All posts by Janet Lafleur

How Cloud-Based MAMs Can Make End-to-End Cloud Workflows a Reality

Post Syndicated from Janet Lafleur original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/how-to-migrate-mam-to-cloud/

Create, Capture, Distribute, Archive

Ever since commercial cloud services were launched over 12 years ago, media and entertainment professionals have debated how and where cloud services best fit in their workflows. Archive and delivery were seen as the most natural fits. But complete, that is, end-to-end cloud workflows were seen as improbable due to the network bandwidth required to edit full-resolution content. Now, with new cloud-oriented creative tools on the market, cloud is now playing a role at every step of creative workflows.

Of course, it’s one thing to talk about complete cloud workflows and it’s another thing to show how the cloud has transformed an actual customer’s workflow from end-to-end. But that’s exactly what healthcare content provider Everwell did by building a streamlined work from anywhere workflow with cloud storage and cloud-delivered asset management. The best part was that rolling out the new cloud workflow was just as painless as it was transformative for their business.

Where On-Site Asset Management Fails: Scaling Up and Remote Access

Everwell was founded on the idea that millions of TVs in medical office lobbies and waiting rooms could deliver compelling, well-produced healthcare educational content. Hospitals, medical groups, and medical practitioners that sign up with Everwell receive media players pre-loaded with an extensive library of Everwell’s educational videos along with software that allows each practice to customize the service with their own information.

As the number of subscribers and demand for their content grew, Everwell COO Loren Goldfarb realized that their production workflow needed to adapt quickly or they wouldn’t be able to scale their business to meet growth. The production workflow was centered around an on-site media asset management (MAM) server with on-site storage that had served them well for several years. But as the volume of raw footage grew and the file sizes increased from HD to 4K, their MAM struggled to keep up with production deadlines.

At the same time, Everwell’s content producers and editors needed to work more efficiently from remote locations. Having to travel to the main production office to check content into the media asset manager became a critical bottleneck. Their existing MAM was designed for teams working in a single location, and remote team members struggled to maintain access to it. And the off-site team members and Everwell’s IT support staff were spending far too much time managing VPNs and firewall access.

Workarounds Were Putting Their Content Library at Risk

Given the pain of a distributed team trying to use systems designed for a single office, it was no surprise that off-site producers resorted to shipping hard drives directly to editors, bypassing the asset management system altogether. Content was extremely vulnerable to loss while being shipped around on hard drives. And making editorial changes to content afterward without direct access to the original source files wasn’t practical. Content was becoming increasingly disorganized and hard for users to find or repurpose. Loren knew that installing servers and storage at every remote production site was not an option.

What Loren needed was an asset management solution that could keep productions moving smoothly and content organized and protected, even with remote producers and editors, so that his team could stay focused on creating content. He soon realized that most available MAMs weren’t built for that.

Everwell remote workflow

Everwell’s distributed workflow

A Cloud-Based MAM Designed for the Complete Workflow

After reviewing and rejecting several vendors on his own, Loren met with Jason Perr of Workflow Intelligence Nexus. Jason proposed a complete cloud workflow solution with iconik for asset management and B2 for cloud storage. Built by established MAM provider Cantemo, iconik takes an entirely new approach by delivering asset management with integrated workflow tools as an on-demand service. With iconik, everything is available through a web browser.

Jason helped Everwell migrate existing content, then deploy a complete, cloud-based production system. Remote producers can easily ingest content into iconik, making it immediately available to other team members anywhere on the planet. As soon as content is added, iconik’s cloud-based compute resources capture the files’ asset metadata, generate proxies, then seamlessly store both the proxies and full-resolution content to the cloud. What’s more, iconik provides in-the-cloud processing for advanced metadata extraction and other artificial intelligence (AI) analysis to enrich assets and allow intelligent searching across the entire content library.

Another critical iconik feature for Everwell is the support for cloud-based proxy editing. Proxies stored in the cloud can be pulled directly into Adobe Premiere, allowing editors to work on their local machine with lower resolution proxies, rather than having every editor download the full-resolution content and generate their own proxy. After the proxy editing is complete, full-resolution sequences are rendered using the full-resolution originals stored in B2 cloud storage and then returned to the cloud. Iconik also offers cloud-based compute resources that can perform quality checks, transcoding, and other processing its customers need to prepare the content for delivery.

