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Fortune Media

Business Media Powerhouse Boosts Content Monetization on Hybrid Cloud System

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100s
of thousands
of video hours
66%
budget
saved
100%
self-service
solution

Jeff Billark, Head of IT Infrastructure, Fortune Media Group

“Backblaze is so simple to use, our editors can manage the entire file transfer and archiving process themselves.”

Situation

After divesting from its parent company, Fortune rebuilt its technology infrastructure and moved many services, including data storage, to the cloud. However, the initial tech stack was expensive, difficult to use, and not 100% reliable. Video archiving failed regularly, and editors had to request help from IT to retrieve files from the various archive layers.

Solution

At the suggestion of CHESA, their IT systems integrator, Fortune migrated over 300TB of data, mainly video files, to Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage, which removed the need for archiving middleware and simplified the tech stack. Backblaze B2 fit seamlessly into Fortune’s hybrid infrastructure, making it easy to move files from cloud storage into the on-premises media asset management system and back again.

Result

With Backblaze B2, video file management is simple and reliable, greatly reducing the risk of archiving failures and lost files. The self-service workflow is optimized for collaboration and file management. Editors can easily find historical videos on Backblaze B2 and better organize the massive volume of uncategorized files. In addition, Fortune was able to reduce storage and egress costs by about two-thirds.

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Fortune Media (USA) Corp. is a global media organization dedicated to helping its readers and viewers to succeed in business through unrivaled access and best-in-class storytelling. Founded in 1929, it has evolved into a leading media brand which includes a multinational monthly magazine, website, and conference series. With the trusted power to convene and challenge those who are shaping industry, commerce, and society around the world, Fortune lights the path for global leaders—and gives them the tools to make business better.

Fortune Remasters Postproduction Workflows on Backblaze B2

As one of the world’s leading business media brands, Fortune produces a wealth of content. From its iconic magazine to its vibrant digital properties to its conference series, the company is dedicated to helping its audience achieve business success. One of Fortune’s most valuable assets is its extensive video archive, comprising conference recordings, executive interviews, panel discussions, and more. Over the years, Fortune has amassed hundreds of thousands of hours of video that are stored for possible reuse in future.

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Videos Have More Than One Story to Tell

Fortune aims to make the most of every video. A conference keynote by a high profile CEO, for example, may be cut into numerous clips that are then served across Fortune’s web properties, social media channels, and other third-party sites within hours, or even years later. Original assets like this can have long lifespans with multiple incarnations that allow them to deliver as much value for the business as possible.

Monetizing historical content enables Fortune to make the most of its investment in events and content production. So, allowing editors to quickly grab a clip of Elon Musk talking about upgrading the human brain or Satya Nadella on refocusing Microsoft can generate more views on the site and more fans of the brand.

For editors to work their magic, Fortune’s massive video archive must be easy to access, search, and manage. This is even more important when editorial teams are dispersed across the globe. These needs were the drivers of Fortune’s infrastructure journey from traditional on-premises to a fully functional hybrid cloud system that protects their data while easing workflows.

Keeping It Simple With a Cloud-first Strategy

In 2018, Fortune divested from its parent company, Meredith Corporation, and spun off into an independent enterprise. A major part of the separation involved setting up a new technology infrastructure for Fortune, one that could avoid the limitations of its predecessor and serve the company well into the future.

Previously, Fortune’s staff across the U.S., Europe, and Asia experienced frequent bottlenecks when having to VPN back to the main office on triple redundant circuitry. Such traditional infrastructure was expensive to set up and maintain and required an office with a data center that was robust enough to handle the traffic.

“We wanted to adopt a cloud-first strategy,” said Jeff Billark, Head of IT Infrastructure at Fortune Media (USA) Corp. “Wherever possible, we chose to work with SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS partners in order to keep the support costs low. We could then really spend our money where it made the most difference.”

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The Fortune Architecture Story: The Prequel

Fortune’s IT team engaged systems integrator CHESA to help them build a new cloud-based tech stack that optimized workflow efficiency and scalability. Along the way, the data storage and management layers, in particular, went through a few iterations.

The initial stack used a physical storage device to transfer data between the parent company’s on-premises servers to cold storage with one of the diversified cloud providers. Files stored in cold storage were ingested into an on-premises Primestream Xchange media asset management (MAM) system for editing, tagging, and categorization. Once a project was complete, the system used archive management software to transfer files from Primestream into a virtual tape bucket for long-term storage.

The Drama of Finding, and Losing, Video Footage

As time went by, the team ran into a few issues with their new stack. One had to do with accessing the video archives. With over 300 TB of data, the system could not process it all through the MAM system, so much of the historical video stayed unmanaged (in effect, buried) in cold storage. This meant that when editors wanted to use a particular piece of footage, they had to ask the IT team to help them sift through the cold storage buckets to find it, “thaw” it, and save it to a location they could access.

