The creative industries earn the UK £9.6m every hour, and one in 11 of all UK jobs now falls within the creative economy. Those are some pretty big wheels to keep turning, and perhaps more than any other industry, the creative economy relies on its technology. Whether it’s specialist video editing software, job management systems or high-speed connectivity, without a reliable, trusted IT infrastructure most creative businesses would come to a standstill.
Two of our three directors worked in the creative sector before setting up Stripe OLT, which means we have an in-depth understanding of the industry’s IT and technology needs. Since then, we have worked with many creative sector customers, including OTM, Target Media Group, innovision and more. And while many of the IT challenges faced by businesses are the same across all sectors, we think there are some specific challenges for this sector that any IT manager needs to consider.
Change is normal
This is an industry characterised by constant change and evolution: clients expect their agencies to be at the cutting edge of all creative and technical developments, which means that your infrastructure needs to be flexible enough to accommodate new devices, experimentation and testing without compromising on security and reliability. Combining cloud services with on-premise can be a useful way of dealing with this challenge.
Similarly, as projects come and go or reach their peak in terms of workloads, your people need to be able to collaborate effectively, which often means moving around the office, creating project clusters and integrating freelancers and contractors. (Check out Ed’s post about building collaboration into your office for more details). We now have a standard desk install for many of our customers that incorporates all the elements someone needs to sit down and start working straight away, minimising set up at a time when every minute counts.
An important note – being flexible with people and access does not mean compromising on security. A bit of planning around permissions and set-ups means you can keep your vital company data separate from your visitors’ devices, and restrict what data can be sent out of your organisation.
Connectivity is vital
The Creative Industries Council’s five year strategy, released earlier this month, calls on the government to improve access to connectivity, saying:
“To achieve their full potential, creative businesses of all sizes and across the country must have the broadband, 3G, 4G, 5G and Wi-Fi network connectivity they need. However, the experience of broadband is patchy at best, and not just in relation to download speeds. Problems faced by businesses are often with equipment on site or other parts of the chain such as servers for online services. Metrics such as upload speed and latency can be more important to companies than is often appreciated.”
While government action and policy is obviously vital, there is much that companies can do to ensure that their connectivity is the best it can be with the available infrastructure. The same CIC strategy cites an interesting example of collaboration in Brighton, where creative agencies have banded together to form the Brighton Digital Exchange, “a cooperatively-owned and run data centre, where member businesses can co-locate equipment; and from which they can provide services to Brighton businesses.”
Within the boundaries of your organisation, taking a belt and braces approach to your connectivity is a wise course. This means ensuring that there is more than one main connection to your office or building, to mitigate against failure (e.g. accidental damage to cabling, or outages from your provider). Combining fibre with an over the air solution such as wireless or satellite as backup would work well here. It also means keeping your infrastructure streamlined to ensure that the machines your people are using for production are connected as directly as possible to servers used for file storage, with no unnecessary complexity adding time lags into the system.
And don’t forget that connectivity isn’t just about your offices – your people need simple and consistent access to the right tools and information when they are out and about, in a way that allows them to work no matter which device they are using but which maintains your data security.
Data storage, backup and disaster recovery
Data storage and security is a constant challenge for anyone working in the creative industries. Video, image and design files tend to be large, and agencies must keep track of a huge number of design assets, not just finished designs. Without a robust process, networks rapidly become clogged with duplicate files, storage costs go through the roof and version control goes out of the window.
We worked with one of our long-standing clients, OTM, to create a standard file structure and set of permissions that was automatically generated by their ProAd job management system every time a new project was created, minimising confusion and duplication. This helps to keep storage requirements down.
However, given that agencies in particular store a huge amount of data on their customers’ behalf, a robust backup and disaster recovery system is also required. Think carefully about how far back you might need to roll back if a user accidentally overwrites some files: projects that recur annually, for example, might mean that the error isn’t discovered until the following year when the project becomes active again. Be realistic and plan for how you’re going to restore files or services, not just where they’re stored: it’s no use backing up all your data if you have no hardware to restore it to in an emergency. (Read our info on backup and DR for more details on how to plan a robust system, or our case study of how we got Target Media back up and running four hours after a major flood.)
Does your creative agency need reliable infrastructure? Give us a call on 0117 974 5179 / 020 7043 7044 or firstname.lastname@example.org.