Digital Content Governance: The key to managing the unmanageable
So you've got all this content. Now what are you going to do with it? Nick Pearce-Tomenius, sales and marketing director of Object Matrix, explains the importance of Digital Content Governance
Any video producer knows that when it comes to creating video, it is all about maximising its value. And that means getting the right piece of content in front of the right audience at the right time. With ever-growing catalogues of video content, multiple versions, and increasing file sizes due to new video formats and high resolution video, that isn’t always as easy as it sounds. And that is where Digital Content Governance (DCG) comes in.
Riding the deluge of unstructured content
The main problem with the deluge of content and huge file sizes is that it requires a whole different skillset and toolset to manage, and naturally a lot more storage space. Without the right structures and processes in place, it is all too easy to misplace content you have previously created, which very often leads to content producers having to reshoot footage, often at great expense.
Couple that with fact that innovation in the media industry has happened at such a fast pace, and it is no wonder that it is challenging for media companies to keep their staff skills up-to-date. Only five years ago, engineers were managing physical tapes, so the move to a file based world and IP is quite a difference.
In this new world of media production and delivery, one of the biggest mistakes made by media companies is the lack of integration and automation. They very often treat disk the same way they handled tape, with manual processes. This both causes bottlenecks and introduces errors into the workflow. It also means that media companies are wasting valuable resources on managing storage rather than more beneficial functions. The result is, more often than not, a number of un-managed storage silos, made up of everything from high end scalable NAS to USB Drives.
Digital Content Governance
Clearly, if organisations wish to profit from their content or build a successful community they need their hands on their data 24/7 to use, re-use, re-shape and re-use. Digital Content Governance platforms enable that, but they also focus on the whole package required to protect, curate, share, distribute and audit digital content.
Ultimately it is about ensuring a number of crucial factors:
- Maximising value
- Easy search
- Ensuring content is authentic
- Protecting data
- Business continuity
- Future-proofing content
- Access controls
- Maximising Value
It stands to reason that you can only generate revenue if you know what content you have, can find it easily, and know how you are allowed to use it. If your content is sitting on the shelf, that is not going to be possible. Not only that, but to properly generate value from content, it often needs to be accessed fast. Given the need for high definition files, that could be literally tens or hundreds of terabytes needed in a hurry. If that content has previously been archived, getting it back out of archive can be a pain. On the other hand, if it is sitting in public cloud, there will be a big cost associated with getting it now. If you don’t mind waiting 4hrs, a day, a week then the costs are much more acceptable. That simply doesn’t work in many media organisations that need to benefit from on-demand workflows.
Digital Content Governance enables organisations to access their content when they need it and in timeframes set out by the businesses.
One of our Maxims from way-back-when rings true today as much as it did in 2003 “If you can’t find it, you do not have it”.
With the increasing volume of data coming in and out of the facility, metadata management is as important as protecting the content itself. The ability to search for content based on up to date, and relevant metadata, will unlock the value of content for many organisations. Loosely coupled metadata and content will always make find an inefficient or impossible process.
Using MAMs (Media Asset Management) solutions increase find substantially. But as mentioned above there is a risk in loosely-coupling the MAM database and the storage where the media resides. If metadata is not embedded or associated with the essence, where the essence lives then MAM can become more like Maybe Asset Management at times.
DCG platforms protect the metadata along with the essence for the lifetime of the content. Using APIs enable future proof, integrated and automated workflows that ensure content can be found even if media asset management is not available. DCG platforms can also automate the extraction and indexing of any embedded metadata which will also vastly increase the efficiency of find.
Ensuring content is authentic
In a world where some institutions and organisations feel increasingly free to bend the truth, we need to know that our content is authentic and that it has not been altered or tampered with. Can we prove that the rushes from the interview with the politician or financial analyst actually tally with the message portrayed in the edit? Digital preservation practice includes providing options for data immutability and ensuring content cannot be deleted until the business, or law, sees fit.
DCG platforms make multiple copies of content on ingest using checksums (digital fingerprints) to ensure its integrity from day one and throughout the lifetime of the content. DCG can ensure rushes are immutable throughout their lifetime can place retention policies on the data such that not even administrators can accidentally delete it on a bad hair day.
