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  • Video

Video Hosting

Video hosting has been around for years and online video is usually associated with big streaming platforms such as YouTube, Vimeo or Dailymotion. However, there is more to online video than huge streaming services.

There will always be a need for video hosting independent of these big streaming services. Streaming is not the only option, either - as some users may require downloads. Some companies could also require an internal content sharing platform, or a customised, branded video player that matches their corporate identity and design language.

What's more, professionals could use hosted video in uncompressed form for previews or collaboration. For example, an ad filmed in the Caymans could be uploaded in raw form, impossible to stream, then edited in Britain, post-processed in California and dubbed in Japan.

Video hosting priorities

Video is resource intensive on more fronts than one. The average bandwidth requirements and resolutions for online video have gone through the roof in recent years. Just a decade ago 240p and 360p resolutions were quite common, but nowadays they are ancient history - replaced by 720p and 1080p resolutions.

    These are the most obvious video hosting considerations to keep in mind:

  • Bandwidth sufficient to meet your needs
  • Ample storage capacity, but speed may be important too
  • Support for different industry standards and codecs
  • Content policies and restrictions
  • Support for commercial content and monetizaton model
  • Flexibility and scalability

Most standard hosting plans are simply not designed to cope with video content. They lack the hardware resources and support for the latest industry standards, relegating you to ancient technologies. Cloud hosting can help, but there is no silver bullet - good cloud plans cost good money, too, yet they don't address support issues.

But why would you bother setting up your own video site with so much competition in the space, not to mention hardware requirements that are bound to raise an eyebrow or two at the next company meeting?

There are a number of reasons for taking this approach - building your own brand, avoiding certain restrictions imposed by big video sites, restricting access to sensitive content (e.g. in video production example outlined earlier), or to simply try to create and monetise a new niche.

Your needs will dictate the hardware requirements

In terms of cost and hardware requirements, both depend on a number of factors, ranging from the volume of content, regular and peak traffic and other technical issues such as resolution.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution - if you are planning to build a video service to cover biweekly or quarterly events, your requirements are much different than those for a daily video blog service.

A small or experimental service can get away with a VPS and mechanical storage, but for anything serious you will need a dedicated server with a lot of storage, but simply adding more drives won't solve the problem entirely. A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is an attractive option, along with cloud storage. If you expect to deal with peak traffic scenarios, you will also need more RAM and fast, solid state storage.

There is no bottom line - preparing to host video for sports venues does not have much in common with hosting how-to guides and tutorials for students. The underlying technology is the same, but that's where the similarities end.

That is not the only problem facing video hosting in the near term.

Future-proof video hosting does not exist

Video is going through a bit of a renaissance. Just as users were becoming accustomed to 1080p video, the industry kicked into high gear, transitioning to 4K/UHD. UHD hardware is coming fast, delivering a crisp 3840x2160, 8.3-megapixel resolution. YouTube is the only major service to support 4K-class resolutions today.

UHD TV sets are no longer immensely priced gadgets for enthusiasts with deep pockets. Affordable UHD monitors are shipping, while companies like Nvidia, AMD and Intel already support the new ultra-high definition standard even on entry-level hardware. Even the latest smartphones can record 4K video.

This quantum leap in resolution has to be matched by video hosting services, including your own. While advanced compression codecs such as High-Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC or H.265) can to some extent compensate for the inevitable increase in bandwidth, they cannot solve the problem entirely.

For example, Netflix started experimenting with 15.6Mbps UHD streaming in April 2014, only to receive complaints about the poor quality of the stream. Many viewers found the heavily compressed video looked no better than a 1080p Blu-ray, which employs Advanced Video Coding (AVC or H.264).

Mobile users can add a lot of load

For better or for worse, lack of UHD content is bound to keep the transition gradual. Not everyone will start producing 4K/UHD video overnight and few people will rush to buy new TVs and monitors until the new standard takes off.

However, mobile users are consuming video content by the petabyte and the numbers are going up. The introduction of high-resolution phones and tablets, backed by high-bandwidth 4G/LTE networks. While traffic on more traditional platforms is stagnating, mobile video traffic is booming and Cisco expects it to double between the end of 2014 and late 2016.

This increase will roughly coincide with the rise of UHD video, placing even more strain on video hosting services. Therefore scalability and flexibility must be high on your list of priorities.

Is it better to host videos or use YouTube?

With sites like YouTube and Vimeo becoming so mainstream as both a resource for marketing and information, it may seem like there is no purpose to hosting your own videos on a shared hosting platform. However, many website owners don’t understand that they could gain some major benefits to their search engine optimization by creating a video sitemap, submitting it to search engines, and avoiding the urge to host a clip on YouTube and then embed it on their site.

