Do you know what CDN Network is used by your Online Video Platform (OVP)? If not, this may be an important issue to look into. A CDN can affect every performance indicator for online video operations. This article will examine the impacts of CDN choice on performance, and look at which CDNs are best for optimal video delivery performance.
Delivery: the central challenge of live streams
The average internet speed is trending up, and mobile networks are faster than ever. Despite this, delivery is still the central challenge for live streaming and online video. Major live events like the recent fight between Mayweather and McGregor have continued to be plagued by stream failure and other delivery issues.
Streamers of Super Bowl 51 also encountered some widespread and significant problems.
These stories illustrate the delivery challenges of live streaming. To a lesser extent, the same problems also occur with video-on-demand. Video, especially live video, is a bandwidth-intensive, technically-intensive process. Therefore, it is worth diving into the topic of the CDN network, how these systems work, and crucially, how to know if the CDN your OVP is working with is up to the task of streaming a demanding event.
Introduction to CDN network
Before we move further, let’s define some critical terms. First, CDN Network. The term CDN stands for “Content Delivery Network.” A CDN is, first and foremost, a network of computer servers. The job of a server is to “serve” (deliver) data to users.
Whenever you visit a website, watch a video, or take any action on the internet, a server is involved. Your computer sends a request to the server, which delivers the content to you.
A CDN network is made up of dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of servers located around the world. This design means that any internet user is physically closer to some servers than others. A CDN will automatically link viewers to the closest, fastest available server. This reduces problems with buffering and lagging.
Additionally, a CDN network protects against common failures. Since there are so many nodes, the system is highly redundant. Even a hardware failure usually results in minimal or no disruption to service.
The basics of choosing an OVP
Video is a very powerful tool for communication. We live in a visual world, and young people especially are the online video generation. Any business or organization wanting to take advantage of this has to come up with a method for hosting and delivering video content.
Most turn to free live streaming services such as YouTube Live or Facebook Live. However, as free networks, these have some major drawbacks. For example, every YouTube video contains the YouTube logo and links to their website. This is a drawback for many professional users who prefer a clean look.
Additional drawbacks of YouTube and Facebook include:
- Indiscriminate advertising, which can distract from your message
- Often blocked in schools, workplaces, and universities
- Advanced features, such as monetization, are missing or limited
More discerning professional users will want a professional OVP. A professional OVP platform differs from a free platform in a number of key ways.
Advertising – a professional OVP won’t include any advertising, except that which you choose to include.
Branding – a professional OVP will allow you to insert your own branding. This is often called a “white label” service.
Monetization – a professional OVP may contain features to help you monetize your OTT video via pay-per-view, advertising, or subscriptions.
Management – a professional OVP should include a powerful yet easy-to-use management console or dashboard for organizing content.
Integration – a professional OVP should provide APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that allow you to integrate with existing workflows and create new apps easily.
CDN – finally, a professional OVP should use a high-performance CDN network. We’ll explore what that means in more detail now.
To learn more about choosing an OVP, check out our detailed essay on this subject.
Why CDN network matters
Different CDNs provide different features and levels of performance. They are also optimized for different forms of content. For example, some CDNs focus on images, others on video content, others on downloads. Still other will deliver all types of content.
So how do these differences between CDNs play out?
Point of Presence
One example is what’s called “point of presence,” or POP. POP refers to the geographical distribution of the servers used by a given OVP network. The closer servers are located to viewers, the better your stream will perform. More POP is better.
That’s why we recommended looking for a CDN with a large and widely distributed POP. If your audience is concentrated in certain countries or regions, look for a CDN with plenty of servers nearby.
Speed and Latency
When it comes to live streaming, speed is always a concern. However, it’s difficult to compare one CDN to another on a pure-speed (or latency) basis. Besides this, the internet speed of the broadcaster and the viewers is often more important.
Instead, we recommend looking at the speed with which a CDN can operate. One measure of this is the provisioning of new live channels. For example our own OVP, DaCast, works with Akamai—the largest and one of the most respected CDNs in the world.
This partnership allows us to provide all DaCast users with unlimited streaming channels. You can create a new channel and begin streaming instantly. Many other OVP / CDN partnerships are only able to offer one of a few live channels. On top of this, new channels must be requested days or weeks in advance.
CDNs distribute load across a wide variety of servers. In the event that your main website goes down, content can still be accessible via the content delivery network.
For live streamers, this manifests via the “backup URL.” This Akamai URL means that your stream will fall-back on a secondary stream if failures occur. This minimizes disruption for viewers.
Most CDN’s are highly reliable. However, sometimes problems can arise. In this case, it’s worth looking into customer support. Most often, you’ll be contacting customer support at your OVP, rather than at the CDN.
Some OVPs offer much better customer support than others (DaCast offers 24/7 support).
A CDN can contribute greatly to security.
This distributed network has a secondary benefit. The broad surface area provided by spreading content across the network can mitigate common hacking attacks such as DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service).
