A Disaster Recovery Game Plan for Media Teams

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When it comes to content creation, every second you can spend honing your craft counts. Which means things like disaster recovery planning are often overlooked—they’re tasks that easily get bumped to the bottom of every to-do list. Yet, the consequences of data loss or downtime can be huge, affecting everything from marketing strategy to viewer engagement. 

For years, LTO tape has been a staple in disaster recovery (DR) plans for media teams that focus on everything from sports teams to broadcast news to TV and film production. Using an on-premises network attached storage (NAS) backed up to LTO tapes stored on-site, occasionally with a second copy off-site, is the de facto DR strategy for many. And while your off-site backup may be in a different physical location, more often than not, it’s the same city and still vulnerable to some of the same threats.  

As in all areas of business, the key to a successful DR plan is preparation. Having a solid DR plan in place can be the difference between bouncing back swiftly or facing downtime. Today, I’ll lay out some of the challenges media teams face with disaster recovery and share some of the most cost-effective and time-efficient solutions.

Disaster Recovery Challenges

Let’s dive into some potential issues media teams face when it comes to disaster recovery.

Insufficient Resources

It’s easy to deprioritize disaster recovery when you’re facing budgetary constraints. You’re often faced with a trade-off: protect your data assets or invest in creating more. You might have limited NAS or LTO capacity, so you’re constantly evaluating what is worthy of protecting. Beyond cost, you might also be facing space limitations where investing in more infrastructure means not just shouldering the price of new tapes or drives, but also building out space to house them.

Simplicity vs. Comprehensive Coverage: Keeping Up With Scale

We’ve all heard the saying “keep it simple, stupid.” But sometimes you sacrifice adequate coverage for the sake of simplicity. Maybe you established a disaster recovery plan early on, but haven’t revisited it as your team scaled. Broadcasting and media management can quickly become complex, involving multiple departments, facilities, and stakeholders. If you haven’t revisited your plan, you may have gaps in your readiness to respond to threats. 

As media teams grow and evolve, their disaster recovery needs may also change, meaning disaster recovery backups should be easy, automated, and geographically distanced. 

The LTO Fallacy

No matter how well documented your processes may be, it’s inevitable that any process that requires a physical component is subject to human error. And managing LTO tapes is nothing if not a physical process. You’re manually inserting LTO tapes into an LTO deck to perform a backup. You’re then physically placing that tape and its replicas in the correct location in your library. These processes have a considerable margin of error; any deviation from an established procedure compromises the recovery process.

Additionally, LTO components—the decks and the tapes themselves—age like any other piece of equipment. And ensuring that all appropriate staff members are adequately trained and aware of any nuances of the LTO system becomes crucial in understanding the recovery process. Achieving consistent training across all levels of the organization and maintaining hardware can be challenging, leading to gaps in preparedness.

Embracing Cloud Readiness

As a media team faced with the challenges outlined above, you need solutions. Enter cloud readiness. Cloud-based storage offers unparalleled scalability, flexibility, and reliability, making it ideal for safeguarding media for teams large and small. By leveraging the power of the cloud, media teams can ensure seamless access to vital information from any location, at any time. Whether it’s raw footage, game footage, or final assets, cloud storage enables rapid recovery and minimal disruption in the event of a disaster.

Cloud Storage Considerations for Media Teams

Migrating to a cloud-based disaster recovery model requires careful planning and consideration. Here are some key factors for sports teams to keep in mind:

  1. Data Security: Content security is becoming more and more of a top priority with many in the media space concerned about footage leakage and the growing monetization of archival content. Ensure your cloud provider employs robust security measures like encryption, and verify compliance with industry standards to maintain data privacy, especially if your media content involves sensitive or confidential information. 
  2. Cost Efficiency: Given the cost of NAS servers, LTO tapes, and external hard drives, scaling on-premises solutions indefinitely is not always the best solution. Extending your storage to the cloud makes scaling easy, but it’s not without its own set of considerations. Evaluate the cost structure of different cloud providers, considering factors like storage capacity, data transfer costs, and retention minimums.  
  3. Geospatial Redundancy: Driving LTO tapes to different locations or even shipping them to secure sites can become a logistical nightmare. When data is stored in the cloud, it not only can be accessed from anywhere but the replication of that data across geographic locations can be automated. Consider the geographical locations of the cloud servers to ensure optimal accessibility for your team, minimizing latency and providing a smooth user experience.
  4. Interoperability: With data securely stored in the cloud it becomes instantly accessible to not only users but across different systems, platforms, and applications. This facilitates interoperability with applications like cloud media asset managers (MAMs) or cloud editing solutions and even simplifies media distribution. When choosing a cloud provider, consider APIs and third-party integrations that might enhance the functionality of your media production environment. 
  5. Testing and Training: Testing and training are paramount in disaster recovery to ensure a swift and effective response when crises strike. Rigorous testing identifies vulnerabilities, fine-tunes procedures, and validates recovery strategies. Simulated scenarios enable teams to practice and refine their roles, enhancing coordination and readiness. Regular training instills confidence and competence, reducing downtime during actual disasters. By prioritizing testing and training, your media team can bolster resilience, safeguard critical data, and increase the likelihood of a seamless recovery in the face of unforeseen disasters.

Cloud Backup in Action

For Trailblazer Studios, a leading media production company, satisfying internal and external backup requirements led to a complex and costly manual system of LTO tape and spinning disk drive redundancies. They utilized Backblaze’s cloud storage to streamline their data recovery processes and enhance their overall workflow efficiency.

Backblaze is our off-site production backup. The hope is that we never need to use it, but it gives us peace of mind.

—Kevin Shattuck, Systems Administrator, Trailblazer Studios

The Road Ahead

As media continues to embrace digital transformation, the need for robust disaster recovery solutions has never been greater. By transitioning away from on-premises solutions like LTO tape and embracing cloud readiness, organizations can future-proof their operations and ensure uninterrupted production. And, while cloud readiness creates a more secure foundation for disaster recovery, having data in the cloud creates a pathway into the future teams can take advantage of a wave of cloud tools designed to foster productivity and efficiency. 

With the right strategy in place, media teams can turn potential disasters into mere setbacks, while taking advantage of their new cloud centric posterity maintaining their competitive edge. 


About James Flores

James Flores is no stranger to technology. After 12 years as a systems administrator, James leaped into the SaaS world as a Product Marketer for Okta before joining Backblaze. At Backblaze, he focuses on using B2 Cloud Storage for media and entertainment workflows. But his real passion is working as an editor—he’s worked on everything from VHS and DVCPRO to the Adobe Creative Cloud. Despite spending enough time in school to earn an MBA, James recently decided to get another Bachelor's degree in digital filmmaking. He spends his free time building up his IMDB page as an independent filmmaker, working on projects up and down California. Connect with him on LinkedIn or find him on IMDB.