Pros and cons of cloud vs on-premise video storage solutions

As a video production professional, choosing the right video storage solution for your media assets is a crucial decision. While file and project sizes continue to grow exponentially, deadlines are continuously shrinking, so having a video storage system that can keep up with capacity demands while remaining fast, secure and cost-effective is essential.

In this article, we’ll examine the pros and cons of the two main options – cloud video storage and on-premise video storage – and look at the benefits of the hybrid solutions that combine both.

What is the difference between on-prem and cloud storage?

On-premise video storage is locally connected media storage such as individual hard drives and RAIDs, network-attached storage (NAS) or storage area networks (SANS) that are physically located at your facility and managed by your own IT staff.

The benefits of on-premise storage include the potential for air-gapped security, predictable costs and reliable performance. The downside to this kind of video storage is that the full expenditure is incurred upfront, your internal IT or creative teams must manage, backup and repair the system, and significant expansion requires additional costs and expertise. 

Cloud video storage, however, is offsite, internet-connected media storage managed by an external third-party vendor. One of the main benefits of working with cloud storage for video production is that the cost is limited to a monthly subscription for the capacity used, negating the requirement for a lot of up-front cash.

That capacity can be rapidly expanded or constrained in tandem with current project requirements, leading to cost savings and overall efficiencies but also a more unpredictable monthly spend. Furthermore, the third-party vendor bears all management, servicing and infrastructure costs, which is often preferable for teams without this in-house expertise.

Hybrid video storage solutions aim to combine the best of both worlds into one integrated system. Fast, high-bandwidth local storage is used for active projects and workflows, while completed projects and non-urgent media are sent to the cloud for archiving. This combines the performance and simplicity of on-premise storage with the scalability and cost savings of the cloud.

What about remote access? For both on-premise and cloud video storage, remote access is possible, depending on the security and performance requirements of the video production team.

The Pros and Cons of On-Premise Video Storage

While there are many benefits to having all of your video storage on-premise, cloud storage is designed to overcome limitations and challenges. Let’s consider some of the pros and cons of on-premise video storage in more detail.

Pro – Full control over all hardware and software

One of the advantages of on-premise vs cloud storage is that you design and control the entire hardware and software architecture, selecting a system that best meets your specifications and overseeing maintenance and upgrades. You’re not at the mercy of an external vendor’s roadmap, business changes or downtime.

Pro – Predictable high-speed performance 

Local hard drives and network-attached storage provide fast, reliable connectivity for high-bandwidth processes like multi-stream video editing. Unlike cloud storage for video editing, your read/write performance doesn’t suffer due to internet congestion, server loads or bandwidth limitations.

Pro – Enhanced security

Keeping your storage on-premise protects sensitive media files from being erroneously or maliciously accessed while on shared cloud infrastructure. Restricting physical access and air-gapping (disconnected from the internet) your media storage adds a further layer of protection.

Pro – No hidden costs

While on-premise storage comes with larger upfront costs than a cloud storage subscription, it also negates any hidden or unexpected expenses, such as egress fees, which occur when you move your data out of the cloud or surcharges enforced when you over-step your subscription limits.

Pro – Integration with legacy systems

Existing edit bays, asset management software and established video production workflows can often more easily connect to new on-premise storage without the need to re-construct the whole system, as everything is under your control and most often is largely plug-and-play.

Con – High upfront costs

Purchasing substantial video storage capacity as well as the switches, servers, and management software required to make it all function comes with a large capital expenditure. You’re also paying for all unused capacity from the start.

Con – Complex configuration and management 

Even a medium-scale video storage solution requires some IT staff time for the initial design and integration, not to mention the ongoing administration and daily troubleshooting. This staff skill set also needs regular updating as technology and workflows evolve.

Con – Separate disaster recovery site required

A system for backing up and storing all of your media in a second physical location is needed to replicate and recover all of your data in the event of a disaster at your main premises. This necessitates purchasing yet more storage capacity and connectivity.

Con – Scaling requires overprovisioning

While you can work within the constraints of your initial storage capacity, adding further storage capacity requires purchasing it in large chunks and planning for the upgrade downtime. Running out of storage space will obviously impact the efficiency and productivity of your creative team!

Con – Dependence on locality

To get the best out of the system, users must be physically on-premise to access the media, while remote users often have comparatively limited connectivity and bandwidth. Even when remote access is established, staff are still required onsite to manage the physical devices.

Pros and Cons of Cloud Video Storage

While we are all used to working with cloud storage on a daily basis, from our Dropbox accounts to our iCloud photo backups, cloud storage that is capable of storing, managing and streaming or downloading large video files with the performance for real-time playback is a different beast altogether.

Here are some pros and cons to consider when using cloud video storage for modern video production workflows.

Pro – No infrastructure to manage

As part of your subscription fee, the cloud storage provider handles all of the necessary hardware, component upgrades, system maintenance and offsite backups, and instead, your team focuses on their creative work.

