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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.