Archiving content in the cloud provides a number of key benefits. However, many media companies and content owners are still hesitant to store their assets that way due to content security implications and cost concerns. So what are the pros and cons of storing content in the cloud?
There are a number of key drivers including: access to content from any location; the ability to work collaboratively on projects; disaster recovery purposes - particularly if the material is never restored (storage costs are very low, but restore charges are high); simplicity - make one copy and let the cloud take responsibility for guaranteeing copies and availability; and low start-up costs with no responsibility for IT infrastructure (operating instead of capital costs).
These benefits mean that cloud usage is becoming more significant. However, there are some key considerations. A high-quality pipe to the cloud promises to deliver 1 Gbit/second - approximately 8 Tb per day - but in reality it will be less than that. In comparison, a single LTO7 drive offers 315MByte/second, or about 26 Tb per day. A large media operation may have 20 or more concurrent drives reading and writing to tape. This is of course a large-scale difference in throughput opportunity. Therefore, depending on the operation a pure cloud solution may be unfeasible because of sheer volume.
Partial file restore (PFR), which allows editors to select and restore elements of a clip directly from the archive in high resolution, is another factor. With assets now reaching hundreds of gigabytes or even terabytes in size, PFR becomes even more significant. However, cloud solutions are currently only geared up to restore whole files, although it is likely that solutions will be developed to address this.
As already highlighted, cost is another consideration: it can cost much less to store content in the cloud ($0.0275 to $0.01 per GB/per month for Amazon depending on class of service) than it does to restore it. Pricing models for retrieving stored assets are complex, but can result in unexpectedly high monthly bills. For instance, Amazon places restrictions on the volume of assets that can be retrieved per day, and does not take into account peak period usage. Media companies that are considering using cheap cloud storage need to consider the amount of content which will need to be restored.
Cloud archiving is much more cost-effective if (very) limited content needs to be restored: let's call this the usage ratio. A single usage ratio of 10 per cent means that at some point 10 per cent of the archived assets will be used again, at least once. If there is a high multiple usage ratio this will mean additional costs. Some organisations will have a very high usage ratio. For instance, some content is received (e.g. if it's purchased) and then stored straight to archive for definite transmission in the future. This would mean a 100% usage ratio.