Pro – Scalability on demand

Adding further capacity to your cloud video storage account is as simple as clicking ‘upgrade.’ This has the added benefit of only paying for what you need when you need it and allows you to respond quickly to unexpected growth or capacity requirements.

Pro – Global availability 

Storing your media in the cloud means it’s instantly available to authorized users anywhere in the world with an internet connection. This gives you access to a global talent pool, the efficiency of single-source asset management, and the potential for a creative team to work around the clock from different time zones—all without the need for setting up remote access VPNs for your on-premise storage. 

Pro – Reduced disaster recovery costs

As cloud providers replicate their data storage globally by default, there’s no need to build and maintain a second offsite backup in case of disaster recovery. This is already done for you.

Pro – Lower initial costs

With no upfront expenditure on expensive hardware, there are no large CapEx purchases to wait and plan for. Costs move to OpEx, where subscription fees based on usage, storage capacity, and the number of seats needed are much more manageable from a cash flow perspective month-to-month.

Cons – Vendor dependence and lock-in

Once you choose a cloud video storage provider, you have no real control over that vendor’s policies, service charges, fee increases or business stability. Once a workflow has been established and a lot of media is stored online, switching cloud providers is more complicated.

Con – Variable performance 

While most cloud video storage providers offer some form of performance guarantee, internet outages or service congestion are unpredictable. Also, each end-users experience relies on a range of factors, including their local internet connection strength and stability, proximity to the data center and local system spec.

Con – Limited integration options

While using cloud storage does open up the potential for some newer automated workflows and remote production capabilities, it is not always possible to integrate legacy apps with cloud storage or even with other online services and storage providers.

Con – Security risks 

No matter how tight your security procedures, storing your valuable media online, especially in a shared cloud storage server you don’t control brings a level of exposure to a greater number of threats.

Con – You may end up paying more in the long run

If you store and maintain a substantial amount of video media in your cloud storage over a long period of time, your total cost of ownership (TCO) may end up exceeding that of on–premise storage. Services often charge egress fees for downloading data, for example, when making room online or moving it to cheaper archival storage like AWS Glacier.

The Pros and Cons of Hybrid Video Storage

If you decide to use a hybrid cloud and on-premise storage solution, you can get the benefits of both and avoid some of the limitations of either one, yet you will create some new challenges to consider.

Let’s examine the pros and cons of a hybrid video storage workflow.

Pro – Best of both worlds

The most obvious benefit of a hybrid video storage solution is that you’re set up to enjoy the strengths of both models, gaining the performance and security of on-premise video storage with the scalability and global reach of the cloud.

Pro – Elastic Capacity Management

Having your media stored in the cloud gives you the buffer to absorb the unexpected variable demands of different projects and the flow of projects over time, while your local storage can handle anticipated project requirements. 

Pro – Reduced disaster recovery costs 

By setting up an automatic cloud backup of your on-premise video storage, you can more affordably and easily manage both archiving and disaster recovery by creating an offsite duplicate.

Pro – Greater workflow possibilities

Modern video productions require a wide range of workflow capabilities, from high-performance local storage for demanding processes like color grading final high-resolution media or combing through terabytes of archival material to enabling a globally distributed creative team to manage assets and artistic responsibilities through shared media stored in the cloud.

Pro – Gradual transition path

Developing a hybrid storage model can be a simple and gradual process that doesn’t require wholesale reinvestment or scrapping existing workflows or hardware. When starting with local storage, it’s easy to add cloud storage for archiving. Or, when starting from a cloud platform, it’s easy to add local storage for more demanding tasks. This makes it easier to test the benefits of either solution before fully committing to either or both.

Con – Added complexity

One consideration of combining on-premises and cloud storage is that it does add a further layer of complexity to managing media files, user access permissions and deciding where files should live and for how long. Further complexity arises if files live in multiple locations at once rather than having a ‘single source of truth’ for all uses.

Con – Potential replication lag 

If you have to move media files from local storage to cloud storage (or vice versa), a lot of data must be copied between locations, which can create a delay. This also requires the on-premises storage to have access to adequate bandwidth.

Con – Two sets of storage to purchase and pay for

With the costs of a cloud subscription, on-premise infrastructure and software, the hybrid model may be more expensive in combination than leveraging a single platform.

Con – File management training

Having worked at a few facilities that had their own unique way of doing things when it comes to file management, and sometimes, in fast turn-around environments, management goes out the window –  educating your users on where to store their files or where to look for the right files becomes all the more important – otherwise you end up wasting either time or storage capacity.

Con – Partial vendor dependence remains

While there are many benefits to a hybrid workflow, one consideration when choosing a cloud storage provider for that workflow, is that you will be locked into a dependence on them.

