White Paper: Deciding When/If/How to Migrate Video Production and Workflows to the Cloud

While the shift to working in the cloud has accelerated as of late, it’s not for everyone, or every business. This paper reviews the benefits and drawbacks to both working in the cloud and on-premise so customers can make informed decisions for their journey

The worldwide pandemic of 2020 had a major impact on how people work and their ability to get their job done. As a result, many analysts are suggesting that COVID-19 has acted as an accelerant to business trends, forcing many companies to examine their strategies and reflect on investments. In the video production market, this has forced many organizations to consider their approach to day-to-day operations. Shifting to the cloud has been increasingly outlined as not only an approach to allowing users to temporarily work from home, but as a permanent approach. As the cost of cloud computing, storage, and networking continues to drop, and this shift becomes more financially attractive, organizations have begun to review their cloud migration efforts and the timing of such moves.

EditShare’s approach to shared video storage and media asset management is to provide solutions for both cloud and on-premise workflows, while providing hybrid workflows that help our customers along in their journey.

Choosing the Path for Your Business

While many businesses are shifting workloads to the cloud, video production has been a market segment laggard.  But for good reason. Video production files can be huge, and it’s not always practical to push high bit-rate files up to the cloud. Popular video codecs such as XDCAM-50 require 22.5 GB of storage per hour, and a 4K ProRes220 file can require 567 GB. Transferring and storing these raw footage files hasn’t always been cost effective. Compared to other business segments such as e-commerce or even streaming media, it’s fairly obvious why these functions haven’t made the cloud jump.

Staring up at the Cloud

Recently, improvements in cloud economics and big data pipes are making file sizes less dominant in financial decision making. For some companies directly comparing the cost of on-premise hardware to the cost of cloud-hosted solutions is less of an apples to apples comparison, and perhaps more like an apples to fruit basket assessment.

Why would an organization make the jump to the cloud when the 3-4 year cost of cloud infrastructure can still exceed the cost of on-premise hardware? It’s because other factors are at play. As a result of the business transformation accelerated by COVID-19, many companies are re-considering their office space investment, especially in high real-estate markets such as London or New York. Factoring in real estate savings, the scales begin to tip far more favorably to solutions that don’t require physical space. The other major factor in this equation – uncertainty. 2020 has impacted businesses like no other year. For some companies, it’s been a boom but for many it’s been a bust. While we are all hoping 2021 brings some return to normalcy, it’s important for businesses to increase their agility going forward. For video production houses, this means the ability to scale up and down to address uncertainty that still lies ahead of us. This again ticks the box for a cloud-based solution which can scale to both favorable and unfavorable trends in a business.

Technology refreshes, adaptations to new workflow services, and the ability to support geographically dispersed workforces are all other factors impacting on-premise vs. cloud investments. For many finance teams, the shift to an op-ex model that doesn’t require periodic hardware refreshes, support renewals, and un-expected maintenance costs, is quite attractive. And the ability to tap-into new workflow services – such as transcoding farms, image recognition, and transcription services, provides additional agility teams to react to their customers’ ever-changing demands.

The benefits of the cloud approach are appetizing to many organizations, but for others the business case is not yet there because of existing investments and business practices.

On-Premise – Tried and True and it Works

For many years, on-site video production and collaboration have produced a winning solution. Video editing stations connected to shared-storage orchestrated by production asset management is a known quantity that has allowed companies to meet their customers’ needs cost effectively and within demanding timelines. While cloud options seem attractive, they can require new approaches to workflows, financial planning, and new IT skills that may be out of reach for many organizations.

Financially speaking, for some organizations, on-premise hardware is more cost-effective than cloud-infrastructure. Compared to a 3-4 year TCO, for many organizations this will remain the case even when including power, cooling, IT, support and other hardware considerations. Plus, for many organizations the attractiveness of pro-longing hardware investments is like finding free money. Pushing out an upgrade frees up that year’s capital to be spent on other endeavors.

Workflows are also another consideration in a company’s decision to remain on premise. Many production houses have known ways of working that employees are comfortable with and meet their productivity requirements. The risk of migrating off these known processes may be too great or impact the ability to meet today’s production timelines. While cloud-based solutions may have high-level feature parity, many of today’s legacy workflows and toolsets were never intended to adapt to this shift. While sticking with ‘the good old ways’ may never offer new opportunities to innovate, for many operations, calling the video production supervisor to help with a technical issue or delivering a hard drive to the other end of town will continue to be a known way of getting the job done.

Revisiting another financial motivation for a cloud migration consideration is office space. For many companies, re-emerging from the pandemic will mean back to the office, business as usual. Given existing office leases or investments, the financial consideration for reducing office space won’t be a factor for quite some time, which can then tip the scale back to on-premise based investments.

Lastly, many organizations have significant investments in on-premise capital. The thought of abandoning this infrastructure will make no sense. No write-offs or changes in technology approaches may warrant this abandonment. For those companies, any shift to the cloud would only make sense at a future date.

Cloud or On-Premise – EditShare Can Help

EditShare continues to make investments in both on-premise and cloud solutions for our customers. We don’t see a one-size fits all solution for the video production market. What we do see is that our storage and media management should work to support all of our customers infrastructure investment decisions. Our EFS and EFSv shared storage platforms, and FLOW our media asset management solution, offer the opportunity for our customers to make the choices that are best for them.

EditShare realizes for many customers the cloud is not a destination but a journey. Perhaps for some organization it may never be an attractive destination. Perhaps for others there are elements of a cloud migration that make sense and a hybrid approach will provide the most benefits. Lastly, others may find a workplace that never exists in an office and where video production is virtualized and dispersed. There’s never going to be a one-size fits all and EditShare is committed to support our customers with solutions that meet their evolving needs.

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