DISASTER RECOVERY

 

ASTRA offers multiple cost-effective solutions to keep a station on-air in case of natural or man-made disasters. 

 

Disaster Recovery Solutions

Although more and more people today rely on the Internet for the latest news, in times of emergency, people still rely on TV and radio to find out the latest status.  Broadcasters take this responsibility very seriously and many look for solutions to stay on air during an emergency.  This could include natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, tornados, equipment failures or man-made disasters such as terrorist acts or operational mistakes.

The ideal solution is also technically the simplest but its extremely expensive – mirror your main facility.  In today’s environment, few can afford such a solution.  Aveco has developed several practical solutions that are cost effective, two of which are described here.

  1. Dedicated Disaster Recovery (DR) Site - Because of the fortunately small chance of needing to use a DR site, many customers choose to build a minimal functionality site with the ability to stay on air at the lowest cost.  The first solution is designed with an operational model that has the least disruption to existing workflows and requires minimal, if any new operator training (Figure 1).

  2. Dual Purpose Site - An alternative solution is dual purpose sites that can be used for every day operations but have an additional channel that can be quickly switched to a DR channel for a failed site.  These are generally existing sites that are on air today but can be expanded with additional channel capability that is held as a spare for another site. 
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Considerations for a DR site

Below are some considerations in designing a DR solution.  This is not a comprehensive list, but is a good starting point.   (Download the white paper for more detailed description of each item at Disaster Recover Site Solutions 1000 00 pdf)

  1. Video duplication – Video material needs to be constantly updated at the DR site. 

  2. Playlist Duplication – short term – A 24 hour playlist is the minimum that needs to be always loaded at the DR site to provide protection for the next 24 hours.

  3. Playlist Generation – longer term – If the DR site is designed to run for more than 24 hours, which would generally be the case, plans need to include generating playlists for the next 2-3 days. 

  4. Broadcast Equipment Chain – One of the major costs for a DR site is the equipment.  For a basic DR site, minimal functionality can result in significant cost savings.

  5. News Studio – Often it is desirable to have live broadcasting capability at the DR site for reporting current events.

  6. Automation – To control the DR site, the automation system needs to meet these criteria. But if it does not support these features, is not up-to-date, or doesn't fit into your long term growth plans, a new automation system needs to be considered.  Aveco can easily import playlists from your current traffic system and manage the whole DR workflow.

  7. Operations and Workflow – The goal is to minimize disruptions to current workflows.  Because of the flexibility of Aveco’s systems, it can easily be adopted to most any workflow.

  8. Ingest – If the DR site is designed for longer term operation, then it needs to be designed with ingest capability including live feeds and manual ingest.

  9. Facility Restoration – This step is often overlooked but moving operations back to the main site needs to be part of the overall DR workflow.

  10. Monitoring and Testing–A plan is needed to continually verify that all the backup equipment and workflows are operational and should be part of an DR plan.

 

 

 

Figure 1 - The main architecture of a basic DR site has a high speed connection to the main facility for playlist and file downloads.  Functionality of the DR site is usually the bare minimum for keeping a signal on-air.

 

 

Figure 2 - An example of two fully operational sites backing up each other.  By keeping playlists and files synchronized and having a spare channel, each site can provide complete backup of the other site.

Financial Aspects of a DR Site

Few organizations have excess money for a DR site so significant thought and planning need to go into justifying this investment.  Below are a few of the operational and financial concerns: the critical loss of community service and communications discussed earlier are on top of these issues.

Cost of going off-air – One easy analysis is the lost revenue for every minute off air.  Program costs and overhead costs stay the same if a program is broadcast or not but you will have to make good on the spots that did not air.  Depending on when during the day you are off-air, this can be a significant cost. Many ad purchases have program adjacencies or narrow windows of time. Revenue not on-air as planned is often not recoverable.

Disaster damage – If a disaster occurs that does physical damage to the site, then off-air times will be measured in weeks or months while repairs are being made.  Without advanced planning, trying to find alternate broadcast facilities and equipment will be an expensive and time-consuming scramble often resulting in mixed results.  Even a minimal facility will get you back on air quickly.  Loss of revenues for a lengthy amount of time can be devastating, even with insurance coverage, not to mention loss of income for employees, possible loss of key personal, and loss of community service.

Dual Use Sites – To minimize the expense of a DR site, building it so the resources can be used during normal times will help financially.  An additional studio could be used for live events without tying up the main studio.  The additional equipment could be used for ingest and QA overload times.  Maintenance of equipment at the main facility can easier be performed by taking it off-line and using the DR site’s equipment.

Aveco Solutions

ASTRA MCR and News solutions are built with a unique networked, distributed architecture that controls equipment at remote sites just as local equipment.  Thus a system can be designed such that two or more sites operate technically as a single site.  In a DR situation, one site can go down and control can pass to another site fairly seamlessly with a redundant, mirrored design.

Aveco's Redwood Studio and Redwood Play are integrated units that may be key components of a DR plan. Redwood Studio includes all mid-range news studio production functions in one box, including four channel video playback, graphics, production switcher, audio mixing, MAM and NRCS interface. Redwood Play is an advanced station-in-a-box. Both utilize Aveco's mission-critical QNX server.

Aveco can adapt a solution to match your current workflow, provide various backup solutions and keep you on air in an emergency.

Summary

In times of stress, good planning and forethought can minimize the disruption to a station’s programming and finances while at the same time provide a valuable service to the community.  Many options are available based on budget and needs but the key is to start planning today.  Industry experts are available to help with your planning.