The world is currently undergoing a big change. This change is focused around a lot of businesses working remotely, canceling in-person events and searching for ways to keep in touch with employees and clients through technology.
As a business owner, are you now searching for a powerful video streaming solution for delivering OTT content? As the world quickly turns fully digital, content delivery networks (CDNs) are ramping up business to ensure full accessibility for new customers and viewers alike.
Over the past decade, young millennials (ages 14-25) began watching more video on digital devices than on television. In recent years, this trend has only accelerated. In fact, we’re living in a key moment in the evolution of media and entertainment history. Today, research shows overwhelmingly that digital video now represents the single most important media format today. This has since grown again following the movement to close company locations during the COVID-19 crisis.
This blog post looks at the top 7 CDN providers in 2020 for mobile-compatible, HTML5 live video streaming. Exactly what businesses are looking for as they show up online in greater numbers than ever before.
HTML5 Live Video Streaming: A Key Industry Standard
In the past, most live video streams reached viewers via the Flash format. Originally developed by Macromedia and later acquired by Adobe, the Flash Plugin soon became a ubiquitous part of the internet.
This all changed with the launch of the first iPhone, however. Steve Jobs famously refused to include Flash support due to security and battery-life problems. Instead, Apple created an alternative called HLS—HTTP Live Streaming.
HLS is supported on iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Linux, and almost every other modern platform. It also doesn’t require a plugin but instead uses built-in HTML5 browser functionality. HTML5 is now by far the preferred method for video playback.
Dacast has an HTML5 player that can simply be embedded on any website. It’s white-label and fully customizable. You’re able to add your own company’s branding, colors and more. In order to deliver your video, you can utilize the latest cutting-edge technologies and long-establish standards. Use any RTMP hardware, software encoder or choose “HLS Ingest” via Dacast’s low-latency live streaming solution.
In 2019, over seventy-nine percent of all global consumer web traffic comes from video, most likely from HTML5. That figure continues to grow in 2020. Given this trend, HTML5 and mobile-compatible live streaming are absolutely essential for businesses.
Content Delivery Network (CDN): a Must-Have for 2020
This year, as more and more businesses move to remote working and staying in touch with their customer base via the internet, a reliable CDN provider is essential. We all knew that the world was turning digital, but this year the switch has happened hard and fast. In order to keep up, your business will need a video strategy through a CDN and it should be scalable as the business grows.
A content delivery network exists to deliver content via the internet. This content can come in the form of text, images, video and much more. The use of a CDN happens most often when a business is trying to distribute large files. Even a short, relatively low-resolution video requires much more storage space (at rest) and bandwidth (in transit) than other types of data. CDN providers exist to help you cope with this.
Think of it as the equivalent of cell phone towers pinging for optimal signal.
How Does CDN Streaming Work?
The internet isn’t immediate. While it may seem like it is, it does take a certain amount of time for content to reach your computer or mobile device.
A CDN is made up of a network of servers located in various locations around the world. This network exists to “cache” content. Caching is the process of copying data and storing it in multiple different locations.
This provides two benefits. First, it allows users in different geographic locations to be routed to the server closest to them, which reduces data transit time. Therefore, using a live streaming CDN increases speed and reduces buffering. Additionally, CDN providers create redundancy. Instead of all visitors being routed to one or a small number of servers, the load can be spread among many different servers.
A high-quality CDN can revolutionize and streamline the process. Using a CDN helps your business use a widely distributed network of live streaming servers for your content. When a viewer requests content from a CDN, they are routed to the closest server. This happens through the use of a viewer’s IP address. Distance between the server and the users adds potential latency (lag time) to the internet connection.
Why Use CDN Providers?
By connecting to servers around the world, CDNs are able to create a shorter route for a video stream to make it from the platform to a viewer’s computer or mobile phone. Using this large network of servers lets scalability become possible should viewership increase. Here are some other benefits to using a CDN provider:
- Speed – Content delivery networks deliver content at low latency. While a local network is lagging, a CDN is in the passing lane, bypassing the local network and speeding to get to the viewer on time.