Digital preservation is a massive deal in the media industry, with many companies required to comply with internal or external regulations around the digital preservation of their digital content.
Digital Preservation processes ensure your content is protected at ingest and ensures it remains protected throughout its lifetime. However, this requires regular integrity checking of data which can be a costly exercise with legacy technology. How many media companies regularly follow good LTO management practice?
Ensuring business rules are enforced, such as access rules and retention periods ensures that content does not get accidentally deleted. Automation and integration are also key to removing manual steps that introduce opportunities for error.
DCG platforms handle all aspects of good digital perseveration practice from continuous content protection and multiple copy protection (on and off-site) business rules support.
If the lights go out at a facility so too the chances of continuing revenue generating activities. Using incumbent platforms that rely on legacy archive and backup practices do not guarantee the continuity of business operations. It is a fact that data loss or loss of access to data can lead to catastrophic loss of revenue for any sized company.
Relying on manual procedures, scripts or the skills of individuals within an organisation does not provide levels of redundancy and automation required to get a business running when outages occur. The ideal scenario is for staff to be able to easily switch to the location where data is accessible, whilst using the tools they are used to using for their craft.
DCG platforms provide automated and integrated business continuity functionality ensuring work can continue despite any outages. Implementing automated, asynchronous replication of metadata, data and user access information ensures that everything that is needed will be available at the DR location. Integration of DCG platforms into the end user ecosystem (ie, they do not have to learn new skills) also makes this a non-disruptive process.
There are a whole wealth of articles out there discussing how to create the perfect ‘forever’ archive.
Truth is, whilst the manufacturer states the media will last 100 years, the machines required to read the format will likely not. It is also questionable that the format of the files themselves will be supported. With this in mind, organisations need to implement platforms that make it easy, or even automatic, to migrate content to new storage platforms or formats.
Migrating content from different formats of offline media (LTO etc.) is non-trivial and vastly increases the TCO of those platforms - ask any system administrator about the joys of data migration. If data resides in silos of dumb storage then migrating the data, and metadata, to newer platforms poses a problem for many organisations. Quite frankly, it is a right royal pain, so much so an entire industry has grown up around it.
DCG platforms provide functionality to ensure future proof access to content with the minimum of manual intervention:
- Migration in place allows content to move from older, legacy hardware to newer generations of hardware within the DCG platform and with no manual intervention.
- Process in Place (PiP) does what is says on the tin. It enables content to be processed where it resides, on the storage platform. This means content does not need to move around to have simple processes performed upon it. Examples include:
- Any metadata embedded in the content itself can be automatically indexed and thus makes searching for content much easier without manual logging. Formats like AS11/AS10 can be dropped into a DCG platform and it will become very easy to find as its metadata will be automatically extracted and indexed for search. Hands free.
- NMR (http://www.nmr.com/) is working on the ReCAP project which will advantage of DCG platforms that provide such services. Well worth taking a look at what they are doing.
- It is not inconceivable to have PiP performing tasks to transform content from one format to another. As a format of PDF/Mov/JPEG becomes obsolete it will be possible to inject algorithms into the DCG platform to transform legacy formats to the new standard. The functionality to provide those services is available today. Automatic and systematic processes. Again hands free.
If content generates revenue, then it is crucial to ensure the control of access to that content throughout its lifetime. Providing searchable audits of every action during the lifetime of the media is essential, as it means you can track exactly what has happened to that content and who has access it. If your media is on dumb NAS, removable media or tape you have no idea who has had access to the content.
DCG platforms can offer native, searchable audits of every action from ingest, moves, deletions, attempted deletions and most importantly, read. It has to be said that audit is also possible with public cloud accounts if the user logins are granular to individuals performing the actions.
With all these bases covered, organisations will be able to focus on the important things, such as how to generate income from their prized assets and not spend money and cycles on managing the infrastructure that houses them. A good Digital Content Governance platform that integrates into the way you work and enables automation keeps everyone happy from the editor, to the CTO and the CFO.