Networks Provide Unprecedented Flexibility, but...
Networking is providing unprecedented flexibility and creativity when it comes to audiovisual systems. As we leverage this new technology, network management and cybersecurity become extremely important elements of a successfully installed system.
Networking is providing unprecedented flexibility and creativity when it comes to audiovisual and media systems. The use of IT infrastructures and IP is enabling entirely new ways to design and build spaces and experiences. As we leverage this new technology, network management and cybersecurity become extremely important elements of a successfully installed system.
Generally speaking, traditional "video per cable" and "audio per cable" technology is easier to manage or at least has better coverage via legacy monitoring products. Simple techniques can be employed to troubleshoot the system when problems arise. These traditional technologies also have fewer security challenges due to their isolation and the minimal handling of confidential information beyond logging into management interfaces. Because of these installations' fixed nature, it is much less likely that the wrong image or audio signal would appear on the wrong destination. Therefore, concerns over the confidentiality of the media and the potential for "eavesdropping" is minimal.
New network-based system deployments offer unprecedented flexibility and scale when compared to their predecessors. It is now possible to do a lot more using a network than ever possible using a fixed routing matrix, opening up new and exciting ways to connect and create spaces. However, with this new-found flexibility and scale comes new unique challenges in terms of management. Because networks are dynamic, and media/data/IP can go just about anywhere at any time and can change in an instant, network visibility is an invaluable requirement. What "was" working in a network an hour ago can suddenly stop working, and the question is why? Without an effective management solution in place, the answer will inevitably be "who knows?". When issues arise and the answers aren't immediately clear as to why; the finger-pointing starts. Operations blame the engineering team, engineers blame IT, IT blames the AV system, the AV manufacturer blames the network, and on and on. The whole time the end user suffers, the system's instability persists and continues to affect the quality of experience for their space/venue. Implementing effective network management should allow any team member regardless of networking/IT background to quickly diagnose the issue and focus on fixing the problem, not the blame game.
Networks can connect entire buildings and campuses but also introduce an element of cyber risk to an organization. The specific impact an AV or media system can have in terms of cyber risk has to do with the ability of a bad actor to "weaponize" the less-than-perfect security of an AV or media device on the network. Another, cybersecurity challenge unique to AV and media systems is their responsibility for keeping the media private. Confidential video and audio are delivered using the network, which exposes the media data to being "intercepted". Even data that is content-protected using encryption is still susceptible to "eavesdropping" if the data is accidentally or intentionally routed to an output where it should never go.
Management tools should be adopted anywhere a network is used for AV and media operations. The management system should have dedicated resources to help provide easy and comprehensive visibility into the network for non-IT staff and provide the necessary diagnostic information to help troubleshoot and secure the AV system. A successfully deployed management system will pay for itself with the first network-related issue and will be priceless when it comes to stopping a cyber incident or detecting a breach of confidentiality.