Live streaming with a powerful and scalable CDN is a key element in many different types of modern businesses. It can help you promote products or services, share entertainment, drive sales, or produce revenue directly through monetization.
In the words of marketing guru Neil Patel, “Live video streaming is accessible and beneficial to everyone, and it’s time you started using it.” Before you do so, however, you’ll want to consider live streaming CDN pricing, as well as pricing for video streaming CDN hosts.
However, your decision-making ultimately comes down to a return on your investment. To that end, this piece will help you to understand the potential costs of doing business in the live streaming industry.
In this post, we’ll review the purpose of CDNs and discuss why they are important for live streaming. Then, we’ll dive into the pricing information for five of the top streaming solutions on the market. To wrap things up, we will discuss how most broadcasters access CDNs, which is via an online video platform.
This post has been updated to reflect the most accurate information as of November 2020.
Table of Contents
- What is a CDN?
- Why CDNs are Essential for Professional Live Streaming
- How Live Streaming CDN Pricing Works
- Top Live Streaming CDN Pricing: A Comparison
- Accessing a CDN via an Online Video Platform
What is a CDN?
CDN stands for “content delivery network.” A CDN is exactly how it sounds: it is a network of computer servers designed to deliver content.
A CDN consists of computer servers located in data centers around the world. Users of the CDN service can leverage this network to help distribute video on demand, live streaming video, and other types of content.
The CDN network automatically duplicates and caches content dynamically to be streamed to nearby viewers. Therefore, users located in all corners of the globe will be automatically redirected to nearby CDN servers.
This reduces latency and increases speed. Plus, it reduces the chance of streaming failure. That’s since the load is distributed among many different servers rather than concentrated on just one or a few.
Why CDNs are Essential for Professional Live Streaming
For broadcasters that live stream over the internet, using a CDN is essential to ensure proper playback and maintain professional quality.
As one review notes, “Video streaming is one of the largest mega-trends today… Despite the advent of ABR [Adaptive Bit Rate] and HTTP streaming, there still is a need for live video delivery, since live video can’t be cached like the content that has been previously recorded.”
That said, delivery can be a major challenge without a live streaming CDN.
Some broadcasters choose to build their own live streaming server. However, this approach has multiple and significant drawbacks. For one, it incurs technical debt. Beyond the expense of hardware itself, you also have to account for maintenance and engineering staff time. Costs can rise rapidly compared to working with an external provider.
Working with an external CDN provider comes with multiple benefits. These include lower latency due to geographic proximity, as mentioned above. Quality and speed can also rise since each server is handling a smaller load.
Buffering may be reduced. Reliability is higher since CDN architecture is by nature redundant with built-in fail-safes. Security can also be improved since DDoS attacks (flooding a website with malicious requests) are thwarted by massive CDNs.
How Live Streaming CDN Pricing Works
Live streaming CDN pricing varies by provider due to a variety of factors. These factors typically include the amount of bandwidth you need, required features, and the region where you will be streaming to.
Different CDN platforms use different pricing models. Many CDNs use complex per-GB pricing with different regional rates and additional fees for features like transcoding. This approach can be a bit confusing, especially for newcomers to the industry.
If you don’t have a good idea of exactly what features you will need and exactly how much bandwidth you may use, this sort of pricing is a shot in the dark.
There are two different types of platforms you can use to access a content delivery network. The first is a dedicated CDN platform. This approach can get a little bit complicated, but if you are self-hosting your video content, it is an okay way to go.
Alternatively, you can use an online video platform that partners with CDNs for content delivery. These platforms provide additional features and maybe a better option for most video broadcasters. Taking this route removes the specific concern of CDN pricing since the content delivery feature is lumped into the cost of the streaming software.
Top Live Streaming CDN Pricing: A Comparison
Let’s take a look at some different live streaming CDN pricing options. In this comparison, we’re going to look at five popular providers. We will compare Akamai, Limelight, CloudFront, Azure, and EdgeCast.
