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Head in the Cloud? – Adopting the Right Multi-Cloud Approach

Jonathan Morgan, CEO, Object Matrix

Wed 20, 04 2022

Two years ago, the onset of the pandemic forced businesses of every stripe to adapt very quickly to hybrid working practices, and employees who had previously been office-based were suddenly doing some or all of their work from home. Naturally, for the majority of media companies, the primary focus was on maintaining continuity of business against the backdrop of an unprecedented and rapidly shifting public health emergency. As a result, not all of the new workflow solutions adopted by the media and entertainment industry were future-proof. On a purely practical level, there simply wasn’t time to fully factor in all the potential risks and benefits. If it worked in the moment, that was considered to be sufficient, ‘until things calm down again’.


Two years on, unfortunately, things have not ‘calmed down’ as much as we might have hoped. Remote working – or at least a hybrid of remote and on-site – has become the new normal. Media organisations and broadcasters are having to get to grips with the logistics of remote access Media Asset Management (MAM) and cloud-ready storage solutions, in order to securely store and access their files even when staff aren’t in the office. A specific challenge for media and entertainment is managing huge quantities of visual data that cannot be easily uploaded and downloaded. For teams now having to deal with these enormous files, questions of maintaining workflows, storage and access are paramount. Such questions lead, inevitably, to the cloud.


Reach for the Sky


Of course, ‘cloudification’ isn’t purely a reactive consequence of the pandemic. The evolution has been on the cards for a good while. But the pandemic has undoubtedly kicked things up a gear, and those who were still in the early stages of adoption may have had to press on before they were ready. One issue with ‘the cloud’, at least in a basic form, is its seemingly amorphous nature – and the name isn’t always helpful. Many view the cloud as an intangible virtual space, a kind of netherworld with data floating in it, but it’s good to keep in mind that data always needs to be somewhere physical. Your files aren’t just in the ether, they are on servers either stored on-site or outsourced to data centres, so one major focus needs to be on how to make the data location secure but easily accessible for your purposes.


With that in mind, what type of cloud approach offers the ideal solution? Is the public option sufficient, or might a hybrid approach be better suited to the needs of modern media workflows?


There will always be variables, because even within the same industry, no two businesses are exactly alike. But speaking broadly, a media company working purely from a public cloud system might be making life unnecessarily complex and expensive for itself. Not only can security be challenging, but accessibility and flexibility can suffer too. If you think that a public cloud service used by multiple tenants is, by default, going to be secure for many threats at all times, you probably need to think again.


A public solution can, however, be part of a multi-cloud workflow approach and this is in many ways the ideal endgame. A multi-cloud approach to storing visual assets can offer a higher level of flexibility and redundancy. After all, if a business is relying on a single provider, and that provider suffers an outage or related technical issue, that could leave media assets at risk. But with multiple providers to rely on, the landscape is very different.


First Principles


If you’re looking to migrate your media assets, no matter the approach you end up using, the same basic questions need to be asked – what benefits are you looking for, and what risks do you want to avoid (or at least mitigate)? These considerations would be at the forefront of any organisation’s mind when discussing the implementation of new tech, but due to the chaos caused by the pandemic, all too often businesses are having to return to first principles after the fact.


Accessibility, security and flexibility are among the most important considerations when it comes to remote workflows. Not only do teams need to be able to easily ingest, access, edit and share assets that they’re currently working on, they need to have the entire archive at their fingertips – or at least, within reach. Agility is essential in a media environment. Particularly for fast turnaround content, where key moments from decades gone by need to be accessed swiftly to support live sports matches or news stories unfolding in real-time. So, if it isn’t easily searchable it isn’t used, so the value of keeping the data at all is diminished.


Media organisations also need to be certain that their assets are well protected. Sadly, there have been too many incidents over the past couple of years where companies have suffered an unwanted crash course in the sophistication and viciousness of ransomware. So those organisations that have the foresight to get out in front of hackers, will be in pole position within the industry long-term. But let’s not forget, it is no good having additional restrictions around legitimate content access either. Often punitive metadata policies or egress charges that are imposed by public cloud providers can limit operational efficiency as well. Media organisations need flexible access, all day every day, to respond to the ever-increasing demand for content.

On the Right Path


When transitioning to cloud-based storage solutions and optimising workflows, a full audit of existing processes is crucial. What are the biggest potential threats to that workflow? What gaps need to be plugged? It might be the case that some of your existing solutions are adequate but need to be integrated with cloud-based elements, creating a hybrid solution using an on-prem foundation. Equally, however, if you do end up exploring multi-cloud, it is important to focus on providers who can integrate their offering with your current strategy and established processes. All too often, restrictive cloud services can cause headaches, because not only do they conflict with what you already have in place, but they can potentially tie you far more closely to a third party than might be ideal for your business.


There are lots of options available, a dizzying quantity in fact. But if you understand your requirements and assess the content at every stage of the lifecycle, from ingest and nearline, to archive and distribution, priorities become clear. Solutions that offer a high-level of security and round-the-clock access, as well as flexibility and redundancy, are key. But it’s also important to ensure that agreements are meeting fair principles. Metadata must be shared freely throughout the supply chain and content lock-in within proprietary solutions should be avoided at all costs.


Future Plans


Of course, this is not to say that widespread adoption of cloud-based and remote working has made an on-premise solution obsolete – far from it. For most media organisations, a hybrid approach will be the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ moving forward. But again, this will be a test of a cloud provider’s flexibility as much as the individual company’s willingness to adapt. Will cloud providers be able to respond to the industry demands, with the same agility as broadcasters themselves?


Unfortunately, Covid-19 is going to be with us for the long haul. And while there are no guarantees that it won’t continue to affect our working lives and impact the industry at large, there are changes that companies can incorporate here and now to protect themselves against future disruption. Risk can rarely, if ever, be fully removed from the equation but it can be prepared for and mitigated – all it takes is the right approach.


You can find out more about Object Matrix’s hybrid approach here.


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