4 ways to adapt your media workflow to the cloud

Olivia Broadley

shutterstock_335913692With more and more frequency you hear of big M&E companies moving the guts of their media services from existing on-premise data centres to the Cloud.

The question is:“Why? Why should I risk moving to cloud-based systems and adapting cloud based workflows when this could negatively impact my business?”

True, there is a sense of safety in staying firmly anchored to the ground – no one wants to be the CIO or exec who completely uproots the way their company operates, and ends up compromising the security and stability of that company’s content and technology? In an industry where one single breach of pre-release content can lead to millions in lost revenue for a company, it has taken considerable vision and preparation to move internal stakeholders to this point.

“there is no such thing as hacker-proof”, “given how well-resourced, capable and methodical cyber criminals are these days”.  Deloitte’s Tech Trends

Looking back even a couple of years, the Deloitte’s Tech Trends 2013 report concluded “there is no such thing as hacker-proof”, “given how well-resourced, capable and methodical cyber criminals are these days”.

shutterstock_411748240So then, how is it that despite having better reasons than most to fear the Cloud,  M&E companies around the world are making the leap to embrace new cloud-based technologies? They are speeding up their workflow, saving money & growing by capitalising on the benefits of cloud services. These companies recognise that in a CAPEX-constrained environment where the most in-demand technical talent can move around at will, they need flexible workflows that are capable of moulding to the changing media landscape.

The question is – what do these companies know that others don’t? How are they moving towards the cloud fearlessly when too many businesses are still unable to get over the security speed bump on the road to Ultimate Cloud Nirvana? The answer lies in a few places – and we’re going to take a look at the tools your company can embrace in order to advantage from the myriad of benefits the cloud has to offer.

1) Make sure you have flexible & reliable Connectivity

Unsurprisingly, moving workflows to the cloud (or any remote site) requires a high-speed connectivity solution that is not only reliable but is as flexible as the cloud services you want to use. Achieving this, without being subjected to the unreliability of the internet, means finding a network architecture where contention and latency are low and predictable and won’t spike just when you’re an the crux of a project, robbing you of throughput. Sohonet’s Media Network is private and uncontended, giving you exactly what you pay for. So if you’ve bought 1Gbit/s of bandwidth you’re able to use the whole 1Gbit/s. But what if you need more than your contracted connection speed for the duration of a project? Your standard network provider could take 30 Days to increase your service and once you’re upgraded you’ll be tied into an extended 12 month (or longer) contract term. This slow and expensive solution just isn’t workable within the world of M&E.shutterstock_314160515 Let’s use rendering in VFX as an example here.  It’s a sector that is striving to reach an increasing level of visual complexity and detail within unusually tight deadlines. VFX houses generating content for motion pictures and commercials face dramatic spikes in rendering workloads as deadlines approach. The drive for more work results in overlapping projects requiring more capacity than most companies currently have available at their in-house rendering farms, both in terms of connectivity AND render capacity. This is the promise of the cloud and a private network. Because Sohonet was started by a group of creatives and techies working in the Post-Production, VFX, Motion Picture climate, everything Sohonet has designed meets the unique requirements of the media sector with the concept of a “burstable” connection for both the Media Network and FastLane–you can give us a call and we will burst your service up within 4 hours of your request and turn your service back down once the project is complete.

2) Have secure & direct connection to specific cloud providers

Having a Direct Connect to the industry’s major cloud service provider’s is the most important thing a M&E company can do to make sure their media shutterstock_329495666workflows are secure and consistent.  Without a direct connection to a cloud provider you are exposing your critical workflows to the insecurities of the public internet. Sohonet’s FastLane gives you this secure private connection. Paramount to FastLane is the recognition that if you’re sending valuable media assets to the cloud you’re going to want to make sure that the path you’re sending it on is as secure and smooth as possible.   shutterstock_377945905Making sure that the high-value data you’re sending is one thing – but actually guaranteeing these hefty files reach the cloud smoothly is another. Network latency over the internet is inconsistent as the internet continuously changes how data gets from one point to another. The internet was just not designed to handle and support the type of workloads that media companies run. These workflows need low and fixed latency to allow their cloud applications to work.  FastLane gives you this fixed low latency as well as guaranteed throughput so you can transfer your media assets reliably and ensure that your applications won’t break.

3) Have a cloud storage service that is integrated with cloud applications & don’t get caught out by nasty egress charges!

Cloud storage in today’s media climate should be more than just a low-cost replacement to on-premise shutterstock_391864924storage alternatives, Sohonet’s FileStore offers the industry a high-performance, reliable private storage solution for shared workspace, project parking, backup and archiving off-premises. Having a storage solution that is integrated with other cloud applications can make sense from both a performance and security standpoint, but the problem is that each  cloud provider has different tiers of storage, so you need to find a service that performs fast enough to support your workflow, whilst also meeting your security and cost requirements. shutterstock_267762047FileStore has been media-optimised with I/O that is tuned specifically for media applications, which is directly connected to your site via the Sohonet Media Network and enables direct access from a public render cloud via FastLane. And although it seems counter-intuitive, storing your assets outside of the public cloud service can be more cost-effective.  Since most cloud providers charge you to access your data for processing and to download it after rendering, these egress fees can wind up busting your budget. With FileStore and FastLane, this won’t be an issue, you can utilise the entire capacity of your Sohonet connection for file read and write at no additional cost.

4) Use the cloud to collaborate with your global partners and talent

The global community of established media companies is expanding, and just within the lifespan of a single project you can expect to see a dozens of services being provided from various locations worldwide, including digital capture, dailies, visual effects, eScreeners, post-production and so on. These companies require a secure and cost-effective way to send their media files back and forth. It’s often no longer enough to have a direct network connection froshutterstock_116016256m point A to B, as the files need to also get to points  C, D, and E. If you were to set up servers in each of these sites for each project the costs would be huge, and for the next project you may be working with entirely new partners. Instead, you need to have a flexible solution that can allow you to connect to a global database of talent quickly without the need to install expensive software or hardware at each location. Sohonet’s file delivery solution, FileRunner, has been built to address this problem. The application is entirely browser-based so there is no need for costly hardware or software installs (and the time it takes to get them done).  To make collaborating with your media partners as flexible as possible,  you can send to anyone, whether on or off of the Sohonet Media Network- all they need to do is download the files you send. This leads us on to another hurdle often faced – overcoming time-zone delays when collaborating with a global database of talent. You’re working in LA and at 6pm you push the day’s content to your working-partners in Europe. At 8am they come into the office and have to wait for these files to download before starting work on them – the cycle is repeated and time is wasted. With FileRunner’s Auto-Download Feature enabled, there is no need to initiate the download and wait for it to complete – the content will download automatically to your chosen location, so when you turn up in the morning your content’s ready to be viewed or worked on.

Experiment now (before you need it for real)

This last one isn’t really a tip, it’s more of a friendly reminder. Changing workflows, network architecture or processes isn’t trivial, nor is it something you want to do under deadline pressure. It requires experience, preparation and confidence, not to mention the time to tweak and perfect things. With over 20 years’ experience with helping M&E companies deal with evolving technology, Sohonet are expert at just this.  We invite you to learn more, ask questions and invite us to sit down and discuss your needs. A few weeks spent experimenting now will give you the confidence you need to commit to new technologies when your work requires it. We look forward to working with you. Arrange a Meeting
Olivia Broadley