Streaming Live With Akamai Server: Benefits of Using a CDN

Streaming video over the Internet is a demanding procedure. Not only does live streaming require loads of bandwidth, but it also requires a great deal of power. Whenever you wish to broadcast live, using a content delivery network (CDN), such as Akamai, will deliver the fastest possible speeds and best user experiences. To effectively stream video online, it all starts with choosing the right CDN.

What is a CDN?

A CDN, or content delivery/distribution network, is a global network of proxy servers in various locations worldwide. The goal of this system is to improve the performance of Internet-based technologies—especially video and other rich media—by reducing bottlenecks in the system.

Today, content delivery networks deliver a large portion of the data that is sent over the Internet. Businesses, which may have a fluctuating demand for data or cannot afford the hefty cost of deploying servers worldwide, usually rely on CDNs for their content.

To secure this arrangement, businesses often pay a fee to content delivery network providers to license storage space and bandwidth on their network, which is already built out and optimized for delivering content.

Generally, when content like a live video is being produced and distributed through a CDN, it will first go to a single server. From there, the content will be duplicated and transferred to multiple locations around the world.

Once the file has been duplicated, it can be accessed more quickly and smoothly by users who are located in far-flung locations around the world. This process is completely invisible to the end user; they simply type in a URL or click something. In the background, the CDN system will route them to the nearest CDN copy of the content at hand.

Protection from Attacks

Using a CDN helps protect a business from DDOS attacks. DDOS, or distributed denial of service, is a common type of cyber attack that compromises a website or service by flooding the server with millions of fraudulent data requests, overloading those machines. A CDN prevents DDOS attacks from being effective by distributing the data across so many different servers.

Who Runs Content Delivery Networks?

Multiple companies deploy content delivery networks to distribute their material more efficiently. Major Internet companies like Microsoft, Apple, and Yahoo have their own CDN networks. Amazon has an internal CDN, and also rents out space to other businesses and organizations who wish to use the power of a CDN without the expense and hassle of building one of their own.

What is Akamai?

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One of the foremost CDN providers in the world is Akamai Technologies, a media company based in Massachusetts. Akamai was founded in 1998 and runs a number of server networks that are of global importance. It’s estimated that Akamai servers are responsible for sending between 15% and 30% of all web traffic in the world.

Akamai maintains the largest content delivery network in the world, with more than 216,000 servers as of 2016. These servers are located in over 120 countries and within some 1,500 discrete networks.

Their platform is trusted by some of the largest and most important companies in the world, such as:

  • One out of every three Global 500® companies (Source: List compiled by Fortune Magazine)
  • All 20 top global e-commerce sites
  • 96 of the top 100 online U.S. retailers (Source: Internet Retailer Magazine)
  • All branches of the U.S. military
  • More than 150 of the world’s leading news portals
  • Eight of the top 10 U.S online brokers (Source: Smart Money)
  • Eight of the top 10 U.S asset management firms (Source: Institutional Investor)
  • All of the top 10 P&C insurance carriers (Source: A.M. Best)

In addition to the impressive figures on Akamai’s ubiquity, the CDN provider boasts some equally remarkable statistics regarding the product itself:

  • Delivers about 4 TB of data per second
  • Serves approximately 3 trillion web interactions per day
  • Enables more than $250 billion in annual e-commerce transactions
  • Is within a single network hop of 85% of all Internet users

As you can see, Akamai delivers a premium quality experience for users. These reasons led DaCast to choose Akamai as our content delivery network for our live streaming video and on-demand needs.

How does DaCast Use Akamai?

When videos are streamed or uploaded for on-demand playback via the DaCast online video platform, they initially travel to DaCast servers on the CDN network. However, they are immediately duplicated and sent to other servers on Akamai’s network. This provides top-notch quality and speed for DaCast users, while also keeping costs and complexity to a minimum.

Benefits of a CDN

Streaming Live With Akamai Server Benefits of Using a CDN

Reduced Latency

Latency is the time between when a user accesses a file or service and when the server responds. When your server is located far from your user, or when the network is congested with other users, this latency can be very long.

A CDN both reduces the distance to the nearest server and provides for a higher total network bandwidth. Both these factors combine to greatly reduce latency and produce a better viewing experience for the user, with snappy effects, fast loading, and little lag between clicking and getting results.

Lower Packet Loss

One problem that can occur with sending data over the Internet is what’s known as “packet loss.” Packet loss happens when some of the packets of information that are traveling across the network fail to reach their destination.

This can happen for a variety of reasons, including variations in Internet speed and availability, equipment malfunction, signal interference, and so on. Usually, packet loss is measured as a percentage of total packets sent.

A CDN provides a stable, reliable server network to deliver your files, reducing the rate of packet loss. This is especially important when it comes to live streaming video, because live video is sent “packet by packet” in real time. Any packet loss beyond a low level can cause unacceptable lagging and quality issues in a live stream, but a high-quality CDN can reduce and even eliminate this occurrence.

