Planning for failure in business is perhaps the wrong approach because you should have a positive mind-set and plan going in, but in television broadcast, planning for failure is the best way to ensure success because everything has a shelf life and everything will fail, one day. Your workstation computers, Traffic system, Server, NAS, audio/video router, transmitter, mobile production truck, cameras, microphones, network, upstream devices, downstream devices, all will eventually fail, crash or flat out die on you. The best way to avoid or reduce those eventualities is to plan ahead with multiple back-up plans and scenarios.
When I learned how to drive an 18-wheeler, the veteran drivers all gave me the same advice: “Don’t back-up, don’t back-up, don’t back-up.” The rationale being to always park the truck in a way to prevent driving in reverse. Similar sound advice was provided when I ventured down the broadcast engineering path, but the reverse was true, “get back-ups, get back-ups, get back-ups!”
So please, back-up your files, back-up your computers and servers, back-up your routers, have an alternate plan for your Internet service and power, your network and any key downstream devices that can disrupt your playout signal. Oh, and don’t forget to have a back-up plan for employees that get sick, don’t show up or make an on-air mistake…make sure they have someone they can call for help when needed and make sure you get them trained properly. As the old saying goes, “if you think education is expensive, try ignorance”.
Too often broadcasters don’t have the budget or choose not to purchase backup systems because “things have been going okay”. However, when their network, the computer, the power, or the human operator fails, it costs time and money that could have been avoided and likely can’t be recovered. If the outage is significant the money lost might have funded several back-up options and thus paid for itself many times over.
At BroadStream we encourage the use of back-ups with our OASYS Integrated Playout system because, in addition to emergencies, back-ups are used during maintenance periods, software upgrades and other non-emergency situations. Switching can be automatic and seamless or manually triggered so normal broadcast operations are not interrupted. If you can’t afford a full, one-to-one backup consider backing up several channels to a single back-up. We can explain how it works.
There are other options to consider as well. For example, once a newly installed automation system is switched to air, the previous system is often immediately tossed in the dumpster to make room. Before rendering an older system to the trash heap, consider how it might be used. Perhaps you’re cautious and want a new back-up with your new system. Great. Then consider selling or donating all or part of your old system to another station or local school. The party with the interest in acquiring your old technology will likely arrange for removal and transport so you won’t need to lift a finger.
In some cases, it’s appropriate to leave the previous playout system installed so it can be used in an emergency. It can run in shadow mode to be manually routed to air or sit idle and be placed into service within a few minutes if the new system encounters a failure. Either way, at least you have options.
Remember, it’s not a question of if something will fail but when. If you have back-ups in place your chances of an on-air or system failure are greatly reduced and your viewers may not even know you’ve experienced an issue.
And before I forget, consider a Disaster Recovery option. Why? During one of the recent California wildfires a station that was live and providing coverage had to abandon their facility because they were in the direct path of the fire. Remember hurricane Katrina and hurricane Irma? Water damage and high winds can be devastating to buildings and down-right catastrophic to satellite dishes, towers and transmitter and other gear if a wall or roof is damaged to the point where it’s impossible to broadcast. A Disaster Recovery option places equipment out of harms way in another station, city or state that can be accessed and operated in the event your primary facility is damaged or destroyed.
Want to know more about how to back-up your on-air systems or understand how a disaster recovery site should be considered, give us a call at 404-327-8300 or click here.