Since Gerry Field joined American Public
Television (APT) in 2007, the industry has been in
digital overdrive. Even so, APT has continued to acquire
and distribute the best in public television programming
to their technically diverse subscribers. This created two
challenges for Gerry. First, new technology and format
proliferation were driving dramatic increases in digital
storage. Second, many of APT’s subscribers struggled to
keep up with the rapidly changing industry. While some
subscribers had state-of-the-art satellite systems to receive
programming, others had to wait for the post office to
drop off programs recorded on tape weeks earlier. With
no slowdown on the horizon of innovation in the industry,
Gerry knew that his storage and distribution systems
would reach a crossroads in no time at all.
Since 1961, American Public
Television (APT) has been a
leading distributor of groundbreaking,
programming to the nation's
public television stations. Gerry
Field is the Vice President of
Technology at APT and is
responsible for delivering their
extensive program catalog to
350+ public television stations
Living the tape paradigm
The digital media industry is only a few years
removed from its film, and later videotape, roots.
Tape was the input and the output of the industry
for many years. As a consequence, the tools and
workflows used by the industry were built and
designed to work with tape. Over time, the “file”
slowly replaced the tape as the object to be captured, edited, stored and distributed. Trouble was,
many of the systems and more importantly workflows were based on processing tape, and these
have proven hard to change.
At APT, Gerry realized the limits of the tape paradigm and began looking for technologies and
solutions that enabled workflows based on file and object based storage and distribution.
Thinking file based storage and distribution
For data (digital media) storage APT, like everyone else, started by installing onsite storage servers.
As the amount of digital data grew, more storage was added. In addition, APT was expanding its
distribution footprint by creating or partnering with distribution channels such a CreateTV and APT
Worldwide. This dramatically increased the number of programming formats and the amount of
data that had to be stored. As a consequence, updating, maintaining, and managing the APT
storage systems was becoming a major challenge and a major resource hog.
Knowing that his in-house storage system was only going to cost more time and money, Gerry
decided it was time to look at cloud storage. But that wasn’t the only reason he looked at the cloud.
While most people consider cloud storage as just a place to backup and archive files, Gerry was
envisioning how the ubiquity of the cloud could help solve his distribution challenges. The trouble
was the price of cloud storage from vendors like Amazon S3 and Microsoft Azure was a non-starter,
especially for a non-profit. Then Gerry came across Backblaze. Their B2 Cloud Storage service met
all of his performance requirements, and at $0.005/GB/month for storage and $0.01/GB for
downloads it was nearly 75% less than S3 or Azure.
Gerry did the math, and found that he could economically incorporate B2 Cloud Storage into his IT
portfolio, using it for both program submission and for active storage and archiving of the APT
In addition, B2 would give him the foundation necessary to receive and distribute
program content over the Internet. This will be especially useful for organizations that can’t
conveniently access satellite distribution systems. In addition, downloading from the cloud is much
faster than sending a tape through the mail!
Adding B2 Cloud Storage to their infrastructure has helped American Public Television address two
key challenges. First, they now have “unlimited” storage in the cloud without having to add any
hardware. In addition, with B2, they only pay for the storage they use. That means they don’t have
to buy storage upfront for the maximum amount of storage they’ll ever need. Second, by using B2
as a distribution source for their programming APT subscribers, especially the smaller and remote
ones, can get content faster and more reliably without having to perform costly upgrades to their
At APT there were multiple technologies needed to make their file-based infrastructure work, but
Gerry notes that having an affordable, trustworthy cloud storage service like B2 is one of the critical
building blocks needed to make everything work together.
“The affordability and performance
of Backblaze B2 is
what allowed us to make the
B2 cloud part of the APT data
storage and distribution
strategy into the future.”
– Gerry Field
The road ahead
As APT gets used to their file based infrastructure and workflow, there are a number of cost saving
and income generating ideas they are pondering which are now worth considering. Here are a few:
Program Submissions –
New content can be uploaded from anywhere using a web browser, an
Internet connection, and a login. For example, a
producer in Cambodia can upload their film to B2.
From there the film is downloaded to an in-house
system where it is processed and transcoded. The
finished film is added to the APT catalog and added
to B2. Once there, the program is instantly available
for subscribers to order and download.
Easier Previews -
At any time, work in process or finished programs can be made available for
download from the B2 cloud. One place this could be useful is where a subscriber needs to review a
program to comply with local policies and practices before airing. In the old system, each “one-off”
was a time consuming manual process.
Instant Subscriptions –
There are many organizations such a schools and businesses that want to
use just one episode of a desired show. With an e-commerce based website, current or even
archived programming kept in B2, could be available to download or stream for a minimal charge.
Backblaze provides Cloud Backup and Cloud
Storage solutions. B2 is a cloud storage solution
that provides data storage at one-fourth the cost
of leading cloud storage providers: $0.005/GB/
month for storage, free uploads, and $0.01/GB
Things to know about B2:
Upload and download data using a Web GUI, API, CLI, or verified partner integrations from
Archiware, Cantemo Portal, Cat DV, Axle Video, CloudBerry, GoodSync, Rclone, Synology,
QNAP, and many more.
Stored data is instantly available. There are no off-line or near-line delays.
There are no pricing tiers for data storage, it is simply $0.005 per GB per month.
There are no pricing tiers for data egress, it is simply $0.01 per GB.
There are no minimum storage amount or time requirements for data storage, you only pay
for the data you have stored.
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