File Hosting: Is It Right For Your Site?
A content delivery network (CDN) can speed up your site.
But a CDN may not be that useful if you want to serve a lot of media.
Is it better to upgrade your hosting account or use a file host?
[Note: This article is from 2009, so some of the prices are now out of date.]
Media Hosts Are Cost-Effective
A dedicated media host will save you money if your existing host cannot handle the bandwidth your site needs. Photobucket offers a “Pro” account for $25 per year, or about $2 per month, that allows you to host unlimited images in high resolution. Imageshack has a similar account for about $68 per year, or about $5.60 per month.
Some video hosts, such as YouTube and Vimeo for video, as well as Talkshoe for audio, are completely free, making them zero-risk (at least financially) for hosting that kind of content.
A media host may be a cost-effective way to get your content online.
Though Photobucket may have faster servers, it also hosts a lot of content, so there’s a potential bottleneck there.
On the other hand, spreading the load out may be faster.
You can set up your site with your new media host and run a site speed test to see if it’s faster. It’s no guarantee that your setup will always be speedier, though.
Using a media host creates an additional vulnerability.
If your media host goes down, your site will work, but you’ll have no images, audio or video.
Most SEO gurus seem to believe that it is better to keep your images on your own domain.
However, the actual benefit you get from keeping your images local may vary. Even sites with lots of images do not always perform well in Google Image Search.
Most media hosts create their own pages for your content, so you may end up with two separate URLs for your podcast or videos. It probably isn’t a huge deal, but it might matter to some.
Maintaining Media Quality
Finally, it is important to consider how these hosts will alter your content.
For example, using a video site such as YouTube will reduce the resolution of many videos as well as the audio quality. Likewise, most MP3 hosts will compress the audio, often times sacrificing clarity.
Even image hosts often reduce image size or pass other filters over the image, such as white balancing an image, to make it look better.
When you put media on your server, you have 100% control over how the public views it, but when you put it on another site, you may not.
Also, some media hosts will display ads over and near your content; you will probably have no control over those ads.
Is It Worth Using a Media Host?
With a CDN, you get greater control, better reliability in large and, in may cases, better pricing. But your own best option largely depends on media types and traffic.
If you’re smart about how you spread your content, you can improve reliability and speed while saving money and keeping other issues to a minimum.