Cloud Storage That Goes Beyond Archive

Working behind the scenes, cloud storage seamlessly supports the iconik asset management system, hosting and delivering proxy and full-resolution content while keeping it instantly available for editing, metadata extraction, and AI or other processing. And because cloud storage is built with object storage instead of RAID, it offers the extreme durability needed to keep valuable content highly protected with the infinite scalability needed to grow capacity on demand.

Backblaze B2’s combination of data integrity, dramatically lower pricing than other leading cloud storage options, and full integration with iconik made it an obvious choice for Everwell. With B2, they no longer have to pay for or manage on-site production storage servers, tape, or disk-based archives — all their assets are securely stored in the cloud.

This was the seamless, real-time solution that Loren had envisioned, with all of the benefits of a truly cloud-delivered and cloud-enabled solution. Both iconik and Backblaze services can be scaled up in minutes and the pricing is transparent and affordable. He doesn’t pay for services or storage he doesn’t use and he was able to phase out his on-site servers.

Migrating Existing Content Archive to the Cloud

Everwell’s next challenge was migrating their enormous content library of raw material and existing asset metadata without impacting production. With Jason of Workflow Intelligence Nexus guiding them, they signed up for Backblaze’s B2 Fireball, the rapid ingest service that avoids time-consuming internet transfers by delivering content directly to their cloud-based iconik library.

As part of the service, Backblaze sent Everwell the 70TB Fireball. Everwell connected it to their local network and copied archived content onto it. Meanwhile, Jason and Loren’s team exported the metadata records from their existing asset manager and with a migration tool from Workflow Intelligence Nexus, they automatically created new placeholder records in iconik with all of that metadata.

Everwell then shipped the Fireball back to the Backblaze data center where all of the content was securely uploaded to their B2 account. iconik then scanned and identified the content and linked it to the existing iconik records. The result was an extremely fast migration of an existing content archive to a new cloud-based MAM that was immediately ready for production work.

Workflow diagram of Everwell media archive to B2 cloud storage

Everwell’s media ingest workflow

Cloud Simplicity and Efficiency, with Growth for the Future

With a cloud-based asset management and storage solution in place, production teams like Loren’s can have creative freedom and add significant new capabilities. They can be free to add new editors and producers on the fly and at a moment’s notice, and let them ingest new content from any location and use a single interface to keep track of every project in their expanding asset library.

Production teams can use new AI-powered discovery tools to find content quickly and can always access the original raw source files to create new videos at any time. And they’ll have more time to add new features to their service and take on new productions and customers when they wish.

Best of all for Loren, he’s now free to grow Everwell’s production operations as fast as possible without having to worry about running out of storage, managing servers, negotiating expensive maintenance contracts, or paying for staff to run it all. Their workflow is more nimble, their workforce is more productive, and Loren finally has the modern cloud-delivered production he’s always wanted.

•  •  •

We invite you to view our demo on integrating iconik with B2, 3 Steps to Making Your Cloud Media Archive Active with iconik and Backblaze B2.

Backblaze will be exhibiting at NAB 2019 in Las Vegas on April 8-11, 2019.NABShow logoSchedule a meeting with our cloud storage experts to learn how B2 Cloud Storage can streamline your workflow today!

The post How Cloud-Based MAMs Can Make End-to-End Cloud Workflows a Reality appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

What’s the Diff: DAM vs MAM

Post Syndicated from Janet Lafleur original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/whats-the-diff-dam-vs-mam/

What's the Diff: DAM vs MAM

There’s a reason digital asset management (DAM) and media asset management (MAM) seem to be used interchangeably. Both help organizations centrally organize and manage assets —  images, graphics, documents, video, audio — so that teams can create content efficiently and securely. Both simplify managing those assets through the content life cycle, from raw source files through editing, to distribution, to archive. And, as a central repository, they enable teams to collaborate by giving team members direct access to shared assets.