Another challenge involved the archiving process itself. As video editors completed a project, they wanted to move it to the cloud and free up space on their local machines to work on more active projects. However, the archiving software proved to be not reliable and robust enough to handle large volumes of data. The system would indicate that files had been archived, but the files didn’t actually write to the provider’s cold storage.

If the team hadn’t caught this issue early on, the company could have potentially lost 100 TB worth of current project data. This put their content strategy at risk. There are no do-overs when it comes to interviewing high-profile business leaders—if that footage gets lost, it’s gone. And if the asset was tied to a sponsorship or product placement agreement, there could be financial or relationship consequences if the team failed to deliver as promised. Fortune needed to streamline and modernize video production workflows for its remote team of 10 editors and safeguard data.

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The Fortune Architecture Story: The Sequel

“We only invest in on-premises hardware where it makes sense... Having it all backed up and archived to Backblaze in a trusted cloud store…works great for us. We’ve been able to optimize our hybrid cloud/on-premises system.”

Jeff Billark, Head of IT Infrastructure, Fortune Media Group

Fortune’s IT team and CHESA consultants began investigating alternate solutions that would bypass archiving middleware altogether and write directly to the cloud. On top of solving the process pain points, the Fortune team also wanted to find ways to reduce storage costs.

When CHESA considered solutions for Fortune, Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage seemed like a great fit. Backblaze B2 would provide a more reliable and cost effective solution for both hot cloud storage and archiving. In addition, the platform’s ease of use would give Fortune’s geographically-dispersed video editors a modern, self-service experience. Finally, the system would be easier for the IT team to manage. What sealed the deal: Backblaze’s Cloud to Cloud Migration program that eliminated transfer and egress fees typical for a migration.

“In the cloud space, the biggest complaint that we hear from clients is the cost of egress and storage,” said Tom Kehn, Senior Solutions Architect at CHESA. “With Backblaze, we saved money on the migration, but also overall on the storage and the potential future egress of this data.”

From Fortune’s perspective, Backblaze B2 fit perfectly into their cloud-first strategy. “We only invest in on-premises hardware where it makes sense, such as with data-intensive video editing in our MAM system,” said Jeff Billark. “Having it all backed up and archived to Backblaze in a trusted cloud store, on their managed infrastructure, works great for us. We’ve been able to optimize our hybrid cloud/on-premises system.”

Once the decision was made, migrating data from their previous provider to Backblaze B2 was fast and seamless. Using Backblaze Cloud to Cloud Migration tools, the team transferred over 300 TB of data in less than a week with zero downtime, business disruption, or egress costs. Primestream had just written a Backblaze data connector, so integration with Fortune’s MAM system was equally seamless. Crucially, the Primestream-Backblaze partnership enabled Fortune to continue and strengthen its integrated hybrid cloud solution for global asset management.

Fast Forward to Greater Ease, Organization,
and Productivity

Moving to Backblaze B2 has eliminated multiple layers of Fortune’s archiving system, simplified the overall tech stack, and minimized the need for IT support. “Backblaze really speeds up the archive process because data no longer has to be broken up into virtual tape blocks and sequences. It can flow directly into Backblaze B2,” said Jeff Billark. “What’s more, Backblaze is so simple to use, our editors can manage the entire file transfer and archiving process themselves. And, we’ve reduced our storage costs by almost two-thirds.”

Backblaze has also made life easier for Fortune’s video editing team. The new system includes two buckets on Backblaze B2: one with around 100 TB of active video projects that’s tied directly to Primestream, and another with around 300 TB of historical files that have not yet been ingested into Primestream.

To access the historical bucket, editors use Panic’s Transmit tool to sync data between their Mac laptops and Backblaze B2. Transmit’s visual interface allows them to easily find an old video in the secondary (historical) Backblaze B2 bucket, ingest it into Primestream for manipulation, and then upload the results back up to the primary (active) Backblaze B2 bucket for sharing, collaboration, and storage—all without help from IT.

Now, when the business needs a clip of, say Jack Ma commenting on Bitcoin at a conference five years ago, any of the video team’s 10 editors can quickly locate the right file and deliver new content in a streamlined and seamless workflow. With a modern storage solution, Fortune is better able to accelerate its content pipeline and maximize the potential of historical video—all while reducing costs for storage and egress.

“Backblaze really speeds up the archive process because data no longer has to be broken up into virtual tape blocks and sequences. It can flow directly into Backblaze B2.”

Jeff Billark, Head of IT Infrastructure, Fortune Media Group

Editor's Workflow for Accessing/Manipulating/Archiving Historical Files
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CHESA is a media technology systems integrator that specializes in advanced media technology systems and media and entertainment workflow solutions from capture through delivery. Drawing on decades of experience, the company designs, develops, and deploys robust, modern systems that leverage industry-leading technologies to help clients achieve success.

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