Steps to take
There are specific steps you can take to ensure content security:
- Know your infrastructure inside and out. You cannot understand what your options are regarding ensuring content is available when you need it if you do not have people on staff who understand your infrastructure well. This includes having people who understand how vendor products such as automation systems and servers work. Unfortunately, there has been a tendency in broadcast facilities to cut technical staff, but it is difficult to ensure content security if you do not have good technical people.
- Study systems and architectures so you know what your options are. You should not only understand how your facility operates, you also should seek out opportunities to learn about other facilities and architectures. Visit other facilities, and attend local SMPTE, SBE or other broadcast forums where you can learn what others are doing about ensuring content security.
- Establish architecture patterns based on system designs that work well. Once you have looked at your own facility and studied other facilities to determine what works best, seek to establish architectural patterns — reusable templates for system designs. Needless to say, these templates should be proven designs that work for your organization. Take the time to not only educate your staff, but also to explain the benefits of these patterns to others in your company, business and financial people, for example. When you have buy-in from a large number of people, these patterns can simplify decision-making.
- Ensure that you have a range of patterns with different levels of protection and cost. As discussed above, you will need a range of designs. Not everything needs to be completely redundant. Not every system needs RAID storage. Plus, it is not possible to justify the unnecessary costs of employing these systems everywhere in your facility. Be prepared with a variety of designs that allow flexibility in the amount of content security provided. Remember, at some points, content security may be as simple as dropping a tape in the mail.
- Study and actively discourage architectural anti-patterns. Surely you have seen (and maybe participated in) designs that should not be repeated. These are called anti-patterns. Study any failures of content security, and when you find something wrong, do not just fix it. Instead, actively discourage that design from ever being used again at that point in your content chain.
- Understand what high availability means, and that high availability does not have to mean high cost. In this context, high availability in content security means that content is always available when and where you need it. Put simply, when you are close to air, content must be available. Period. There are some expensive solutions that do provide reliable systems. But, in some cases, two lower-reliability systems and a suitable changeover design might provide a cheaper high-availability solution compared to a single system designed to be extremely reliable.
For example, consider disk drives. In some special applications, you can purchase specially manufactured disk drives that have high MTBF. Those drives could be put into a RAID array. Of course, you could then mirror multiple arrays to ensure the same content is stored on more than one RAID device. However, after this, you might end up with a storage solution that costs thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars. And, because of chained dependencies, it actually has a lower availability (due to design complexity) than a simple two-disk mirror with an LTO tape backup. Be sure you do not get caught down in the weeds and lose sight of the larger high-availability picture.
- Continuously review systems and options. Technology is moving so fast, and capabilities of consumer devices are increasing at such a fantastic pace that you can never come up with a set of solutions for your broadcast facility and then take a year off. Continue evaluating designs and technologies that improve content security. Look for the tipping point at which it makes sense to replace systems or change your approach due to improved technology.
—Brad Gilmer is President of Gilmer & Associates, Inc., executive director of the Advanced Media Workflow Association and executive director of the Video Services Forum.