Comparing Live Streaming CDN Providers: Azure, CloudFront, Cloudflare, and Beyond

comparing live streaming CDN

The video streaming market is predicted to be worth $70.5 billion by 2021. Live streaming is making up the majority of that growth. Countless businesses are getting involved in this industry by building their own video streaming platforms. Often, this requires comparing live streaming CDN providers—the topic of this article.

Simply put, a CDN is a network of servers that can deliver your content quickly, reliably, and globally. This is essential for large audiences, OTT video, and maximizing quality.

This piece will be comparing live streaming CDN providers, including Microsoft’s Azure CDN, CloudFlare CDN, and Amazon’s CloudFront CDN. We’ll also compare these services against a different option: using a the DaCast video platform to gain access to the Akamai CDN.

How well do these services perform when you want to stream live video and video-on-demand? Can they handle the load? Read on to learn more!

Comparing live streaming CDN providers

Each CDN is different. Different providers have different focuses, and therefore each CDN has a variety of different features. Feature differences as well as price, ease of use, and support allow  comparing live streaming CDN services.

These comparisons should help you get a sense of the market. This should also help eliminate services that don’t meet your needs, so that your choices become simpler.

The importance of CDNs for OTT video and live streaming

comparing live streaming CDNThe broadcast video market, which has traditionally been dominated by TV, is increasingly moving online. This is often described as the OTT transition. OTT stands for “Over The Top.” Typically the term refers to video delivery services that distribute directly over the internet.

These digital video files are large and computationally-intensive to process. They can place major strain on servers, mobile networks, and distribution systems. For this reason, OTT and other online video efforts are key considerations when comparing live streaming CDN providers. CDNs distribute the load of video use between many different servers, speeding up connections and reducing problems such as buffering and lagging.

Comparing live streaming CDN providers can vastly improve the viewer experience.

A CDN makes all your video strategies and streaming solutions much more effective. CDNs enable performance and delivery at scale, especially under high-stress situations. Massive traffic, random spikes in viewership, server outages, and hacking attacks can all be managed with a CDN. Given that companies that use video grow revenue 49 percent faster than those that don’t, using a CDN enabled service is a no-brainer.

Now, let’s dive right into comparing live streaming CDN services.

Microsoft Azure CDN

comparing live streaming CDNWe’ll start comparing live streaming CDN providers with Azure. Microsoft’s Azure CDN provides a wide range of services. Their Media Services division focused on video. This includes encoding, video player, content protection, and both on-demand and live streaming content delivery.

The Azure CDN is well-suited for users who need Microsoft integration. For example, integrating this service with Azure storage is simple. The Azure platform can be accessed via PowerShell or with a .NET SDK, or with a RESTful API and Node.js.

Pricing for Azure CDN can be confusing, as most CDNs. That’s because services are billed as you use them based on multiple variables. General pricing for North America, Europe, Middle East, and Africa starts at 8.7 cents per GB. You can learn more about costs for Azure CDN on their pricing page.

Pros

  • 100 percent uptime
  • Azure CDN integrates with other Microsoft services
  • Video analytics

Cons

  • Only 30 PoP (Point of Presence) server locations worldwide
  • Can be expensive compared to budget services
  • Complex setup and management
  • Cheaper plans have limited features
  • Technical support only available for an additional fee ($29/month and up)

Amazon CloudFront CDN

comparing live streaming CDNAmazon’s CloudFront CDN is another major competitor to consider when comparing live streaming CDN providers. As an easy-t0-use option, CloudFront is quite popular.  For video and OTT broadcasters, CloudFront integrates RTMP ingestion and distribution, as well as encoding and video distribution.

CloudFront is configured via an easy-to-use web panel which allows a lot of customization. It also integrates with other Amazon Web Services, which is a plus for some businesses who have already invested in S3 or other elements of that ecosystem. Additional services like SSL certificates, Web Application Firewall, and DDoS protection are integrated for free.

Pricing starts at 8.5 cents per GB in the United States and Europe, with prices per GB falling as the volume of data increases. However, pricing can be quite a bit more expensive in other regions. Billing is based on how much bandwidth you use.

Pros

  • Affordable pricing
  • Lots of options to customize
  • Relatively easy to use
  • Free SSL certificates

Cons

  • Only 79 PoP locations across 49 countries
  • Confusing pricing
  • Technical support only available for an additional fee (starting at $29 per month)
  • Not the fastest CDN

CloudFlare CDN

comparing live streaming CDNAnother of the top CDNs is CloudFlare. CloudFlare has a more limited scope than Azure CDN or CloudFront CDN. Their CDN focuses exclusively on web content, and generally excludes OTT and live streaming video.

That means that it falls somewhat outside the scope of desirability for live streamers and OTT video providers.

It is possible to use CloudFlare to serve video files, but only on a limited basis. You’ll have to dive into some configuration files to set this up. Furthermore, the service doesn’t include additional video-related features like video analytics or a video player.

However, CloudFlare is still a capable CDN. It consistently ranks as one of the fastest CDNs around. CloudFlare pricing is also simple in comparison to most other services. The CDN charges a flat-rate monthly fee regardless of how much bandwidth you use. The Pro plan is $20 per month, the Business plan is $200 per month, and users can negotiate Enterprise plans on a case-by-case basis.

Pros

  • Simple pricing
  • Free tier for personal websites
  • DDoS protection
  • Fast

Cons

The best option: comparing live streaming CDN integration with an OVP

When comparing live streaming CDN services, there is an alternative option that’s, in our opinion, the best approach.

This alternative involves using an OVP (Online Video Platform) that integrates with a live streaming CDN directly.

comparing live streaming CDNWe can consider an OVP like a Swiss Army Knife for online video. Here at DaCast, we offer video hosting and video streaming services, all within an API-based online video platform.

DaCast also works with Akamai CDN, the largest content delivery network in the world. Akamai has a global network of more than 165,000 servers to deliver content to users. These servers are located in 130 countries—more than any other CDN by far. Akamai has also been measured as faster and more reliable than Cloudfront, and has vastly superior video support to Cloudflare.

Choosing DaCast allows users to access a top-tier CDN and access a toolbox of online video features without having to manage multiple contracts. And this partnership comes at an affordable, competitive price.

Some of the features that we offer are:

  • User-friendly streaming platform
  • Instant provisioning of live channels from anywhere in the world
  • Embed your OTT video to your website or to social media
  • White label system
  • Integrated video player
  • Paywall supports pay-per-view or subscription monetization
  • Advertising support
  • Organize VODs through packages and scheduled playlists
  • Video APIs
  • Geo and referrer restrictions as well as other security features
  • Analytics dashboard to track performance of live streams and VODs

Conclusion

As we’ve covered, using a CDN is essential for most modern video businesses. However, we also know that comparing live streaming CDN providers can be confusing. We hope this article will help you differentiate between some of the big CDN players on the market.

We’ve concluded that using an online video platform such as DaCast is the best way to build a video platform for your business or organization. It’s a more feature rich and affordable option than using a CDN directly, and will provide better performance.

Plus, we offer a 30-day free trial so that you can test out streaming over the Akamai CDN right now. No credit card necessary! Click the button below to start streaming live today.

comparing live streaming CDN

Any questions, comments, or ideas? Let us know below. We enjoy hearing from our readers and will get back to you when we can. For regular tips on live streaming and exclusive offers, feel free to join our LinkedIn group.

Thanks for reading, and as always, best of luck with your live streams!

By Max Wilbert.

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