Picking a Video Hosting Provider

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Audio and Video Streaming: Deciding on a Host

If you are planning on streaming video, audio, or both, from your website, then you should take a number of factors into consideration before choosing your web hosting company. Some offer advanced streaming capabilities, while some don’t permit it at all. In between are a number of companies that will allow you to stream, but with some pretty hefty limitations.

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Here’s a checklist you should use when making your hosting decision.

Streaming vs Downloading

Though downloading is, over time, becoming the less popular option, many ISP’s work this way because it’s easier on their end. Basically, they treat your audio or video file as just that — a file. When the user clicks on it, the file downloads to their computer, at which time they can decide to play it “locally.”

Streaming is a technology that plays from the server, not the user’s computer. When the user clicks on the audio or video link, that file begins to play almost immediately, and the server “streams” data to the user’s computer as the file is playing. All in all, a much better experience for the user, which is why it has gained in popularity.

Audio / Video Formats

The four most commonly used formats are: Flash, Windows Media, Quicktime, and Real. Many ISP’s will offer one or two of these, in which case you have to make sure that your file types are supported.

NOTE: Each format has its advantages and disadvantages, which are covered here: Video Format Article. As an added bonus, some audio / video hosting companies will actually provide you with a facility to re-encode your files into different formats — this is called “transcoding.”

Traffic Capacity

Should you anticipate a small amount of traffic — for instance, your audio files might get played only once every few days — then bandwidth is not an issue for you. But if you think that your audio and video files might very well see a lot of action, then there are two facets to your streaming hosting provider that should concern you.

The first is overall bandwidth. All ISP’s put a limit on the bandwidth you can use per month. Video files, especially, use up a lot of bandwidth, and could cause you to incur extra charges. There’s a handy formula for calculating this, here: Bandwidth Calculator.

Second is the amount of concurrent streams your host can offer you. Most ISP’s will let, at most, 10 listeners listen to your audio files or view your video files at one time. But what if you do a big promotion, and dozens of fans try to view your content at the same time? The result: long wait times, delivery glitches, or just plain lack of access. Not a good idea!

Your ISP, or a Dedicated Streaming Host

While your website host may offer some limited streaming capabilities, they will probably never match up to a “specialty” streaming host. These are companies which have the latest servers, and virtually unlimited access to bandwidth, both data delivery and concurrent viewers. Surprisingly, they’re costs are quite reasonable because they deal in volume. What’s more, they allow you to use their servers to deliver your files without the view ever being aware of a 3rd party.

The upshot is that if you’re counting on any substantial traffic to your audio and video files, you should seriously consider a dedicating audio and video streaming hosting company. You’ll be glad you did!

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