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On-premises vs. cloud: three questions you need to ask yourself

Maarten Verwaest
June 13, 2021

Since the start of the lockdown in 2020, we’ve noticed massive adoption of cloud-based services in the Media and Entertainment sector. This raises a number of important questions for audiovisual professionals: What types of content should be stored and processed in the cloud, and when is local storage or processing the better option? If you don’t find the right balance, your operational cost will explode and you may end up consuming excessive network capacity. Here are the three key questions to help you make a conscious decision.

What does your workflow look like?

In general, on-premises solutions can be more easily optimised for volume storage and raw performance, whereas cloud-based services potentially offer more flexibility and accessibility. Apart from that, producers have a strong incentive to migrate some of their operations into the cloud, because it grants them access to AI services to automate certain steps in the production process, such as logging, transcription and subtitling.

Considering the latter, be aware that not all AI service providers make it easy to communicate with other platforms. This can lead to a situation where you are locked in by a technology stack of a particular vendor.

In either case, when you permanently operate a large volume of high-resolution material, it might make more sense to look for proper storage on an object store or on tape than to migrate your entire stock to the cloud. Local storage of high-resolution material in combination with cloud-based collaboration using proxies avoids excessive file transfers while ensuring full accessibility at the same time.

What’s the total cost?
A typical cloud-based storage provider charges more than what it costs you to store the same material on local storage, at the expense of increased flexibility. So you should consider what should be locally stored and what needs to be in the cloud. Besides the cost of storage, some vendors will also charge for transfer or egress costs, which can add up to a significant part of the budget, especially in case of high volume, fast-paced production.

While online storage is still relatively expensive, prices are likely to decrease strongly in the coming 12 to 24 months. Keep track of pricing evolution and evaluate your workflow process from time to time. Watch out for egress and transfer costs, especially when you are a producer using large volumes of raw material.


What is the most sustainable option?

Whether you are looking for the most cost-efficient or most environmentally friendly option, you should strive for maximum operational excellence. The simplest solution from an architectural point of view, is often also the most reliable, the one that requires the least CPU cycles and that burns the least carbon.

Designing Virtual Media Supply Chains

During BaM LIVE!™ 2021 (24/06) our CEO, Maarten Verwaest, and Olivier Struyven, CTO and head of post at Hotel Hungaria, one of the leading independent production companies in Belgium, discussed in-depth discussion about cloud vs on-premises storage.

You can watch the replay below.

Conclusion

While the cloud is booming, local storage and processing also have their merits and should not be ruled out automatically. By carefully balancing cost, workflow alternatives and long-term benefits, you should make a conscious decision on which services should be run on-site and which make sense to host to the cloud. By doing so, you will experience great operational flexibility, the shortest possible turn-around time, and that at a reasonable price point.

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