A quick answer to the difference is that MAM is considered a subset of the broader DAM, with MAMs providing more video capabilities. But since most DAMs can manage videos, and MAMs vary widely in what kind of video-oriented features they offer, it’s worth diving deeper to understand these different asset management solutions.

What to Expect From Any Asset Manager

Before we focus on the differences, let’s outline the basic structure and the capabilities of any asset manager.  The best place to start is with the understanding that any given asset a team might want to work with — a video clip, a document, an image —  is usually presented by the asset manager as a single item to the user, but is actually composed of three elements: the master source file, a thumbnail or proxy that’s displayed, and metadata about the object itself. Note that in the context of asset management, metadata is more than simple file attributes (i.e. owner, date created, last modified date, size). It’s a broader set of attributes, including details about the actual content of the file. We’ll spell out more on that later. As far as capabilities, any DAM or MAM worth being called an asset manager should offer:

  • Collaboration — Members of content creation teams all should have direct access to assets in the asset management system from their own workstations.
  • Access control — Access to specific assets or groups of assets should be allowed or restricted based on the user’s rights and permission settings. This is particularly important if teams work in different departments or for different external clients.
  • Browse — Assets should be easily identifiable by more than their file name, such as thumbnails or proxies for videos, and browsable in the asset manager’s graphical interface.
  • Metadata search —  Assets should be searchable by attributes assigned to them, known as metadata. Metadata assignment capabilities should be flexible and extensible over time.
  • Preview — For larger or archived assets, a preview or quick review capability should be provided, such as playing video proxies or mouse-over zoom for thumbnails.
  • Versions — Based on permissions, team members should be able to add new versions of existing assets or add new assets so that material can be easily repurposed for future projects.

Why Metadata Matters So Much

Metadata is a critical element that distinguishes asset managers from file browsers. Without metadata, file names end up doing the heavy lifting with long names like 20190118-gbudman-broll-01-lv-0001.mp4, which strings together a shoot date, subject, camera number, clip number, and more. Structured file naming is not a bad practice, but it doesn’t scale easily to larger teams of contributors and creators. And metadata is not used only to search for assets, it can be fed into other workflow applications integrated with the asset manager for use there.

Metadata is particularly important for images and video because, unlike text-based documents, they can’t be searched for keywords. Metadata can describe in detail what’s in the image or video. For example, metadata for an image could be: male, beard, portrait, blue shirt, dark hair, fair skin, middle-aged, outdoors. And since videos are streams of images, their metadata goes one step further to describe elements at precise moments or ranges of time in the video, known as timecodes. For example, video of a football game could include metadata tags such as 00:10:30 kickoff, 00:15:37 interception, and 00:21:04 touchdown.

iconik MAM example displaying meta data for a BMW M635CSi

iconik MAM

Workflow Integration and Archive Support

More robust DAMs and MAMs go beyond the basic capabilities and offer a range of advanced features that simplify or otherwise support the creation process, also known as the workflow. These can include features for editorial review, automated metadata extraction (e.g. transcription for facial recognition), multilingual support, automated transcode, and much, much more. This is where different asset management solutions diverge the most and show their customization for a particular type of workflow or industry.

Regardless of whether you need all the bells and whistles in your asset manager, as your content library grows it will need storage management features, starting with archive. Archiving completed projects and assets that are infrequently used can conserve disk space on your server by moving them off to less expensive storage, such as cloud storage or digital tape. In particular, images and video are huge storage hogs, and the higher the resolution, the more storage capacity they consume. Regular archiving can keep costs down and keep you from having to upgrade your expensive storage server every year.

Asset managers with built-in archiving make moving content into and out of an archive seamless and straightforward. For most asset managers, assets can be archived directly from the graphical interface. After archive, the thumbnails or proxies of the archived assets continue to appear as before, with a visual indication that they’re archived on secondary storage. Users can retrieve the asset as before, albeit with some time delay that depends on the archive storage and network connection chosen.

