Let's explore the differences and costs of local and cloud storage to help you choose the security camera storage option that fits your personal preferences and budget.
Should I Choose Local or Cloud Storage for My Security Camera?
Local storage pros and cons
Cloud storage pros and cons
Video: Does Cloud Storage Matter for Home Security Cameras?
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What's the difference between cloud and local storage?
As the name suggests, local storage keeps your security camera footage on your camera without sending any data over the internet. This means you don't need internet or monthly fees for the camera to do its job. Plus, your recordings are less susceptible to data breaches or someone watching them without your permission.
Most security cameras that store local video do it in one of three ways:
- Removable storage (like a microSD card) allows you to swap memory cards between devices. This is a convenient way to watch video footage on a larger screen or transfer files to your computer. The amount of storage a product supports depends on the camera model, but expect to buy cards between 32 GB and 256 GB. MicroSD cards are the most popular type of local storage on brands like Reolink, Wyze, and YI.
- External storage is the traditional method for storing footage from multiple cameras in one place, usually on an NVR or base station. The cameras use video cables or Wi-Fi to link to the NVR, which processes and stores video on a hard drive. This is the most expensive type of local storage because you're usually paying for multiple cameras and an NVR. Multi-camera systems like Amcrest, Lorex, and Swann are your best bet for external local storage.
- Built-in storage is part of the camera, and there's usually no way to increase it—it's a common way to supplement cloud storage plans. Accessing videos usually requires a mobile app and a Wi-Fi connection. The amount of built-in storage a camera has is generally limited to a few gigabytes. Look to brands like Google Nest and Eufy for good examples of built-in storage.
Cloud storage saves your videos behind usernames, passwords, and encryption on a secure remote server. It's wholly dependent on the internet, so there's no way to record videos when your camera's offline. Still, it's great for keeping videos safe from anyone that steals or breaks your camera. Security companies also use cloud storage to add features like person and vehicle detection to your camera.
Cloud storage comes in two flavors:
- Event recording saves short video clips based on a camera's motion detection. These clips usually aren't much longer than a few minutes. This is the most common type of cloud storage because it uses less internet bandwidth and helps battery-powered cameras go longer without recharging. Arlo cameras, the Ring Stick Up Cam, and Wyze cameras are great options for event-based cloud storage.
- Continuous recording saves everything a security camera sees. This is ideal for capturing events lasting longer than a few minutes but requires a wired power source and copious amounts of internet bandwidth. Cameras with continuous recording usually use event recording to help you spot activities of interest without sitting through days of surveillance footage. Arlo and Google Nest offer some of the best continuous video recording plans.
Compare local storage vs. cloud storage costs
Local storage is the clear winner if you're aiming to spend as little money as possible since it's a one-time expense without any monthly fees. Still, cloud storage brings a lot of conveniences and just a touch more security—as long as you use online security best practices like a strong password and two-factor authentication. Here's a quick breakdown of the prices you'll encounter to store security camera footage.
Local storage costs
We looked at 10 of the most popular microSD card models to create a basic picture of what you can expect to spend on local storage.
|32 GB microSD
|Across 8 products
|64 GB microSD
|Across 10 products
|128 GB microSD
|Across 9 products
Amazon.com list price as of post date. Read full disclaimer.
We recommend sticking with microSD cards over NVRs since they're very cost-effective, even at higher capacities like 128 GB. NVRs tend to cost over $100 for 1 TB of storage—larger capacities aren't much more expensive—but that's before you start adding cameras, which quickly balloons into the $250 to $500 range.
Reolink Argus 3 Pro: Best home security camera with local storage
While the Reolink Argus 3 Pro is our current favorite wireless security camera overall, it's an excellent choice for local storage too. We love that the Argus 3 Pro supports microSD cards up to 128 GB—larger than on brands like Wyze and YI. Still, it doesn't work with anything larger, like some Lorex and Eufy cameras.
But what makes this camera so special for local storage is that you can customize the frame rate and bit rate to use as little data as possible. This helps your local storage last longer before it fills up and starts overwriting old recordings.
Learn more in our Reolink Argus 3 Pro review.
SanDisk Extreme: Best microSD card
The SanDisk Extreme is a popular little storage device with hundreds of thousands of happy customers. We like that it comes in capacities as low as 32 GB and as high as 1 TB. (It'll be a while before security cameras support that.) It's even quite affordable—like all microSD cards. You can pick one up for around $20 for 32 GB.
The "extreme" part of its name refers to the card's durability, especially in adverse weather conditions. It's waterproof and can handle temperatures between -13°F and 185°F—better than a typical outdoor security camera.
Cloud storage costs
We looked at 49 cloud storage plans to see how cloud video storage starting costs stack up across 17 security camera brands.
Average starting cost
Lowest starting price
Highest starting price
|Across 17 brands
|Across 4 brands
Info current as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
Most starting prices for cloud storage plans—even with continuous recording—are cheaper than an Amazon Prime membership or Netflix subscription. Still, the costs add up over time, which might put stress on smaller budgets. Fortunately, you can usually save around 17% (or two free months of service) by opting for an annual plan instead.
Ring Protect Plus: Best event recording cloud storage
Ring Protect Plus is the best value for anyone looking to get event-based cloud storage at rock-bottom prices. It supports unlimited cameras and keeps up to 60 days of video history. Plus, you get an extended warranty that covers all of your Ring cameras as long as you're a subscriber.
Google Nest Aware is technically cheaper than Ring Protect Plus at $6 a month. But with only 30 days of event history, we think Ring’s extra cost is worth it.
Learn more in our Ring Alarm review.
Google Nest Aware Plus: Best continuous video recording cloud storage
Google Nest Aware Plus supports unlimited cameras on its continuous video plan, which gives Nest a huge advantage over Arlo and YI's single-camera plans. It's a little pricier if you have only one Nest Cam, but it immediately pays for itself with each camera you add.
We like that it comes with e911 to call for help during an emergency, though it's not nearly as useful as a professionally monitored home security system.
Learn more in our Nest cameras review.
Which security camera storage option should I choose?
There's a lot to like about both types of camera storage, so it boils down to personal preference. Local storage is hard to beat for affordability, and it doesn't require the internet. On the other hand, cloud storage is convenient and adds a backup layer if something happens to your camera. Or you could use the two options in tandem for the super storage of your dreams.
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Amazon.com price as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change Read full disclaimer.
*Amazon.com list price as of post date. Read full disclaimer.
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