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Prepping for the Next Disaster

Having back-up facilities to store content and critical information so that networks can quickly get back on the air after a major disaster has long been a critical part of broadcast operations. Such disaster recovery efforts played a key role in allowing networks to remain on the air or get quickly back online during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

But with hacking attacks and security concerns on the rise, setting up the right systems to monitor those disaster recovery facilities poses some challenges, according to Hiren Hindocha, CEO of Digital Nirvana.

Discovery Communications, for example, has several disaster facilities, one of which is located in an unmanned space leased from Intelsat. The Digital Nirvana systems used by Discovery set off alarms and alerts when there are problems with the equipment at its disaster recovery operations. But those approaches wouldn’t work in the unmanned facilities broadcasters are increasingly using and security concerns are compounding the problem. “What do you do when there is no one there to hear the alarms?” Hindocha said. “It’s a problem more and more networks are facing.”

That issue could be solved by monitoring the facility over an internet connection. Discovery’s IT department very sensibly didn’t want an inbound connection that might be used by hackers. To solve that problem, Digital Nirvana created open source software that sends out an email to tech teams when there is a problem.

“We get emails out and communication back to us through a secure dedicated fiber line,” said Brendan McMahon , VP of distribution for Americas at Discovery Communications. “It lets us know when there is a glitch and has worked very well. When we installed it they were the only ones providing that kind of capability.”