Video sitemaps are not the easiest sitemaps to create, but it can be done. After you have uploaded your videos to a specific file on your website, review resources on sites like Google to learn what steps you need to take to create a video sitemap. Often times, if you can integrate videos into your optimization strategy, you can gain a lot of fans, followers, and views of your content.

Video Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is video hosting?

    Video hosting is the process of storing videos and then streaming or otherwise delivering them to users.

  • What are my options for displaying videos on my site?

    There are basically two options. You can use a service that hosts the videos for you, or you can do it on your own machine.

  • What is the difference between hosting videos and embedding them?

    Hosting videos on your site involves having the video files on your server and sending them out in appropriate formats to users from your server. With embedding, the video is stored at and served from another location. From the user's perspective, it looks like your website is serving the video, but it isn't. A way to think about this is to imagine an image tag in a web page. The tag just tells the web browser where to get the image to display on the page. If the image is local: you are serving it yourself. If the image is on another website, that website is serving it. The page doesn't appear any different to the user either way.

  • Why shouldn't I just host my own videos?

    Unless you have a dedicated server, you simply won't have the space to store your videos and you won't have the bandwidth to stream them -- even if you have very few users. If you do have a dedicated server, you are still going to have to deal with bandwidth, which may require purchasing a great deal more than you otherwise would have to. You might be able to deal with that problem. But there are countless logistical problems with serving the video in various formats. It can be done, but it requires major physical and human resources.

  • Why wouldn't I just host my videos on YouTube?

    From a business standpoint, there are many problems with YouTube. One of the biggest is that it puts advertisements both before and on top of your videos. This could be a problem if you are showing off the functionality of your application to potential customers, only to have YouTube advertising a competing company's product before your customer even sees your video. There are other potential problems including lack of branding, SEO limits, and its tendency to distract users away from your website.

  • Why would I just host my videos on YouTube?

    There are many advantages to YouTube. According to its own statistics, YouTube has over a billion users and 300 hours of video are uploaded to the site every minute. It is growing at an enormous rate -- 50% growth each year. It is easy to use. It is well resourced and rarely has streaming problems. And, of course, YouTube is by far the most popular video hosting system. Having your videos on YouTube means they are much more likely to come up high on search engine results.

  • What about other free video hosting services?

    They all have their own strengths and weaknesses. But most have many of the same disadvantages that YouTube has like advertising. A lot of people like Vimeo because it is thought to have a more pleasant interface. But if you plan to use it a lot, you will need to use their paid service. Other services are limited in terms of video file support, bandwidth constraints, and many, many other issues.

  • Should I get a paid service?

    It depends upon what you want. Having a paid service allows you much greater control, eliminates pre- and popup-advertising. And generally, linking to your video gives your site more visibility rather than, for example, YouTube, which gets Google Page Rank boasts from the videos you post on it.

  • What about using videos to push traffic to my site?

    This is probably the best reason to go with a paid video hosting service. The number of YouTube users who click from a video to the website the video represents is incredibly small: usually less than 1%. So if a user comes to your YouTube video via a search result, it is very unlikely to end with them visiting your website. Of course, since YouTube is extremely popular (currently the third most visited site on the internet), your videos are more likely to be viewed if hosted there.

  • Is video hosting only used to stream video to customers?

    Not at all. Wistia, for example, was started specifically to allow filmmakers to collaborate on projects. Video hosting can also be used to facilitate the development of video related apps. There are also video hosting companies that stream audio, which can be very important to certain websites.

  • What about live streaming?

    Live streaming allows you to send video straight from a camera (or mixing board) to online viewers in real time. It is used to present everything from streaming concerts to millions of people to streaming a birthday party to far-flung family members. Most video hosting companies offer this service.

  • Should I worry about file formats and the intricacies of video streaming?

    If you are a video professional, you certainly should! And regardless, you should understand the basics of video streaming so you know what people are talking about when shopping for services.

  • What is the difference between video and a video stream?

    Video is a series of images, each of which is displayed for a short period of time. But to send a video over the network like that would use far too much bandwidth. So a video codec is used to convert the original video into a video stream.

  • How does the video codec work?

    The video codec is an encrypting and decrypting system. The codec encrypts the video to be streamed, and then the user's system has its own codec that decrypts it into a lossy version of the original video.

  • What about compression?

    There are roughly two types of compression that are used: individual frame and video frame compression. Individual frame compression works much as it does with individual image files like jpg. Video frame compression is accomplished primarily by sending only some full image frames, and filling the images in between with only the parts of the image that changed. There is, of course, far more to the process than this, but these are the basics.

  • What is H.265 and H.264 and H.Whatever?

    These are just the names of different video coding formats. Different codecs use these standards to know how to encrypt and decrypt video files they are streaming.

  • What about High Efficiency Video Coding?

    High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) is what is going to replace H.264/MPEG-4 AVC. It is the future. However, currently H.264 is the standard -- even on Blu-Ray.

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