Part 2 of a 4-Part Series

symbol for security in the clouds

In this series of blogs, I want to cut through some of the preconceptions and misperceptions around media in the cloud. Here, I look at the two big concerns: reliability and security.

When all the hardware is in your machine room, you know how to maintain it to stay on air. Can the cloud deliver the sort of reliability we expect?

Broadcasters have always looked for very high availability, especially for premium channels. “Five nines” is still regarded as the gold standard – 99.999% up time. Even that, though, is equivalent to about 5¼ minutes of dead air a year.

The sole business of a cloud provider is to deliver to its clients all the processing they need, at the instance they want it. For broadcasters that equates to unimagined availability. If you want to put a number on it, it could be nine nines – effectively zero downtime.

And it does this with no maintenance demands on your part. No one is checking the SMART status of disk drives in your server or cleaning your air conditioning. You never need to plan for operating system upgrades and virus protection. That is what you are paying for when you buy cloud services: it will always just be there.

If you plan your own disaster recovery center, you will need to think about geographic diversity. The business continuity site must be sufficiently far away that any problems affecting the primary site, like power failures or earthquakes, will not affect the backup location.

The cloud is inherently geographically diverse, and a good provider will ensure that your applications and data are stored across multiple locations. With a global player like AWS, Google, Microsoft Azure and others, you can have disaster recovery out of anywhere, for anywhere.

You also get control over your processes from anywhere with a reasonable internet connection. So if the disaster is that your building has to be evacuated because of detected cases of a communicable disease, playout operators can work from home with exactly the same user interface and functionality as if they were sitting in the MCR or the Network Operations Center (NOC).

You make your own SLA, which could be complete parallel running (although you are paying for a lot of processing you do not need), or you can determine your own level of cold or warm standby. But even from cold, when the channel playout instances have to be loaded and booted, the delay is still only going to be of the order of the 5¼ minutes that on-premises five nines would have given you.

If reliability is not an issue, what about security? Cyberattacks are becoming an all-too familiar headline. Other industries have seen crippling incursions and software systems held to ransom. Making sure that does not happen to you is an important part of your business continuity strategy.

The traditional thinking behind disaster recovery was about fire or flood taking out the primary center. But what if it is a cyberattack on the delivery network? Our customers tell us that cyber security is the number one concern they have today.

Again, the cloud is the right solution. A good cloud provider will deliver better data security than you can ever hope to do yourself. AWS has thousands of staff members with the word “security” on their business cards.

While no organization can hope to be perfect, a good cloud provider will give you your best shot at complete protection, because that is their business. The alternative is to build your own data security team: an unnecessary overhead and a challenge to develop, recruit and manage.

AWS is even used by the U.S. Intelligence Community, which suggests that its security is probably working.

In the next part of this series, I will look at how we could operate in the cloud, and how the overhead of moving content around can be mitigated.

October 5, 2021 - By Michael Rebel
Director, Solution Architecture
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