Today, 79 percent of all global consumer web traffic comes from watching video online. There are two reasons for this. First, people spend one third of their online activity time watching video. The second reason is that video is data-intensive. A single video stream can use more data than 10,000 pages of text. Because it’s so data-intensive, many broadcasters use CDN solutions for streaming live video.
A CDN, or Content Delivery Network, is a global network of servers designed to deliver content from publishers to viewers quickly and efficiently. This is ideal for video delivery, both video on demand and streaming live video.
This article will look at various CDN solutions. We’ll start with an overview of how these platforms work. Then, we’ll discuss how they specifically support high-volume streaming applications. We’ll review the benefits of using a CDN, then move to looking at what the differences are between various common CDNs. Finally, we’ll share our favorite method for getting access to powerful live streaming CDN solutions at an affordable price.
CDN solutions for delivering streaming live video
As we’ve already said, CDN solutions are made up of a distributed network of servers. However, what is it that these servers actually do?
Basically, a CDN replicates content and delivers it to users using the server that is closest to them. For example, a large business creates a demo video broadcast for a product launch. This video is posted to their website product page, and distributed via their CDN partnership. Ten thousand people simultaneously visit the web page and access the video. Can your servers handle that much content—and can they deliver an optimal viewing experience?
A CDN can. The CDN reads these requests, and caches the video on dozens or hundreds of servers. Then, it re-routes each user dynamically to server that is closest to them. The bigger and stronger the network, the better result. All of this is done in real-time. The same basic principle is used for CDN delivery of streaming live video and other content, too.
Benefits of using a CDN solution
There are five main benefits to using a CDN.
1. Reduced latency
Latency is a measure of the time elapsed between an event occurring in real life, and a streaming video feed showing the event. Most live streams have latency of roughly 10-30 seconds. By reducing the distance between the server and the viewer, CDN solutions can reduce video latency. This is especially important for sports, video games, and other rapid action streaming where a few seconds can make a huge difference.
2. Accommodate huge traffic spikes
What happens if your stream or video-on-demand goes viral, and a million people want to watch it? Are you prepared for that traffic spike? If you’re rolling your own live streaming server, the answer is almost certainly no. A CDN allows you to scale dynamically to reach any size audience by distributing load across dozens or hundreds of servers globally.
3. Increased security
Some of the most common hacking attacks involve overloading servers with mindless requests. These “DDoS” attacks are simple and highly effective. However, they can be mitigated by using a CDN. Whenever servers are attacked, content will simply be moved to another location. This is a big additional layer of security.
4. Better quality of experience
Quality matters for viewers. Sixty-three percent of 2017 live stream viewers cited buffering issues as the most serious issue they experience. That number is actually an increase from the previous year! This points to the fact that improving user experience needs to be a major priority for broadcasters. Using a high-quality CDN increases quality of experience (QoE) by reducing buffering.
5. Reduce technical debt
As we’ve written before, running your own video servers is expensive. It requires investing in hardware, maintenance, and staff to monitor and upgrade equipment. This “technical debt” is a big reason why it’s better to simply use a CDN. Instead of maintaining all this infrastructure, you simply have to maintain a contract with a professional CDN solutions provider.
High volume streaming and OTT via CDN
For high-volume live streaming video, using CDN solutions is even more important. Delays and buffering issues are not acceptable for major businesses. Every one-second delay in page load time could lead to $1.6B in annual losses for major online merchants.
Major broadcasters expect audiences to easily reach 10,000+ simultaneous viewers for any digital video asset. This type of load is unsustainable using traditional in-house server arrangements. A CDN is the best solution for OTT video and other high-volume use-cases.
Common CDNs and why the right CDN matters
There are a variety of CDNs on the market today. Different CDN solutions focus on different segments of the market. For example, some CDNs focus on images, and others on static website content. Still others focus on video, and others are all-purpose CDNs.
For a detailed review of this topic, check out our full CDN comparison here. In this article, we’ll just do a basic overview of a few of the most popular platforms: Microsoft Azure, Amazon’s CloudFront, CloudFlare, and Akamai CDN.
Microsoft Azure CDN
- 100 percent uptime
- 30 PoP server locations worldwide
- Can be expensive
- Complex setup and management
Amazon CloudFront CDN
- Affordable pricing
- Very customizable
- 79 PoP locations across 49 countries
- Not the fastest CDN
- Simple pricing with free tier for personal websites
- Does not include live streaming functionality
- Limited support for video-on-demand
- Robust live streaming and video-on-demand functionality
- Instant provisioning of live channels
- More than 240,000 servers located in more than 130 countries
- Delivers between 15 and 30 percent of all web traffic, globally
Comparing CDN solutions vs. Online Video Platforms
An OVP is a dedicated tool for online video management, customization, and publishing. There are a variety of OVPs on the market today. Each provides a variety of tools that may provide analytics, monetization, API access, and more. Specifics will vary from platform to platform.
The main benefit of using an OVP is that you gain the use of a user-friendly platform for hosting and managing video content. Unlike a CDN, an OVP is specialized for video content. This often means that tools like a video player, paywall/monetization solutions, and detailed tutorials are available.
Using an OVP instead of a CDN sometimes allows you to gain access to a CDN as well. In this case, you get all the benefits of both.
How to get access to powerful CDN solutions at an affordable price
Most OVPs use internal server networks to deliver video content. These networks can be robust but don’t have the same benefits as using CDN solutions.
However, some OVPs partner with a CDN directly. This means that you get access to all the benefits of an OVP and a CDN—without the drawbacks.
Here at DaCast, we partner with the Akamai CDN. This means that we can offer the speed and reliable delivery of Akamai’s CDN solutions alongside the comprehensive video tools and simplified pricing of the DaCast OVP. This is the best option for most businesses and organizations who need streaming live video and video-on-demand services.
Hopefully, this article has helped you understand how CDN solutions work and how to integrate them into your online video efforts. If you are not already working with a video streaming solution, you can start today with DaCast. We offer a free 30-day trial (no credit card required) so you can test out DaCast’s features and see if they work for you. Click here to sign up:
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