May 6, 2024

The Pros and Cons of Cloud, Hybrid, or On-Premises Radio Operations

For years, radio stations have used on-premises servers to broadcast content and manage automation, traffic, and billing systems. As technology continues to advance, the number of software solutions available continues to grow, each with their own unique advantages in helping broadcasters converge their operations and automation functions. The variety of options available mean station owners need to carefully evaluate their options for moving forward.

As stations grapple with diminishing revenues and budget constraints, it’s increasingly difficult to justify capital expenditure for new hardware and associated expenses. That difficulty is further compounded by aging infrastructure, a growing demand for innovation, and the challenge of sourcing local engineering talent. The need for stations to proactively identify strategies to maintain profitability is critical.

As a result, station owners must look toward alternative technology to meet their stations’ needs. One option is moving to cloud technology to reduce or eliminate hardware costs and increase automation opportunities through improved software functions that drive growth. An alternative is to maintain the status quo with on-premises servers, while a third option entails a hybrid solution between on-premises and cloud capabilities.

Choosing the right path forward is rarely an easy decision and can be different depending on a station’s circumstances. Smaller stations often have concerns about cost and internet reliability, while larger broadcasters see working in the cloud as a logical choice for reducing costs and improving agility, as services can be turned up and down dynamically. Stations must find the right balance and choose the right tools to meet their own unique needs.

Is Cloud Adoption Right for Your Station?

Cloud adoption among US radio broadcasters is expected to grow significantly in the coming years, with FactMR’s latest report seeing a market worth more than $43 billion by 2032, a compound annual growth rate of 22.9%. Cloud network infrastructure adoption for radio broadcasters accelerated during the pandemic, driven primarily by lower costs, scalability, and workforce mobility. But moving to the cloud may not be the ideal option for every station. For many, the move depends on a variety of factors.

One station might retain its on-premises approach based on its dependability over the years, while another station might look to a hybrid solution. A station choosing the hybrid solution takes the best of on-premises architecture and combines it with cloud system benefits, such as frequent software updates and upgrades and lower server maintenance costs. And then there are those radio broadcasters who fully embrace the future by adopting a complete cloud technology solution.

This variety of options creates a competitive technology vendor marketplace that benefits the radio broadcast industry. Under the right circumstances, cloud-based or hybrid radio automation software can create significant efficiencies for station operators.

The following table outlines the pros and cons of each option, designed to help stations evaluate which system will work best for their radio business.

Pros & Cons of Radio Broadcast Operations Platforms

On-Premises, Cloud, and Hybrid Solutions

On-Premises SystemsCloudHybrid
Pros●Stations have complete control of their systems
●Stations control upgrades and modifications
●No dependency on internet connectivity
●No ongoing monthly cloud costs / perpetual licensing after initial CapEx
●On-premises maintenance fees are optional
●The vendor company installs and maintains the system
●Lower hardware costs
●Frequent software updates and operating system patches
●Reduces station’s physical footprint due to fewer servers in the space
●Lower risk of ransomware attacks due to automated cybersecurity
●‘Best of both worlds’ solution
●Some hardware is located at the station or transmitter, and non-critical functions are in the cloud
●Easy integration with existing local equipment
●Part of the automation system is in the cloud so that staff can access it anywhere, on- or offsite
●Vendor service maintenance contracts for ongoing support and software updates
●Better overall support via hybrid vs on-premises
Cons●Capital expenditure for equipment replacements every 5-8 years
●Dedicated room for racks and servers
●Manual maintenance and security measures to keep systems up-to-date and protected
●Additional cooling system and energy costs to maintain server temperatures
●Local staffing expenses
●Ongoing monthly costs
●Dependence on reliable internet
●Gaps in onsite technical expertise, depending on the vendor

Clearly there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Some stations may stay with what works for them, while smaller stations may balk at unpredictable cloud technology expenses or unreliable internet connectivity at their broadcast location. These factors lead them to stick with their relatively expensive hardware and legacy infrastructure. Meanwhile, corporate industry players are more open to the cloud and will embrace newer technology to reduce costs.

Security and Integration Challenges

Cybersecurity continues to be of paramount concern for stations of all sizes. Unauthorized access by hackers to broadcasting operations can block access to essential software, disrupt broadcast transmissions, cause the permanent loss of critical data, and result in extortion payment requests through expensive ransomware attacks. Additionally, hackers might spread disinformation or generate false emergency broadcasts. Stations must establish robust safeguards to prevent ransomware attacks and promptly address vulnerabilities.

Protecting networks from hackers means more than having staff members change passwords every six months. Station IT personnel should implement two-factor or multi-factor authentication for their broadcasting operations.

Challenges with IT integrations are also top-of-mind for station owners. Compatibility issues may exist with older systems, but solutions are available to incorporate cloud or hybrid processes.

Multiple Choices for the Right Solution

Station owners must carefully consider their options – stay with on-premises or switch to cloud or hybrid SaaS solutions. Stations with a robust local team and operations may find that staying with an on-premises network is more practical. For larger stations and station groups, cloud processes can improve efficiency and reduce costs with consistent connectivity nationwide. And for those in between, a hybrid approach to a total radio solution may be the path forward.

By moving to a cloud or hybrid solution, station owners can reduce hardware costs while increasing automation opportunities, enabling scalability and helping support station growth. Other benefits from a full cloud or hybrid solution include frequent software updates that deliver new features and capabilities, as well as security upgrades and patches, with fewer maintenance demands. Cloud and hybrid solutions also offer backup, storage, and web hosting opportunities while offering extra tools like automated podcasting, ad insertion, and data analytics.

More stations will continue to move to cloud technology, but the pace of adoption will vary. While there are diverse opinions on how and when to bring in cloud technology, there is no right or wrong approach. Each station has its own unique needs, and working within those parameters is essential.

To learn more about WideOrbit’s Total Radio solution, including WO Automation for Radio, please contact us.

This post is an edited version of an article originally published by Inside Radio, authored by William “Dub” Irvin, WideOrbit Managing Director & VP of WO Automation for Radio.

Comments are closed.