Part 1 of a 4-Part Series

woman walking through a door in the clouds

In this series of blogs, I want to cut through some of the preconceptions and misperceptions around media in the cloud. And I am going to make the case that a sound first step for broadcasters looking to gain practical experience is to use the cloud for business continuity.

You know that you have to have plans for disaster recovery. But making those plans involve some hard questions.

On the one hand, business continuity is vital. Apart from meeting audience expectations, if a channel is off air, it cannot transmit commercials. Without commercials, it has no income. Getting the station back on air – and broadcasting commercials – is clearly vital.

On the other hand, today’s technology is very reliable. Most people would expect never to have to use the disaster recovery site. So a large investment in replicating the primary playout center at some geographical distance can be seen as wasted money: a lot of hardware (and real estate) that would never go to air.

So how do you ensure business continuity through a disaster recovery site that gets the channel on air in the shortest possible time, with the least amount of engineering support?

As recent experience has shown us, the disaster may be that staff cannot work in the headquarters building because of social distancing protocols. So it would be good if the disaster recovery site can be operated from any location.

Which is a key reason broadcasters are turning to the cloud.

It is worth saying up front that establishing disaster recovery in the cloud is not free from capital investment. You have to set up the communications links between your primary site, your various delivery systems (transmitters, satellite uplinks, streaming servers) and the cloud. Building the software stack in the cloud will also take time and money.

But once built, it can be very cost-effective to have your standby in the cloud. It is ready to start when you need it, dormant – and costing little – when all is going well. So total cost of ownership is very attractive, and largely linked to the times when you need business continuity.

What you buy from any cloud supplier is access to effectively infinite amounts of processing power and storage space. While not the only cloud supplier, of course, AWS does offer some media-specific services (through its acquisition of Elemental) like media processing, transcoding and live streaming.

But in general, when you go to the cloud, you are renting time on generic IT processors, to run the applications you need, when you need them.

One final important point to remember here. Moving to the cloud is not an all-or-nothing, one-time, irreversible decision. By definition, the cloud runs your processes when you need them, and it costs little or nothing when you do not. So it is simple to flex the amount of processing you put there. If you should decide to back away from the cloud for any reason, you can do that at any time.

The cloud is an option within the IP transition. You decide when and how to make that transition, and when and how much to use the cloud. I think that disaster recovery is an excellent way to dip your toes in and develop your own knowledge and understanding of how best to use the cloud.

In the next blog in the series, I will look at the biggest concerns that broadcasters have when it comes to the cloud: reliability and security.

August 30, 2021 - By Michael Rebel
Director, Solution Architecture
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