How Long is CCTV Footage Kept? (Simple Guide)

It is fair to say that we are fairly desensitised to the use of CCTV and the cameras being almost everywhere we go.

This was not always the case, when CCTV was originally introduced and became much more mainstream and there was a lot of debate around its ethics. 

In the modern era, we have come to accept it and think of business security and CCTV as part of our everyday lives.

We understand it is an important part of a security system and not for watching us, despite what Orwell’s dystopian book 1984 might have you believe!

How Long Is CCTV Footage Kept

In this article, we are going to look at how long CCTV footage is kept, and some other factors that can impact this. Hopefully, by the end, you will have a lot more information on the topic.

In this post, we’ll cover:

  • CCTV Footage 101
  • CCTV Recording’s Lifespan 
  • Variables That Affect CCTV Footage Lifespan
  • CCTV Footage Summary

What Is CCTV Footage?

CCTV Footage is the raw data that a camera captures which is converted into video, which can later be played back or stored on a video recorder. This can be for security, surveillance, or as part of a wider system such as two-layer access control.

Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) owners will often need to alert their staff or would-be criminals of the recordings, and in a lot of locations, this is either law or advised. Therefore, the recorded footage is legally and ethically obtained and can be used for security purposes.

As a rule, CCTV Footage is part of a company’s surveillance and security systems. Recorded footage is used to protect the business from threats both inside and outside of the business. 

What is CCTV Footage’s Lifespan?

The definition of CCTV Footage’s Lifespan is the duration of time that the video recordings are kept once they have been captured. 

There is no short answer when it comes to how long the lifespan of a recording is. To oversimplify for the sake of an easy answer, it averages around 30 days.

This will vary due to several factors from the type of camera to storage space available, to the industry, to video quality, and so on. We will look at each of these factors in a bit more depth further on in this article.

Is There a Limit on How Long CCTV Footage is Kept?

No, there is no limit to how long CCTV footage can be kept. It is down to your discretion how long you keep your footage. If you have enough storage space, you can keep it indefinitely.

As a broad rule of thumb, most businesses will keep their CCTV recordings for anywhere between 30 and 90 days. A lot of factors will affect this timeline which we will look at in the next section. 

Obviously, this is only in the case that the cameras are placed in areas that are ethical and reasonable. If there are cameras in a staff changing room or bathrooms then that is an entirely separate debate and something the vast majority of companies are strongly against. 

What Affects How Long CCTV Footage is Kept?

It is hard to narrow down exactly how long each recording is kept, but we can explore the different factors that affect how long footage is kept. 

In this section, we will discuss a few of the variables that impact how long Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) recordings are kept.

Storage Space

There is a lot of debate about how much storage space CCTV cameras need, and the answer is very broad. When setting up your surveillance technology you will need to consider how long you want to keep the footage for, and therefore, the space you need to store it.

The majority of CCTV systems will run through a specific storage unit, which is either an NVR or DVR, a network video recorder or a digital video recorder. These video recorders have a huge variance in their storage size (often by external hard drives) and the amount of space each recording takes up.

Therefore, you would need to know how big the storage space is to accurately depict how long the data is stored for. Typically speaking once a drive is full the oldest recordings are deleted and recorded over. A full cycle is hard to time due to all the factors at play.

Camera Type

Needless to say, the actual type of CCTV camera used when filming will have a large impact on the overall quality, storage, and length of recordings taken.

Some cameras only film in black and white, whereas some may take a series of photos a few seconds apart, and newer models can just record when they are triggered by proximity. 

This gives us a lot of variance in the number of recordings, their length, and thus, how long they are kept. It would be near enough impossible to answer a question about how long the footage is kept without knowing all these details.

To put this into context, if your camera only records when a person walks by it, you will likely have a lot fewer recordings; Shorter CCTV clips will be able to be kept longer and have a much larger lifespan.

Video Quality 

As we discussed in one of our previous blogs, there are a lot of differences between 720p and 1080p CCTV, and this could affect how much video footage you can store and in turn, how long you can store it for.

To put it plainly, the higher quality video you have, the shorter period of time you will probably be able to keep it. 

Higher video streaming uses a lot more bandwidth and could negatively impact your network, so this is something to consider when buying a wireless camera and thus keeping the recordings from it.

Industry 

This may sound a little strange, but the industry that the camera’s owners are in might play a part in how long the footage is kept.

To give an example, hotels often do not keep the footage for any more than a month due to the majority of their guests being only there for a night or a few. 

Whereas retail may keep footage up to a few months in case there was stock shrinkage or a need for an investigation. 

If you have CCTV for your own private security at your house, for example, then it is at your discretion how long you keep it for. This may be out of your hands due to the factors we have listed above.

CCTV Footage Lifespan Summary

As you can see, there is never a short answer when it comes to security and CCTV queries. There are so many factors to consider and extraneous variables that can affect and alter the footage size.

To oversimplify, footage can be kept between as little as a few days to a few months. There are so many elements to consider it’s hard to narrow down. To put this into context, the UK Government states that footage is often kept for 30 days before it is deleted.

In terms of your CCTV and security needs, choose a solution that is right for you. Just the physical presence of a CCTV camera is often deterrent enough for most would-be criminals.

One of the core concepts of security is to help eliminate or prevent crimes before they even occur. CCTV was designed as a surveillance tool that does exactly this.

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Steve White

Steve White

Steve is an experienced security professional with over 20 years in security installation and consulting. He's here to help you answer your security questions.

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Steve White

Steve White

Steve is an experienced security professional with over 20 years in security installation and consulting. He's here to help you answer your security questions.

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