- Quality – High-quality video, with minimal lag time. Exactly what the viewer ones.
- Security – Businesses are full of confidential information. CDNs provide an extra layer of security because of that. Using a CDN will prevent security attacks that occur when a site or resource is flooded by attempts to breach it.
CDNs and Video Hosting
When you visit a website and watch a video on the internet, a server is involved. Your computer sends a signal to a server requesting content, which in turn gets delivered to you. A CDN is made out of hundreds or not thousands of these servers located around the world. The better the content delivery network you use, the higher-quality the video will be for your users as we’ve mentioned. There will be less lag when loading a video and it will feel seamless for a viewer.
The same goes for video hosting platforms. While you can host videos online for free on YouTube, as a business, you’ll want a more professional streaming platform. The dedicated online video streaming service you choose will provide a network of computer servers that will store your video on their disks. It also provides a robust network connection so that your viewers can access the videos quickly and easily without any network lag.
As you can tell, CDNs and video hosting are related. And, as a business, you need the best options to begin your remote video strategy.
What to Look for in a CDN Provider
In the next section, we will be reviewing seven of the top CDN video streaming platforms. Before we dive in, we wanted to share a tip with you to consider when deciding on which platform to pick. Some of these platforms will only provide a content delivery network. The other platforms are Online Video Platforms (OVPs). An OVP is a service-focused specifically on hosting video, which we spoke about above, and a few offer live streaming as well. These streaming platforms tend to be smaller than all-purpose CDNs but deliver excellent functionality. They can have more affordable pricing as you’ll read in the comparison.
An OVP allows you to do many additional things:
- Upload video-on-demand for viewing at any time
- Stream live video
- Organize files via an online dashboard
- Optimize content for mobile, desktop, smart TVs, and any other devices
- Use custom videos players
- Embed on social media or websites of your choice
- Monetize over-the-top video via methods like pay-per-view or subscriptions
- Restrict access to content using security settings
- Include custom branding on video content
When deciding on what exactly you’re looking for, consider an OVP that partners with CDN providers for content delivery. These will likely provide the highest quality videos for your users and the biggest bang for your buck in terms of additional features for the price.
Best CDNs for Video Hosting and Live Streaming
We’ll be comparing seven of the best CDN for video hosting and live streaming below. We’ll discuss the company’s history, what features they offer and their pricing.
Among the best CDN for video hosting and live streaming are:
Online Video Platforms already partnering with a top-tier CDN or using their own:
5. IBM Cloud Video
Content Delivery Networks (CDN):
The first of the CDN providers we’ll examine here is Akamai. Akamai is one of the oldest CDNs in the world. It’s also the largest network, with more than 240,000 servers located in more than 130 countries.
The Akamai platform supports live streaming and on-demand video hosting. They provide a number of other features including analytics, video security, privacy settings, HTML5 video delivery, and support for a wide range of codecs and protocols.
Akamai pricing is customized for each user based on the features they need, the size of their business, bandwidth requirements, and other factors.
Next, let’s take a look at Cloudflare. Cloudflare is a growing CDN with widely distributed PoP (Point of Presence) worldwide. PoP is an artificial demarcation point or interface point between communicating entities.
Their video hosting offering incorporates some great features, including cloud encoding and customizable HTML5 video players. They also support API access.
Cloudflare has simple, transparent pricing. A free plan is available for personal websites, but it doesn’t support video hosting. Monthly plans range from $20/month to $200/month per domain. Finally, larger Enterprise plans are available as well with customized pricing per business.
CloudFront is the CDN offering from Amazon’s Web Services division. The platform also has a relatively large server network. The United States and Canada, Europe, Asia, and South America all have good coverage. However, they do not yet have coverage in Africa.