A good asset manager will offer multiple choices for archive storage, from cloud storage to LTO tape to inexpensive disk, and from different vendors.  An excellent one will let you automatically make multiple copies to different archive storage for added data protection.

What is a MAM?

With all these common characteristics, what makes a media asset manager different than other asset managers is that it’s created for video production. While DAMs can generally manage video assets, and MAMs can manage images and documents, MAMs are designed from the ground up for creating and managing video content in a video production workflow. That means metadata creation and management, application integrations, and workflow orchestration are all video-oriented.

Metadata for video starts when it’s shot, with camera data, shoot notes or basic logging captured on set.  More detailed metadata cataloging happens when the content is ingested from the camera into the MAM for post-production. Nearly all MAMs offer some type of manual logging to create timecode-based metadata. MAMs built for live broadcast events like sports provide shortcut buttons for key events, such as a face off or slap shot in a hockey game.

More advanced systems offer additional tools for automated metadata extraction. For example, some will use facial recognition to automatically identify actors or public figures.

There is also metadata related to how, where, and how many times the asset has been used and what kinds of edits have been made from the original. There’s no end to what you can describe and categorize with metadata. Defining it for a content library of any reasonable size can be a major undertaking.

MAMs Integrate Video Production Applications

Unlike the more general-purpose DAMs, MAMs will integrate tools built specifically for video production. These widely ranging integrated applications include ingest tools, video editing suites, visual effects, graphics tools, transcode, quality assurance, file transport, specific distribution systems, and much more.

Modern MAM solutions integrate cloud storage throughout the workflow, and not just for archive, but also for creating content through proxy editing. In proxy editing, video editors work using a lower-resolution of the video stored locally, then those edits are applied later to the full-resolution version stored in the cloud when the final cut in rendered.

MAMs May be Tailored for Specific Industry Niches and Workflows

To sum up, the longer explanation for DAM vs MAM is that MAMs focus on video production, with better MAMs offering all the integrations needed for complex video workflows. And because video workflows are as varied as they are complex, MAMs often fall into specific niches within the industry: news, sports, post-production, film production, etc. The size of the organization or team matters too. To stay within their budget, a small post house may select a MAM with fewer of the advanced features that may be basic requirements for a larger multinational post-production facility.

That’s why there are so many MAMs on the market, and why choosing one can be a daunting task with a long evaluation process. And it’s why migrating from one asset manager to another is more common than you’d think. Pro tip: working with a trusted system integrator that serves your industry niche can save you a lot of heartache and money in the long run.

Finally, keep in mind that for legacy reasons, sometimes what’s marketed as a DAM will have all the video capabilities you’d expect from MAM.  So don’t let the name throw you off. Instead, look for an asset manager that fits your workflow with the features and integrated tools you need today, while also providing the  flexibility you need as your business changes in the future.

Backblaze will be exhibiting at NAB 2019 in Las Vegas on April 8-11, 2019.NABShow logoSchedule a meeting with our cloud storage experts to learn how B2 Cloud Storage can streamline your workflow today!

The post What’s the Diff: DAM vs MAM appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Breaking the Cycle of Archive Migrations With B2 Cloud Storage

Post Syndicated from Janet Lafleur original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/cloud-data-archiving/

Assorted tapes

Back in the 1980s, my family and I took a trip to visit our friends, the Bremers. We all used to live next door, but the Bremers had moved away a decade prior. As our parents were reminiscing on old times, one of the Bremer teens pulled out a 8mm movie projector and we watched home movies his dad had shot of us playing together in the backyard: on the swings, the see-saw, and running about. What I wouldn’t give to see that footage today! It would be the only video of my sisters and me as kids.

Perhaps Mr. Bremer digitized his home movie collection before he passed away. But it’s more likely his children inherited the box of reels, and it’s now buried and decaying in a closet (or gone entirely). And, if they had the tape, would they have a projector or anything to play it? What a pity. Those precious moments captured once upon a time on film are probably lost forever.

Obsolescence isn’t just a concern for home video enthusiasts. Professional content creators likely have content stored on obsolete technology, whether it’s videotape, LTO digital tape, or external drives. And unlike the simplicity of Mr. Brehmer’s film reels and projectors, there are many more factors that can make digital content inaccessible.

