It is happening now; everyone is faced with millions of people no longer in a conventional office. For most organizations, this lifestyle change is significant, as we all focus on the new norm and work from home. And with all these changes comes the need to support a remote workforce, often in companies where remote working capabilities have not been established. Hence comes the challenge for CIOs and IT professionals to find the best solutions, with short notice, in areas such as general communication like instant messaging or Slack, online meeting solutions like Zoom or Skype and provide access to applications and data. With all these remote solutions being implemented quickly, security cannot afford to fall by the wayside. Remote employees are typically not behind on-premise protections such as web gateways, intrusion detection systems (IDSs), and firewalls. Companies can lose much-needed visibility and protection levels.
In a recent Gartner report, Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak: Short- and LongTerm Actions for CIOs, they urge CIOs to ensure that everyone who can work from home can do so. Gartner recommends sourcing digital collaboration tools with security controls and network support. As we look across multiple industries, everyone is impacted by new technical challenges, and the media and entertainment industry are no different. If anything, working from home presents more significant obstacles. M&E deals with huge media assets that need to be securely and quickly available to users over the internet.
In post-production, editors are dealing with massive files that need to be accessed and shared with colleagues. There are no more “water cooler” discussions. Most remote workers struggle with bandwidth issues and are not used to paying for expensive upload capability and have not needed this type of access before now. To work on large video files, editors are downloading digital assets overnight in hopes that data files are complete by the morning. Production houses are trying everything that might work, but are typically not solutions that can be considered long-term. When dealing with a new distributed workforce getting access to data securely and quickly is imperative.
For an industry that is always “on,” its most significant event of the year, NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) unfortunately, was canceled. That being said, there is an excellent virtual session (available online) for those craving some of the trends in M&E. A unique group of industry thought leaders was assembled with the pre-NAB Editors Lounge panel discussion. Consistent with the times, much of the panel’s conversation focused on the topic of remote work. Given the abrupt nature of “sheltering in place,” the industry is challenged by providing teams with appropriate data access as well as enabling remote collaboration. Production and post-production will be a train wreck if they cannot figure out how to get the infrastructure ready to support this distributed workforce. No one wants to get caught with their pants down. Several key themes that resonate within M&E include difficult access to hardware, lack of technology innovation, and the mounting costs associated with storage and data access.
“We are seeing a sea change on how ‘post’ is done, and we need to get ready for that change.”
Hardware solutions in short supply?
As you well know, everyone is scrambling to set up a work-at-home infrastructure and hardware seems to be as hard to get as toilet paper or hand sanitizer. According to a recent CRN article, with millions of people working from home, there is a massive spike in technology purchases. Punctuated, in a recent interview, Dell CEO, Michael Dell, told CRN that “demand for work-from-home solutions is very strong.” In addition to just outfitting remote employees, production companies have the issue of getting media assets to workers, which has always been difficult due to the sheer size of files.
Let’s look at how many production houses are managing their media assets and workflows for offsite work. Often they use sneakernet, which is just transferring electronic information and physically moving media such as tape, USB drives, etc. How does that scale? It doesn’t. And if you have tried AWS Snowball, which uses storage appliances designed to be secure for physical transport, you need someone in IT to set it up. Snowball is not intended for a beginner. And for new remote workers, this presents a whole new challenge. Suddenly, editors need a set of technical skills, along with their creative expertise.
Software solutions that work …or not
Given the on-going requirements for data access, some teams might have a corporate Virtual Private Network (VPN). VPNs can work fine across an on-premise, low-latency local area network (LAN), but connecting from a distance results in bad user experience. The truth is that we are all connecting to data from a variety of locations, and we are searching for a good user experience.
There are other options like using FTP for file transfer or additional FTP alternative data transfer technologies like Signiant but are designed for large organizations with big budgets. File sync and share solutions like CentreStack, Dropbox, Box, etc., are available, but are they suitable for M&E? Each solution has its own set of limitations. One more in the mix, specific to media and entertainment, are VDI style solutions like Teraduci. But again, these are expensive solutions using legacy file transfer technology, which break down as file sizes and distances increase.
File collaboration – together forever
Let’s not forget about collaboration. Remember the water cooler reference? How do these solutions offer the ability to collaborate in real-time on documents no matter where the file or users are located? People are at home on their own; they need to have a solution that provides real-time access to shared data files. Creatives need to create — together.
To cloud or not to cloud, that is the question
According to a Hollywood Reporter article, even before the coronavirus pandemic began, production capabilities, via the cloud and other remote services, had been steadily accelerating as production has become more global. These services enable everything from reviewing footage to editing, color grading, and sound post-production, yet still, the cloud, for many production houses, presents its own set of challenges.
During the NAB Editors Lounge discussion, the panelists referenced “Lift-and-shift” with AWS. Lift-and-shift is the process of migrating a workload from on-premise to AWS with little or no modification. Lift-and-shift is a common route for enterprises to move to the cloud and can be a transitionary state to a more cloud-native approach. However, for many, “Lift-and-shift” to AWS is not a reality. Some folks said they’d be paying 16K for AWS on-premises solution. That’s totally out of their budget. According to one panelist’s opinion, “We are seeing a sea change on how ‘post’ is done, and we need to get ready for that change.”
Remote is here to stay
Remote is our new norm, and it’s not going away. According to a recent Gartner CFO survey of 317 finance leaders, 74% of the organizations said that they were going to shift some employees to remote work permanently.
One of the toughest problems the media and entertainment have always faced is enabling access to large files for distributed teams, freelancers, contractors, and remote workers. And the M&E industry is not alone, several sectors like Architectural, Engineering, and Construction (AEC), video surveillance, and medical imaging have one thing in common. They all have large, complex files, and they all need access to their remote data to be fast, secure, and usually from any location. There are many ways to do this, yet very few of them are convenient, cost-effective, or cyber secure. New times call for new technology.
Get a handle on remote connectivity
For media and entertainment, particularly in post-production workflows, pay attention to the remote working environments for those video editors and post-production houses that are trying to bolster themselves in this new situation. Since there is a challenge to get hardware to remote locations, not to mention the additional costs associated with it, look for SaaS solutions that can be easily and quickly deployed to get your customers up and running. Everyone wants a short learning curve, don’t make your remote users jump through hoops to get to their data. Implement new technology that is the least bit disruptive for media workflows without a steep learning curve. And while you are at it, start by applying these technologies in your organization to allow everyone to master the features and gain a better understanding, first-hand. Increase your team’s comfort level and try them internally.
Modern cloud innovation brings economies of scale and affordability
Cloud storage, done right, is very economical, especially for those industries that have massive amounts of data, think commercials, feature films, reality TV, and documentaries. Many organizations are discovering the value of object storage. It is an excellent way to go for the long-term archive of media assets, taking advantage of its elasticity, durability, and low cost.
With cloud services and object storage growing exponentially, applying old technology to a new paradigm does not work. To truly benefit from cloud object storage, MSPs should look for software solutions that enable remote users to stream data directly from the cloud. Our new “norm” requires innovative technologies that eliminate the need for downloading files, use of VPNs, or FTP sites. In addition to media and entertainment, every industry is in the same boat. Now more than ever, it is essential to provide easy-to-use solutions that improve productivity and promote remote collaboration so that we can get on with our new “business as usual” in our globally dispersed world.
LucidLink Filespaces is a cloud-native file system for modern cloud-computing that transforms the cloud into local storage. Remote users can stream data directly from the cloud. You open your computer and access LucidLink like any other drive on your system. When looking for innovative cloud-based technologies for organizations, take a look at LucidLink for immediate, secure remote access to data, streamed on-demand.