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Minimizing TCO: three ways to lower the costs of running a security system

7 minutes read

The total cost of a security system extends beyond the initial outlay for cameras and installation. In fact, the initial expense of purchasing and setting up a security system tends to account for just 30% of the total cost of ownership. A wide array of factors – from storage to electricity usage, system monitoring and maintenance – contribute to the total costs of a security system. Yet increasingly sophisticated technologies available today make it possible to lower the costs associated with running a security system over its lifetime.

Here we explore three areas where clever solutions can be implemented to reduce costs substantially: storage and therefore electricity usage, maintenance, and additional lighting.

Saving on storage

On average, legislation requires potential evidence to be stored for thirty days or a month but in some regions or use cases, this is extended to 180 days – making storage a considerable factor in overall security system costs. Given that storage costs extend beyond purchasing servers to both server maintenance and the energy required to run – and cool – those servers, this is an area to consider closely.

Unfortunately, reducing storage requirements isn’t as simple as shrinking the size of the video you are storing. In many cases, compressing the video can compromise the quality of footage – removing important image details so that the footage can no longer be used for video evidence and forensic analysis. This often defeats the objective of installing the security system in the first place.

To avoid this issue, smart solutions like Axis Zipstream can be implemented to reserve all the important details you need – such as faces, tattoos or license plate numbers – and remove only the unnecessary data. It allows cameras to perform at their best, while lowering bandwidth and storage requirements by an average of 50% or more compared to standard compression. This saving can be further increased – by up to an additional 50% – through ‘Storage Profile’, a new one-click profile select feature on Zipstream that automatically sets parameters to their optimal level for video storage.

Given high energy prices today, cutting your storage requirements and therefore electricity usage can have a considerable impact on overall costs.

“A great example of this is a bank we worked with in South America”, explains Ricardo Marranita, Product Growth Manager at Axis. “The bank was facing absurdly high electricity bills, and roughly 86% of those costs were down to the air conditioning needed to cool its servers. By implementing Zipstream to reduce its storage requirements, the bank was able to lower energy consumption by around €200 per channel – laddering up to a total saving of €20,000 for every 100 channels. When you consider that some banks have a few thousand cameras in use across their branches, there are substantial savings to be made here.”

Ricardo Marranita
Ricardo Marranita, Product Growth Manager at Axis, talks about how technologies can be used to cut storage requirements and by that reducing a company’s energy consumption.

Reducing maintenance bills

To ensure your cameras can do what you need them to do, they need regular software updates and to be kept clean. This sounds simple but these steps can often be overlooked – both in terms of keeping on top of them and looking at where savings can be made.

Physical device maintenance

It sounds obvious but surveillance cameras need a clear view of a scene if they are to do their job properly. Dirt, dust, spider webs and more can build up to block the view, as well as leading to issues with overheating and potentially component failure if left unaddressed.

Unfortunately, the cost of manually cleaning cameras can add up – particularly if the devices are in environments with lots of dirt and dust. For instance, surveillance systems installed in tough environmental conditions, such as an offshore oil rig or chemical plant, can generate significant maintenance bills to continually clean salt water and dust off cameras.

To combat these costs, organizations can consider investing in cameras, such as the AXIS Q61 PTZ Camera Series, that offer remote cleaning functions such as Speed Dry, or have been designed with self-cleaning materials and components, such as a hydrophilic dome. With this added functionality, one Spanish maritime port that had previously been required to clean their devices every two weeks was able to spread out the cleaning schedule, with each extra day saving €300 per device over five years.

‘Digital’ maintenance

New vulnerabilities are found every day. The longer your software is left out-of-date, the bigger the risk to your organization. Yet how can you keep on top of software updates efficiently when you’re dealing with hundreds or even thousands of devices? Most don’t.

Solutions like AXIS Device Manager and AXIS Device Manager Extend enable easy management of all major installation, security, and operational tasks, including applying cybersecurity controls and installing firmware upgrades. With this tool, you can remotely manage up to several thousand Axis devices on one site or across multiple premises. Moving away from manual updates also reduces the likelihood of human error or missing updates which could leave your organization unprotected.

Ricardo Marranita
Ricardo Marranita talks about how smart solutions can make digital device management more effective; “…in a fraction of the time, for a fraction of the cost”. 

“Employing solutions like AXIS Device Manager offer more effective digital device maintenance, in a fraction of the time, for a fraction of the cost,” says Ricardo Marranita, Product Growth Manager at Axis. “For instance, updating and configuring 200 cameras can take just 30 minutes, instead of the three weeks an installer might need to spend on running manual updates. These time savings enabled one of our partners to reduce the cost of updating a maritime port’s devices from roughly 100€ per channel to less than 5€ per channel – improving their profit margins while also meeting the port’s needs more efficiently.”

Cutting out additional lighting

Most surveillance systems need to be able to provide high quality images in the dusk or dark. One option is to purchase, install, and power additional lighting to support the security system but this will push up energy bills. Alternatively, some camera software compensates for low light levels by increasing the gain, but this increases storage requirements and electricity costs. Given the extent to which electricity bills are being driven up by today’s energy crisis – reaching staggering heights of even 5-10 times more than previous costs – finding ways to reduce lighting and electricity requirements without compromising the system’s performance is vital.

It’s worth considering light-optimizing technologies that do not have the same large-scale impact on storage costs or require the installation of additional lighting, such as Axis Lightfinder. By combining extremely sensitive sensors and carefully tuned image processing, cameras with Axis Lightfinder can deliver high-resolution, full color video with a minimum of motion blur – even in near darkness. They capture great detail in very low light, creating excellent image quality without the need for external light sources.

Another potential solution to minimize the need for additional lighting is Axis OptimizedIR. This advanced camera-integrated IR solution combines camera intelligence and sophisticated LED technology to “see” details in the complete dark. For example, in our pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras with OptimizedIR, the IR beam automatically adapts – becoming wider or narrower as the camera zooms in and out – so the entire field of view is evenly illuminated.

Alternatively, you can consider when you do or don’t need a visual image from your security system. Options like the AXIS Q1656-DLE Radar-Video Fusion Camera combine two powerful technologies in one device. With radar, you can keep external lights shut off most of the time whilst still monitoring for movement. Once movement is detected, video analytics kick in to confirm the alert and keep false alarms to a minimum. By making the most of optics and radar in one device, you can improve scene intelligence while reducing the need to power external lighting all night.

Minimizing security system costs

Numerous factors contribute towards a security system’s total cost of ownership. Yet with smart technologies in place, you can tap into innovation that will ultimately save you money by reducing the costs of maintaining and running your security system.

Find out how Axis technologies can lower your security system’s running costs
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