Their service is popular and widely used for hosting large downloads and web files. It also supports video streaming, both live and on-demand. CloudFront’s system is pretty basic, but you can build on your own features using external tools and using the API.
CloudFront pricing is on-demand and based on geographic region, bandwidth usage, and the features you need. CloudFront offers a free trial plan for 12 months, which allows 50 GB of transfer-out data and 2,000,000 HTTP(s) requests per month.
Online Video Platforms:
Next up in our review of CDN providers, let’s take a look at Wowza Media Systems. Wowza is an online video platform that provides products and services widely used in the streaming video industry. This includes Wowza Streaming Cloud, their video hosting and streaming platform. Streaming Cloud is the service we will be looking at here.
Stream Cloud includes support for both live and on-demand video. The service includes features such as full HD streaming, low latency live streaming solutions, and security access features. They also offer video API access and use Akamai’s network as well.
Wowza is available with one-time “live event” pricing, API-based pricing, and monthly plans. The Standard live event plan, for $199 per month, includes 3 TB of bandwidth. The Plus plan, for $499 per month, increases bandwidth to 7 TB. Finally, the Premier plan, for $999 per month, includes 15 TB of bandwidth.
2. IBM Cloud Video
IBM Cloud Video came about after the acquisition of Ustream by IBM several years ago. Today, the IBM Cloud Video service offers a range of services, including video hosting and live streaming via “Streaming Manager.”
Key features of the IBM Cloud Video platform include custom branding on higher-priced plans, password protection, and an HTML5 video player. The service also includes HD broadcasting up to 720p resolution with full 1080 supported only on Enterprise plans.
IBM Cloud Video is priced at three plan levels. The Silver plan, at $99 per month, has basic functionality, video remains IBM Cloud Video-branded, and includes 100 viewer hours. The Gold plan, at $499 per month, adds limited custom branding and more viewer hours. The Platinum plan, at $999 per month, supports full branding control. Custom plans are also available.
3. Vimeo Live
Founded in 2004 by a group of filmmakers, Vimeo is the next service we’ll look at here. Vimeo acquired streaming platform Livestream in 2017, and today it provides live streaming and video hosting service.
Features of the Vimeo platform include a number of hardware and software integrations. The platform also offers an HTML5 video player, integrated chat, and no charge for bandwidth or storage.
Like IBM Cloud Video, Vimeo has always been one of the more expensive video hosting services on the market. Their first-tier plan that supports live streaming, at $75 per month, still lacks white-label streaming and social media support. The mid-level plan adds these features for $199 per month. The Enterprise plan includes API support and other features that are essential for professional live streaming and costs $799 per month and up.
Finally, let’s conclude this review of CDN providers and OVPs by examining our own video hosting and live streaming solution.
All video content hosted on Dacast is delivered via the Akamai CDN. Our streaming solution includes various security features, offers 24/7 customer support, and an easy-to-use live streaming platform. All of this is available through every plan level. Dacast also uses an HTML5 video player to provide you with better performance, and which you can customize to your own needs.
Dacast pricing starts at just $19 per month for a basic plan with 100 GB of bandwidth. The Premium plan ($125/month) expands to 2 TB bandwidth and adds advanced features like API access and monetization tools. At $289/month, the Enterprise plan offers 5TB bandwidth and 500GB storage. For high-volume streaming, custom plans further reduce bandwidth costs. One-time event pricing is also available, as month-to-month plans.
For even more advanced VOD features, including China video hosting, current Dacast users can learn more about upgrading here.
The choice is yours! Which CDN provider will you choose? Be sure to utilize free trials to ensure your decision is the right one.
Now that you know the differences per platform, you can make an informed decision which CDN to use for your video content. Be critical of what you need out of a service platform, the budget you’re working with and pick a streaming solution that offers help to their customers. If you’re just beginning video streaming at your business, there will be hiccups down the road. Being able to speak to support services will allow those hiccups to go away quickly.