Increased Speed

A network is only as fast as its weakest link. In a similar sense, streaming media is only as fast as the weakest link. At the back end, the broadcaster needs enough bandwidth to upload their live data, and needs to avoid network congestion and slowdowns as well. The server infrastructure that is ingesting and then serving the streaming data to users needs to be fast and efficient, and then at the front end, the user needs to have sufficient Internet speed as well.

Content delivery networks reduce the number of “network hops” between end users and the data they are attempting to access. This can vastly increase the speed at which content is delivered, especially large, rich media like on demand and live streaming video. Using a CDN is usually the only option for effective, fast live video, specifically if you’re expecting a large number of viewers.

Redundancy

What happens if you’re in the middle of an important broadcast and the power supply on your only server fails? Unfortunately, you’re out of luck at that point.

Using a content delivery network removes this danger by incorporating a built-in redundancy. CDNs are built to maximize uptime and provide a seamless user experience even in the event that hardware failure does occur. In this case, failover backup systems automatically begin operating, and the user can continue viewing their media uninterrupted. This system, which uses RAID hard drives, is a standard in industries where failure is not an option.

Cost Reduction

For a business or other organization, serving media to a large number of visitors can become very expensive, very quick. Bandwidth, equipment, and electricity costs add up fast, and that’s before taking into consideration the hiring costs for an engineer and other personnel.

A CDN provider simplifies this by providing content delivery as a service, giving you simple billing and accounting, predictable costs, and overall savings that come from specialization, efficiency, and the economies of scale made possible when companies like Akamai deploy servers in the hundreds of thousands. All of this can add up to significant savings.

Scalability

A home-brew server may be able to handle a hundred streamers at once, but what happens if your content goes viral? Suddenly, millions of people around the world are all trying to access your data at once, flooding the system. The usual result of this is a system crash, and a scrambling to capitalize on all the traffic that you’re missing out on.

To remedy this weakness, you need a system that is scalable. A CDN solves this issue through the strength and size of the network. With a CDN like Akamai that has provided streaming media services for many of the biggest live events, you can rest assured that bandwidth or number of concurrent users will never overwhelm the system.

Caching

Using a CDN allows files to be cached through the jQuery standard. This means that if a user has previously visited or viewed your content, they may not have to download it again if it is hosted on a CDN. This speeds up the user experience a great deal.

Parallel Downloads / Streams

Most web browsers limit the number of simultaneous connections to a single website. This can be a problem if you’re trying to download, stream, or watch multiple videos from the same domain at the same time. While this may be a rare use case, a CDN bypasses this issue by delivering content from multiple servers, allowing you to stream or download various forms of content at once.

Local and Global

Setting up systems to provide smooth content delivery in regions that have different cultures, different technical procedures, and different languages can be extremely difficult. Paying for foreign service providers can be expensive, time consuming, and confusing.

Fortunately, there is a better way to reach a worldwide audience. Using a CDN nullifies this issue by providing a ready-made global platform. The customer only has to deal with one partner, and the user comes out with a localized, fast experience.

Detailed Analytics

Using a CDN will provide you with detailed analytics that can be broken down by file, type of data, region, and so on. In many cases, this data is more accurate and thorough than other analytics that may be available, and can be helpful in marketing and targeting efforts.

Broadcast Live Video with DaCast and Akamai

target audienceDaCast’s video streaming and hosting as a service provides a quick and simple way for users to distribute media content online. Our “streaming as a service” model makes it easy to get started, and with our blog, we aim to help those not as adept on the technical side of things to get up-to-date on the technological requirements for quality live streams.

With the proliferation of fast Internet connections and the declining price of high-definition cameras, streaming is easier than ever. However, for self-hosting streams, distribution remains an issue. With DaCast as your live streaming and on-demand video host, and Akamai as the content delivery network backbone that delivers the content globally, you can rest assured that your media content is hosted on the best platform available.

DaCast offers a variety of other powerful features. For example, content can be monetized using either a pay-per-view or a subscription model. When users access the content, they can make a payment in the same video window, making the experience seamless and fast.

Streams hosted on DaCast can be played on our website, hosted on your own site, and even embedded on social media. Our advanced API provides access to raw stream URLs, allowing you to include your streams in a mobile app or build a whole new app around them.

One of our favorite new features is the ability to link your DaCast account to a user-generated Roku channel. This allows viewers to access your live streaming and on-demand content on their Roku smart TV devices.

The DaCast platform is accessible via a 30-day free trial, and the full service is available for several pricing tiers. Users interested in a single event can purchase one-time streaming as a service, while broadcasters who produce content on a regular basis can purchase a monthly plan. Either way, there are no contracts, no start up fees, and absolutely no hassle.