On top of this, top CDNs like Akamai are constantly researching, mitigating, and responding to emerging security threats.
Cost is always a factor in business decisions. A CDN allows you to gain access to a scalable system to meet any major spike in demand for your content. If you built your own servers, you’d need to vastly overbuild in order to meet peak demand. A CDN is a smart alternative.
Some CDNs deliver better price-to-performance ratios. Additionally, working with a company like DaCast gives you access to a powerful top-tier CDN at a very competitive price. The alternative—seeking a contract directly—would have significant pricing barriers.
Which CDN does your OVP use?
Anyone who is involved or getting involved in live streaming or online video should research content delivery networks. Learn about the difference between various platforms, and how various OVPs use CDNs. This will help you make a better informed decision about which platform to use.
It’s also important to know that many OVPs don’t include a CDN by default, like DaCast does. Instead, adding CDN delivery is an additional payment option. You can use an external CDN service, however this adds more expense and the hassle of managing multiple service contracts.
Here are the CDNs used by a few popular OVPs.
|Brightcove||Internal CDN / Bring Your Own|
|Kaltura||Internal CDN / Bring Your Own|
CDNs are an important topic to understand for anyone in the video industry. Hopefully this article has educated you about how CDNs work and why they are important. Do you know which CDN your OVP uses? If not, now’s the time to learn.
Thanks for reading, and as always—best of luck with your live streams!
When you’re using live content for business, it’s important to consider your tools carefully.
Most importantly, it’s important to do a little research on which online video platforms are out there, what they do, how they’re different from one another, and which would work best for you.
We all know about Facebook, Twitch, Twitter, Youtube and Periscope, and we’ve covered them before. Here’s the 411 on a few of our other favorites:
DaCast is a San Francisco based OVP. They are a self-service, white-label, online video platform delivering live and on-demand streaming content. Combining their set of paywall technology with web-based streaming configuration leaves you with a one-stop-shop for all your streaming monetization needs. Among PPV technologies, these tools monetization tools include reselling opportunities, and Video On-Demand offerings (among many other features).
DaCast cloud video APIs allows you to customize not only your player but also provides access to video hosting services to fit your own business needs. What’s more, the API allows users to easily access a detailed suite of analytics regarding your broadcast. By giving users the data in raw form, DaCast gives users the ability to code custom displays, pick out the most relevant metrics, and gather the most important information for your operations.
Bambuser’s Iris Platform allows for rolling out ultra low latency, HD video streaming without having to worry about stability, scaling, infrastructure or device fragmentation. Iris can either be used by companies looking to leverage mobile live video through a ready-to-go product suite with Iris Flow, or those looking to integrate live video capabilities into existing apps or mobile platforms using Iris Dev’s advanced developer tools.
Livestream is the only end-to-end live video solution, providing the platform to take your events live anywhere and measure the results, the hardware to stream it, and the services to make your live strategy shine. Livestream has been trusted in the industry for over 10 years, and now with their acquisition by Vimeo, they are positioned to be a powerful streaming video platform for any creator or organization looking to broadcast their message or event and grow their digital audience and ROI. For more information on what makes Livestream different than other platforms, check out this article.
Bulldog DM (recently featured in Forbes) is the world’s first and most experienced live streaming agency. Bulldog DM works with the world’s top experiences and music festivals to guide their live stream strategies with brands, marketers, agencies and distribution platforms. They are best known for their work planning, creating, delivering, and now distributing live streams for music festivals, concerts, broadcast TV events, and product launches.
Stream is a premier live-first online video platform. It removes technological barriers to live streaming by opening up live video to all platforms and devices.
Stream enables media publishers, digital networks, brands, organizations, and broadcasters to capture high-quality live video while enjoying the features required to support live and VOD (video on demand) needs.
Stream developed to avoid third party dependencies, so organizations can effortlessly scale live-first video solutions across devices — from in-event mobile live streaming to embedded web players and more. Learn more here.
Evia provides virtual event solutions for events of all sizes, connecting organizations to their live and virtual audiences. Through Evia Ground, they offer hands-on services for live streaming, on-demand video production, and custom development. Through the Evia Cloud event hosting platform, users can deliver event content to any device via secure, branded, customized event pages. Evia Cloud also provides analytics to help users better understand their audience and event.
ON24 is a leader in webinar-based marketing solutions that drive demand generation and customer engagement. With a simple user interface and powerful webinar analytics and benchmarking tools, it’s a great platform for virtual training, town hall-style meetings, and corporate webinar events.
Ooyala assists with OTT video broadcasting through media management and consulting, video hosting, and monetization strategy. Ooyala is a good solution for content creators who are looking to streamline their operations or gain more subscriptions, ad views, or ppv purchases. While Ooyala is not all about live streaming, they do offer Ooyala Live to deliver and syndicate live content to Facebook, Periscope, Twitch, or Youtube.