Common Causes of Data Obsolescence

Media Failure

The most obvious issue is storage media degradation. If film is carefully stored in a cold, dry environment, it can last an extremely long time. Yet for both videotape and digital tape, there are a myriad of pitfalls: magnetic particles can lose their charge; the tape substrate can deteriorate; and heavily used tapes can stretch. Tapes over 15 years old are at greatest risk, even if stored in the ideal conditions of low-heat and low-humidity.

Hard disk drives have shortfalls too: mechanical failure, overheating, and power spikes. External drives in particular, are at risk of shock damage from being dropped. Even a drive standing on its side, then tipping over, can generate enough shock to damage the drive internals. At our Backblaze data centers, we replace disk drives after four years, and earlier for drive models that show higher-than-usual failure rates. We have ~100,000 drives in our data centers, and document which ones are more likely to fail in our quarterly drive stats posts.

Obsolete Technology

Even if the storage media remains intact and the data uncorrupted, the data format can become obsolete, often more quickly than you’d expect. For example, manufacturers of the commonly used LTO digital tape are now shipping LTO-8 and only guarantee two generations of backward compatibility. That means if you upgrade your tape system for higher-capacity 12TB LTO-8 tapes, you won’t be able to read the LTO-6 tapes that were introduced just six years ago.

Also, if the file data itself was encoded in a proprietary format, you’ll likely need proprietary software installed on a computer running a potentially outdated operating system version to be able to read its data. This is a bigger topic than we’ll cover today, because there can be layers of encoding involved: backup formats, graphics formats, codecs, etc. But suffice to say that you might find yourself having to hunt down a Mac that’s still running macOS X Leopard to migrate some content.

Museum of Obsolete Media

Not sure how much your content is at risk? The Museum of Obsolete Media rates all imaginable media types on both media stability and obsolescence, from Endangered to In Use.

Spoiler alert:  VHS tapes are rated Endangered for media stability and rated Vulnerable for obsolescence.

Migrate…Then Migrate Again

The only way to combat this sort of media decay and obsolescence and maintain access to your content is to migrate it to newer media and/or a newer technology. This unglamorous task sounds simple — read the data off the old media and copy it to new media — but the devil is in the details. Here is a checklist for trying to maintain your physical media:

The Eight Steps of Data Migration

  1. Determine which content is obsolete or at risk. Choose a media and format for the new archive, and calculate whether you can afford to migrate everything. If not, decide what you can afford to lose forever.
  2. Gather all the tapes or drives to be migrated. Are you sure you have the complete set? Your content spreadsheet might not be up to date. You might need to interview team members to gather any unwritten tribal knowledge about the backup sets.
  3. Identify a migration workstation or server that can run the application that wrote the archived media files. Attach the tape drive or disk device and test it. Can it still properly read, write, and then restore test files?
  4. Using a checklist system, feed tapes into the drive or attach the external drive in order. You might need to track down obscure adapters for older technologies like a SATA to EIDE adapter for parallel port disk drives, or a SCSI card and cables.
  5. Initiate the copy of all files to local storage. Hope you have enough space.
  6. Carefully monitor the entire process and make sure that all files are copied completely, and only then can you check the tape or disk off of your migration list. Then repeat with the next tape or disk.
  7. When you’re done extracting all the old files (or earlier if you’re pinched for disk space), reverse the process. Attach any needed devices and write the files to the new media. Cross your fingers that you bought enough tapes or disk drives (but not too many).
  8. Repeat again in 4-7 years before the new media ages or technologies change.

If all of that sounds too painful, you can pay a transfer service to migrate your whole archive for you, but that’s not cheap, and remember you’ll have to pay to do it again sooner than you think. Alternatively, you can migrate content on-demand and cross your fingers that it’s still readable and that you can retrieve it fast enough. The longer you wait, the greater the risk of media failure. You might only get one shot at reading an old tape or film. Few find that an acceptable risk.