How to choose the best cloud video storage solutions for your needs 

Determining the ideal storage solution for your video workflows depends on several key factors:

The best way to evaluate your needs is to take an in-depth look at your current infrastructure, workflows and pain points, then calculate the total cost of ownership for an on-premise vs cloud video storage solution over a 3-5 year timeframe. Ask your creative team for their opinions and try to road test potential solutions in a small way where possible. 

With the right strategy tailored to your situation, you can build a storage setup that keeps your creative work flowing while staying within budget and IT constraints. The goal for the optimal solution will be to transform how your team collaborates and unlocks greater productivity and business potential.

FAQ about on-premise storage vs cloud storage

Which video storage solution is better for you?

The best storage solution is a hybrid cloud and on-premise storage model for performance-intensive workloads with cloud storage for scalability and broader access. The high-speed local area network would enable smooth video editing and collaboration, while the cloud side would allow remote team members to access files from anywhere. The cloud capacity would also help manage spikes in storage demand. This hybrid approach delivers a solid mix of control and reliability with on-premise along with the flexibility and global availability of cloud.

How much do the storage solutions cost to use?

Cloud storage has a lower startup cost since it avoids major capital expenditures on hardware and software. Monthly subscription fees based on limited usage are more predictable. On-premise storage requires large upfront investments in storage, servers, networking equipment and more. But at scale the ongoing costs of cloud data egress fees can make on-premise more cost effective in the long run.

How secure is each solution?

On-premise storage keeps data isolated within a controlled environment, reducing exposure to external threats like hackers or ransomware. Control over physical access and air-gapped networks ensures high security. Cloud storage, however, involves some additional risks since data resides in a multi-tenant environment while being stored on a shared server. Most cloud providers offer robust security measures, vetted by the media industry, but security is always a concern when data leaves the premises. A hybrid solution provides strong isolated security for the most sensitive files, along with the convenience of cloud access for low-risk assets.

How efficient is each solution?

Cloud storage enables great access efficiency by allowing authorized users to access files from anywhere with an internet connection, avoiding the need for remote access VPNs back to the local network.

However, the performance efficiency of cloud storage can suffer from variability based on internet traffic levels. On-premise storage offers consistent and predictable high-speed performance thanks to dedicated local networks, especially valuable for bandwidth-heavy video editing work. A hybrid configuration puts performance-sensitive workflows on reliable on-premise storage while leveraging the global accessibility of the cloud.

How reliable is each solution?

On-premise storage has higher reliability since its performance depends on a controlled local network rather than the open internet. Latency and congestion on the public and local internet connection can inhibit access to cloud video storage. However, cloud services tend to have very durable underlying infrastructure with lots of redundancy to minimize downtime risk, as this is an essential part of their business offering.

How scalable is each solution?

The cloud is extremely scalable, allowing storage capacity to be increased essentially instantly through a web dashboard rather than waiting for fresh hardware deliveries. Cloud services are designed for massive scale to handle demand spikes and growth surges that would overwhelm on-premise infrastructure.

On-premise storage requires purchasing and installing larger capacity systems in chunky increments to scale up gradually. The combination of the two enables core consistent storage needs to be handled on-premise while leveraging the cloud to absorb surges in requirements.

How easy is it to manage your storage?

Cloud services are much easier to manage since the provider takes care of all hardware, software, troubleshooting and maintenance behind the scenes. So your creative team can focus on creative work rather than storage infrastructure.

On-premise storage requires dedicating skilled IT staff to architect, integrate, administer, optimize, and upgrade storage systems on an ongoing basis.

How easy is file sharing or real-time viewing?

Cloud video storage’s global accessibility makes sharing and collaboration very straightforward for distributed teams. It allows access from anywhere with credentials as long as the video storage platform supports this functionality.

However, the ability to view high-resolution media files in pristine quality, smoothly in real-time, such as in a color grading suite, depends heavily on having consistent high network bandwidth, something on-premise storage excels at.

What are the potential drawbacks of relying solely on one storage for a business?

Depending on only cloud or only on-premise storage increases vulnerability. If the cloud goes down, all workflows halt without the backup of a local system. Disaster recovery becomes very difficult if local hardware fails or is destroyed without off-site backups.

Blending the two provides contingency options to mitigate risk – essential data is protected on-premise through RAID-level redundancy, with archives and overflow capacity stored in the cloud. A hybrid solution means an outage in one environment won’t cripple overall operations thanks to the redundancy and flexibility cloud and on-premise storage can provide each other.

What are the key considerations for implementing a hybrid storage solution, and how does it address the limitations of both on-premises and cloud storage models?

The keys to an effective hybrid implementation are ensuring adequate bandwidth between environments, thoughtfully integrating workflows and applications across cloud and on-premise boundaries, and designing cost-effective disaster recovery.

The hybrid approach helps overcome the inherent limitations of a single storage model. The cloud side provides scalability and geographic diversity missing from pure on-premise. The local side offers reliability, performance and control lacking in pure cloud deployments. 

Together they can complement each other and side-step the weaknesses of either standalone option.