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Cloud to the rescue

Embracing a cloud-based CSM system can provide a media company with the benefits of content storage management while sparing them the headache of operational costs, says Rino Petricola

Media assets are the lifeblood of a broadcast operation, and protecting them is akin to protecting the business itself. Broadcasters can’t afford to be cut off from their asset libraries, yet many factors make that an all-too-real possibility. Natural disasters, political instability, cyber attacks and power failure are just a few of the potential situations that could stop a media operation in its tracks. It is impossible to overstate the importance of disaster recovery, particularly in regions that are subject to unrest. Media companies that run their main operations from a digital video archive are at serious risk without a well-planned disaster recovery strategy and platform.

Having an advanced content storage management (CSM) system is a good place to start. Advanced CSM systems are critical to a media company’s ability to unlock the full revenue potential held within its own content, but just as important, they also contain crucial data protection and recovery capabilities. CSM systems were developed to help content owners cope with what would otherwise be an overwhelming volume of content, to address the video-specific complexity of that content, and to prevent content loss. In terms of asset backup, CSM systems can automatically replicate valuable file-based assets, creating duplicate copies on multiple (and portable) datatape media very rapidly and without any user intervention while sharing the same management and storage infrastructure. Those copies can remain within the system to provide online resiliency or be easily transported to offline storage facilities for very efficient and cost-effective content protection.

Cloud-based services offer big advantages

Media companies are embracing cloud-based CSM systems as a way to incorporate advanced CSM into their workflows without capital expense or maintenance and overhead costs. Hosted CSM allows media companies to account for changing technologies without having to invest their own resources, because technological evolution is automatically incorporated and immediately available. It takes advantage of the cloud’s inherent ability to expand and contract to meet the business needs of the moment, so broadcasters pay only for what they need, when they need it — flexibility that enables organisations to deploy their required IT infrastructure on demand with minimal capital investment. With pay-as-you-go CSM as a Service (CSMaaS), broadcasters are using the cloud to centralise data and streamline processes and workflows in a stable, secure, robust, scalable infrastructure. The cloud represents an opportunity for organisations to manage assets on a global scale while massively improving efficiency and continuously evolving to adapt to an ever-changing business environment. The ideal CSM solutions are not only very flexible, but have a substantial on-demand capability.

Those same advantages can apply to disaster recovery.

Setting up a separate storage system dedicated to disaster recovery can be an expensive proposition, but it is an expense no media organisation can afford to avoid. Fortunately, a hosted disaster recovery service is part and parcel of a hosted CSM solution. In broadcast, the cloud can play a major role in disaster recovery and business continuity. Hosted disaster recovery services offer secure off-site backup capability by ingesting and managing content electronically to strategic regional cloud locations. Disaster recovery in the cloud includes automated online replication, a dashboard view of stored assets, and various restore options — from online and on-demand object restoration to offline duplication of an entire tape library for subsequent shipping. Some cloud-based disaster recovery services come with the necessary software to network existing archive implementations to the cloud, as well as the option of hosting certain media asset management (MAM) systems in order to view systemwide content and recover assets. Combined with a cost-effective disaster playout recovery solution, disaster recovery in the cloud can provide affordable redundancy that can be used if the original facility is down.

Media-based operations the world over have adopted a cloud-based disaster recovery model. Rather than building a separate system dedicated to disaster recovery in a separate facility, and then linking their facilities together, broadcasters are subscribing to purpose-built, media-centric disaster recovery systems in the cloud. In this way, they duplicate the content from their production facility (or facilities) and store it in the cloud safely and securely for full redundancy. Even better, once the content is ingested into the cloud, it is available for other operations if desired, making it ideal for multi-site organisations.

Is it secure?

Obviously, having a backup copy of content stored in a remote cloud location makes a lot of sense for broadcast facilities, and hosted disaster recovery is an efficient, affordable way to do it. But is it secure?

Security has become the number one concern for companies when dealing with data, so that means security strategies must be reinforced. Media-centric cloud service providers today provide stringent service level agreements that cover both system updates as well as security. Choosing a service provider that is meticulous about security and data integrity is critical. Media-centric cloud service providers should require a private cloud, private network links, and UDP file transfer protocol. They should also ensure physically partitioned user space, integrate genuine checksum throughout every step of the workflow, enable continuous content health checks, and know exactly where a given company’s assets are being stored within the cloud. Strong encryption, with keys that are locally managed off-cloud by customers, should be the bedrock of the provider’s security policy.

Even though hosted disaster recovery is inherently secure when properly implemented, the truth is that any file stored online is vulnerable to attack if proper security measures are not in place. This vulnerability should be a guiding concern when examining the viability of cloud services. It’s up to the provider to ensure assets are secure in both the cyber and physical domains, and so broadcasters should engage only trusted providers with a proven track record.

Overall, implementing cloud-based CSM and disaster recovery can greatly reduce the total cost of ownership for broadcast facilities. When considering all the variables related to the cost of owning a disaster recovery solution — including costs for hardware and software; support and maintenance (normally 10 percent of hardware and software cost); datacenter space, power, and coolant; technology refresh and content migration; capacity management; operational expenses; and the impact on the environment — moving to the cloud becomes a clear-cut financial decision. Disaster recovery as a service is a pay-as-you-go proposition; someone else covers the overhead.

Many organisations are sitting on decades’ worth of content that they can’t afford to lose, and hosted disaster recovery is an easy, cost-effective way to make sure they never do.


Rino Petricola is Senior Vice President and Managing Director at Front Porch Digital.