has sufficient headroom to support the project's third phase – deploying cameras to scan the parking lots.
O'Connor notes that it's also helpful to plan out any network upgrades that may be necessary, so that those can be budgeted wisely. By and large, Kankakee Community College didn't need to upgrade or purchase additional switches for its Cisco Systems backbone to support the security cameras. The only exceptions were a few older switches that couldn't support the Power over Ethernet connections the cameras required.
Tale of the Tape
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign recently launched an IP surveillance project that aims to deploy cameras in all areas of the campus. With few exceptions – such as campus recreational facilities – security personnel do not monitor cameras in real time. Instead, the university stores video for review after an incident.
Michael Corn, chief privacy and security officer at Urbana-Champaign, says the decision to forgo real-time monitoring was as much a matter of policy as it was technology.
“We have a very robust high-speed research network,” Corn says. “Where appropriate, we support live monitoring. But we're very concerned about privacy issues, and we didn't want our system to be intrusive or perceived as intrusive.”
The university runs a software program that lets local police access historical video data, and it is implementing a reporting application that tracks access by date, time and person viewing the data.
The university also is experimenting with a mix of dedicated storage media for video images and shared storage with the campus's central storage repository. “We've given ourselves the flexibility to find the most effective means of storage,” says Andrew Nichols, liaison for emergency communication and planning.
Nichols says he expects the system will maintain video data on regional storage servers initially and, during slow network traffic periods, move it to central storage. He also plans to hold it on hard drives in central storage for a few days before archiving to tape.
The advantage of tape storage is that it is less expensive, both for the medium and in terms of power consumption, than archiving to hard drives, Corn says. Plus, he adds, offline tape storage provides another layer of protection against unauthorized access.
Although storage management is and will always be important, Corn doesn't expect the school's network or storage resources to ever limit the security camera system. “There's a good chance that as we ramp up, the cost of storage will be dropping,” he says.
With careful planning, colleges can design IP video systems that meet their budgets and security requirements, says IMS Research's Hayfield. The good news for IT managers, he points out, is that today's wide number of storage options lets them design optimal systems at a lower cost.
Security Cameras in Action
Barbara R. O'Connor, chief of police and director for public safety at the University of Illinois, was instrumental in encouraging the campus to implement its new security camera system because of her previous experience as police chief at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.
During her tenure at UMass, which coincided with the implementation of the school's security camera system, armed robbery in residences dropped from about 11 per year to zero, and burglaries fell more than 30 percent.
In one situation, the Amherst campus police captured video of an armed robbery. They sent photos of the perpetrator as e-mail alerts to students. The local media then picked up the story and further publicized the images. Within 24 hours, someone identified the individual on the video and police made an arrest.
In another case, a man attacked someone after an auto accident. When he saw the police cruiser arriving, the attacker walked across the street and sat on the curb, hoping to blend in with the crowd. Police at the station viewing video were able to tell the officer on the scene that the perpetrator was sitting right behind him.