Taking a DIY approach to streaming and setting up your own live streaming server may sound like a simple approach to broadcasting live. The fact that everything can be done in-house and on your own terms can be incredibly appealing.
Unfortunately, there are a few serious drawbacks to rolling out your own live streaming server. Many of these drawbacks are specific to streaming live video. For example, system admins familiar with standard web content may not be equipped to deal with the common challenges and requirements for streaming live content.
In this article, we will highlight some of the risks and pitfalls of creating and operating your own live streaming server. Our goal is to help you make an informed decision about the feasibility of running your own live streaming server.
Let’s get to it.
Table of Contents
- 6 Potential Drawbacks to a DIY Live Streaming Server
- Lack of Redundancy
- Limits to Scale
- Security Vulnerabilities
- Technical Debt
- Exploring Alternatives to Self-Hosting
6 Potential Drawbacks to a DIY Live Streaming Server
There are a number of potential drawbacks when it comes to operating your own live streaming server. These include issues with latency, buffering, fail-safes, capacity security, and more.
Let’s review six of the most common issues and challenges presented for broadcasters who decide to live stream with DIY servers.
In the world of broadcasting, latency refers to the delay in a live stream. This lag time tends to be affected by several factors.
First, distance plays a role. Processing data moving across telecommunications networks takes time. Therefore, the further your server is located from your audience, the slower your content will appear to be.
Latency also increases with traffic load. With a lone or small handful of servers, these issues can become burdensome.
This can be solved with a professional content delivery network that has servers spread out nationally, or even globally, to ensure that your intended viewers are always within range.
Network slowdowns or bottlenecks between the server and the viewer cause live video feed buffering. You’ve probably all experienced buffering when trying to stream content online, and you know how frustrating it can be.
Buffering problems can be mitigated through multi-bitrate streaming and an adaptive player. This is called “adaptive streaming.” However, even with adaptive streaming buffering issues can persist.
If your video goes viral and a single server or small cluster is hit with a high volume of requests, buffering time will increase rapidly. Streams may even fail to load at all. As a result, you risk losing viewers and opportunities to reach new viewers, among other negative consequences.
3. Lack of redundancy
Our recommended best practice for live streaming is to always have a backup stream. With two streams coming to your viewers via independent paths, you can bypass problems mid-broadcast. This double-stream approach is called “redundancy.”
When using a dynamic server network, such as a live streaming CDN, this issue is generally nonexistent. If one machine goes offline, your backup stream will come online right away.
Redundancy becomes much more difficult and complex with a limited server architecture. A dropout in service caused by equipment failure, a power surge, or other system-wide issues can shut down your entire stream.
Even if you have a backup stream, this won’t matter when a problem affects your whole system.
4. Limits to scale
Another issue related to running your own live streaming server has to do with the scale of operation. Each server has a finite number of viewers who can stream simultaneously.
Scaling up from one server to two (or more as your audience grows) can be challenging to set up and configure. If you experience even greater growth (or have a broadcast that goes viral), you’ll need to boost infrastructure significantly and often very quickly.
The costs and complexity of this can stifle many broadcasters, especially individuals and small businesses. Furthermore, you could end up paying considerably more to resolve ongoing issues of scale than you would if you contracted with a professional platform in the first place.
5. Security vulnerabilities
Running your own server means you have total autonomy. That also means that security is completely up to you. In a world of constant ransomware, phishing attacks, and piracy, securing a server is a complex and demanding task.
By using a dedicated provider, however, you can bypass the need for security knowledge and investment. Any measures you can put into place on a small scale are likely to be minor compared to a professional online video platform (e.g. Dacast).
6. Technical debt
One concept that’s essential for businesses, non-profits, universities, and other organizations is “technical debt.”
Essentially, technical debt refers to the consequences of creating critical technological systems. Once created, you have to maintain these integral systems. Even if you designed the systems to solve problems, they can end up causing new problems as well.
Over time, a growing amount of technology can create technical debt. Similar to financial debt, technical debt can drag down your self-run live streaming server endeavor. These technical obligations interfere with your ability to be nimble and invest time and resources into new technologies.
Of course, sometimes the issue of technical debt is simply unavoidable. Nonetheless, it’s an important consideration to keep in mind for anyone building their own servers.
Exploring Alternatives to Self-Hosting
Did you know that it is totally possible to maintain control of your content while streaming live video on your website via a dedicated streaming service?
One great alternative is to use an online video platform (OVP). Most OVPs combine the Software as a Service (SaaS) business model with Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).
By paying a simple, predictable monthly fee, you gain access to world-class hardware and the software to support it.
Since they are much easier to use and they avoid the issues tied to self-hosting, your organization may want to consider professional streaming solutions.
The good news is that, nowadays, live streamers can choose from several video streaming platforms that are both accessible and affordable. The Dacast streaming service, as one example, offers affordable live streaming, even for individual broadcasters not affiliated with a business.
The bottom line? We recommend considering a dedicated platform to circumvent the risks, costs, and time associated with creating your own streaming solutions.
Given these six drawbacks to self-hosting outlined above, it makes sense for broadcasters to consider another method of live streaming.
We’ve witnessed first-hand the complications that can arise, and we know that the average broadcaster can’t don’t have the financial or technical means to address all of those issues.
Not yet a Dacast broadcaster? You don’t have to take our word that the Dacast service is feature-rich with pricing plans for every budget! Instead, you can sign up for our free trial to access free live streaming and all our great features for 30 days (no credit card required).
For regular tips on live streaming and exclusive offers, we also invite you to join our LinkedIn group. As always, we love to hear from our readers! If you’ve experienced other issues and challenges not covered in this article, let us know in the comment section below.
Thanks for reading, and happy streaming!