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Archive With Confidence In The Cloud

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The cloud has been part of the media landscape for some time but there are many media companies and content owners that are still hesitant to store their assets that way due to content security implications and cost concerns, says Lee Sheppard, Director of Product Management.

Archiving content in the cloud provides a number of key benefits, so how do media companies take that leap of faith with full confidence that their valuable assets are securely stored?

There are a number of key drivers for storing content in the cloud including: access to media from any location; the ability to work collaboratively on projects; disaster recovery purposes – particularly if the material is never restored (storage costs are very low, but restore charges are high); simplicity – make one copy and let the cloud take responsibility for guaranteeing copies and availability; and low start-up costs with no responsibility for IT infrastructure (operating instead of capital costs).

Partial file restore (PFR), which allows editors to select and restore elements of a clip directly from the archive in high resolution, is another factor. With assets now reaching hundreds of gigabytes or even terabytes in size, PFR becomes even more significant. However, cloud solutions are currently only geared up to restore whole files, although it is likely that solutions will be developed to address this.

Cost is another consideration, pricing models for retrieving stored assets are complex, but can result in unexpectedly high monthly bills. Cloud archiving is much more cost-effective if (very) limited content needs to be restored. Organisations, such as news services, may have a very low usage ratio. They could store huge amounts of raw footage but only use one per cent of it. In this instance the discussion has to focus on the cost of the LTO7 infrastructure to calculate the total cost of ownership, as well as the other considerations noted in this article.

We've highlighted some benefits; but what are the risks associated with storing content in the cloud? Putting high-value licenced assets solely in the hands of third-parties can be very daunting. The archive has to be very secure and standard cloud may not be sufficient: DES encryption keys are vital. There are products available that provide this level of security but media companies are understandably worried about putting their eggs in one basket. There may also be security risks in the actual process of streaming assets to the cloud (for example, resulting in illegal copies being made). Again the streaming tools are of a high quality but there has to be great trust in third-parties. Having said this, digital media can be encrypted at source (as happens already with digital cinema before distribution to specific cinemas); nevertheless this is a consideration.

Tape is here to stay, but as the archive becomes a more fundamental part of the workflow (not just at the end of the chain) customers are examining how they can get the benefits of the cloud while managing the risks and costs. As such hybrid archives utilising the respective benefits of tape, disk, optical storage and cloud are becoming more and more common.

Another trend is a move towards the private cloud and its companion object storage devices for many workflow needs. This will avoid issues associated with the public cloud whilst gaining at least some of the benefits: distribution and collaboration. The downside of course is the capital investment that can be avoided with public cloud.

At IBC 2016 on stand 7.J15, SGL will be highlighting its co-operation with media cloud services. SGL now supports Ci, Sony's cloud-based service that allows media professionals to collaborate on the creation and sharing of high quality, high resolution content. The SGL integration with Ci means that broadcasters and content owners can quickly and easily transfer material directly to the cloud from their MAM system using SGL FlashNet. As well as Ci, SGL also supports Aspera and Amazon S3 via ExpeDat Gateway.

This article is also available to read at BFV online here, page 16.

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