Every major broadcaster acknowledges that they have to consider disaster recovery.
And every major broadcaster also acknowledges that it is the subject of a difficult debate.
On one hand, business continuity is vital. Apart from meeting audience expectations, if a channel is off air, it cannot transmit commercials. Without commercials, it has no income. Getting the station back on air – and broadcasting commercials – is clearly vital.
On the other hand, today’s technology is very reliable. Most people would expect never to have to use the disaster recovery site. So a large investment in replicating the primary playout center at some geographical distance can be seen as wasted money: a lot of hardware (and real estate) that would never go to air.
As a side note, the last year has taught us that planning for business continuity can never be too detailed. The need to keep staff socially distanced due to a global pandemic was one disaster few of us expected to have to recover from.
The question, then, is how to ensure business continuity through a disaster recovery site that gets the channel on air in the shortest possible time, that can be operated from anywhere, and involves the least amount of engineering support to launch. And the answer that broadcasters are increasingly turning to is the cloud.
I must make it clear that cloud-based disaster recovery is not free from capital investment. There are costs involved in establishing the communications between your primary site, your various delivery systems (transmitters, satellite uplinks, streaming servers) and the cloud. Building the software stack in the cloud will also take time and money.
But once all the elements are there, it can be extremely cost-effective to keep a standby system in the cloud: ready to start when you need it; dormant when you do not. And, as I will explain, cloud-based disaster recovery can serve as a practical first step on the path towards a complete broadcast architecture in the cloud.