1. Akamai CDN
Akamai is the largest content delivery network in the world. This CDN has 240,000 servers in over 130 countries. Akamai uses state of the art technology to maintain high quality for broadcasters and viewers around the globe.
They’ve been in the business for a long time and work with many of the world’s largest platforms to deliver video and all other types of content.
Their “Media Services Live” division provides live streaming video delivery. This platform includes a range of features that can be reviewed on their website.
Akamai does not publish pricing information on their website. Each contract is custom priced based on the amount of bandwidth and features you need
However, there is an easy way to access the Akamai CDN with simple, transparent, affordable pricing. We will talk more about this approach shortly.
Another powerful CDN is Limelight. Limelight has been serving broadcasters since 2013. This platform specializes in video and general content delivery, but they also offer cloud security and edge computing services.
Limelight supports both live and real-time streaming, meaning you can count on low-latency and buffer-free streaming.
As for Limelight video CDN pricing, there is no public information. Please contact their sales team for a custom quote.
3. Amazon CloudFront CDN
Next up is Amazon’s CloudFront CDN. CloudFront is part of the Amazon AWS cloud computing platform. This is a reliable service that is widely used in the industry. CloudFront supports a range of live streaming video features.
Getting started with CloudFront is absolutely free for the first year. This includes 50GB of data and 2,000,000 HTTP and HTTPS.
Beyond that, pricing for this CDN is based on region and data usage. For example, content delivery inside the United States, Mexico, Canada, Europe, and Israel starts at $0.085/GB for the first 10 TB of data.
Prices are higher in regions with less developed infrastructure.
4. Verizon EdgeCast
The final service we’ll look at is called Edgecast. The EdgeCast CDN is widely distributed globally and known for speed.
Live streaming CDN pricing details are not available online. Like Akamai, EdgeCast negotiates each contract on a customized basis. You need to contact them directly to discuss your specific needs if you are interested in getting a quote.
5. Microsoft Azure
Next, let’s examine Microsoft’s Azure CDN. Azure delivers all sorts of content. However, they have a dedicated “Media Services division” that focuses on live streaming and on-demand video.
Like many other CDN’s, Azure pricing depends on the region. In the Western United States, live streaming starts at $2.15/day, which equates to around $64.50/month.
Encoding can be added for an additional fee. This starts at $0.015/output minute. Tech support is an additional fee starting at $29 per month for basic support.
This CDN’s pricing structure is a bit complex, so we recommend checking out the Azure pricing page for details on content delivery in your specific region.
Accessing a CDN via an Online Video Platform
Many broadcasters don’t invest in a CDN directly, but they access one through their online video platform. This is generally much more convenient and cost-effective.
Choosing an online video platform with a built-in CDN helps save the headache and hassle of sorting out another layer of technology. For broadcasters who are business people first, going with an online video platform that is already equipped for content delivery makes the most sense.
Dacast’s CDN Access
Dacast is an online video platform that partners with a few of the world’s best CDNs to resell its streaming data at a very special price. All live streaming and VOD content on Dacast is delivered via Limelight or Akamai.
Dacast also adds a wide range of video features, many of which are unavailable with other CDN providers.
Pricing is cost-competitive. Our Starter plan costs just $39 per month for new streamers and low-volume needs. The popular Scale Plan, which runs at $188/month comes with reduced per-GB bandwidth costs. Custom-priced plans are also available for high-volume streaming needs.
All of our plans include access to pro-features like monetization, privacy and security, easy embedding, and video API access.
Live streaming CDN pricing comes in many forms. You can tell by our platform comparison that there is no standard pricing other than by the use of bandwidth. There is also so much variety within the available pricing options for each CDN.
Our professional opinion is that using an online video platform with a CDN partnership is the way to go. It simplifies the live streaming process and takes a bunch of guesswork out of the cost of streaming.
Are you ready to check out how our live streaming solution could boost your business? See for yourself with our 30-day free trial. All you have to do to start your trial is to create a Dacast account. No credit card required.
Thanks for reading! We love to hear from our readers, so if you have any questions or experiences to share, let us know in the comments. And for regular tips on live streaming, feel free to join our LinkedIn group.