Why Data Archiving to the Cloud Is a Better Solution

Migrate Once with Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage

You can break this migration cycle by migrating once to Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage. We’ll take over from there, moving your data to newer storage technologies as needed over time. Backblaze’s erasure coding technology that protects your data from loss happens to make upgrading technologies easier for us. Not that you need to worry about it; it’s included in our service.

No New Media or Hardware

Moving to B2 Cloud Storage for your archive means you won’t have any hardware or media to purchase, manage, or house. No tapes or disks to buy, no clearing off shelf space as your archive grows. You won’t have to feed tapes into an autoloader every time you want to write or retrieve content from the archive. And moving to B2 Cloud Storage gives you the benefit of only paying for what you’re actually using. Pay-as-you-go means your storage costs move from a capital expense to an operating expense.

B2 is Less Expensive than LTO

Did you know that Backblaze B2 is the first cloud storage that’s more affordable than LTO storage solutions? If you want to see the math, check out our LTO vs B2 calculator. Enter the size of your existing archive and how much you expect to add each year and it will show you cost differences after 1-10 years. To understand its cost and operational assumptions, read our recent blog post, LTO Versus Cloud Storage Costs — the Math Revealed. It details the many factors for storage costs that many media professionals don’t always consider.

Data That’s Always Accessible

The only thing worse than having a tape or disk you can’t read is having one that you can read go missing in action. Your content database or spreadsheet is only as accurate as what’s on the shelf. You may believe that an external drive is still in your archive closet when it went home over the weekend with a staff member and never came back. With B2 Cloud Storage, your archived content is stored in a central location that’s not only always accessible, it’s accessible from anywhere through a web browser.

B2 is Proven Technology

With Backblaze, you get a partner with over a decade of cloud storage experience. The erasure coding we use to encode data gives B2 customers a 99.999999999% durability (11 nines) rating for their data stored in our cloud. As NASA says, there’s higher probability of an asteroid destroying the planet than you losing a file with B2.

Make Your Final Migration Painless and Smart

Of course, you’ll still have to migrate once, but we can help make that final migration as painless and smart as possible. B2 Cloud Storage has several options for moving dataAPIs, Web UI, CLIplus our Fireball rapid ingest service for large data sets. We’ve also partnered with vendors and system integrators who have deep experience in managing media archives.

Streamlined LTO Migration

If your current archive is on LTO tapes, we have a newly announced partnership with StorageDNA that can speed migration of LTFS archives. The Storage DNA Smart Migration bundle combines the latest version of their DNAfabric storage with Backblaze B2 cloud storage, plus an autoloading LTO library so you won’t waste time manually loading tapes. To learn more about how it works, register for our upcoming webinar, From LTO to the Cloud: Your Last Data Migration with Backblaze and StorageDNA, on Friday, December 14.

Organize Content with a MAM

Archive migrations are a great time to evaluate your asset management strategy. If you haven’t rolled out a media asset manager (MAM) yet, or you’re dissatisfied with your current one, know that more and more MAMs are integrated with cloud storage and can simplify collaboration across remote teams. With a cloud-integrated MAM solution, your content can be easily searched, filtered, sorted and previewed all from a web browser, from anywhere. To see B2 in action with a cloud MAM solution, watch our recent webinar, Three Steps to Making Your Cloud Media Archive Active with iconik and Backblaze B2.

Automated Backup and Archive

Finally, B2 isn’t just an archive solution, it’s great for backup, too. Most of our customers who archive content to B2 also back up active production data to the same B2 account. We have a growing list of backup, sync and other tools integrated with B2 to make the data movement to the cloud seamless and to make retrieval intuitive and straightforward.

Pro Tip: syncing newly ingested footage or assets to B2 will spare you a big headache when someone accidentally deletes a critical file.

If you have content that’s on media or in a format that’s aging fast, now’s the time to plan for its migration. By migrating it to B2 Cloud Storage, you can not only make it your last migration, it’s priced so that you can afford to migrate ALL your content. You never know what you’ll need, or when you’ll need it. And some content, like Mr. Bremer’s home movies, simply can’t be re-created.

The post Breaking the Cycle of Archive Migrations With B2 Cloud Storage appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.