Everyone knows video is by far the most popular and fastest growing type of media found on the internet, and the businesses which support the world wide web have made a killing on this trend. Through their sale of storage, bandwidth, and services in the immense amounts required by video hosting websites and businesses that use video, they’ve also kept up with our demand for more while also maintaining fast loading times and high resolutions. However, as it happens on the internet, any new trend quickly spawns an influx of others who want their own piece of the pie.
Countless video hosting services which may be disingenuous about how good their services are have made it tougher to find a good host, especially if you don’t want to be stuck with the biggest competitors like YouTube or Vimeo video hosting. It’s possible to find a great video hosting platform that keeps videos fast and streaming experiences smooth for your viewers without giving business to the hosting monopolies like AWS video hosting. Accordingly, due diligence can result in a better price with better service. A lack of care, however, and neglect for the most relevant things to watch out for in video hosting can have bad results. This is because web hosts can get away with a whole lot, but not when one stays informed of the most common illusions they may project.
How can it be that there are thousands of web hosting providers ready to offer infinite bandwidth? If you take their word for it, unlimited means that no matter how many people stream video from your site, your host’s servers are able to handle the traffic elegantly without compromising load times or video quality for anyone. This is far-fetched to say the least, especially if one considers that many video hosting sites offer slices of a server—itself hardware with a limited capacity—that is also shared with other clients of your provider.
It’s technically impossible to be given unlimited bandwidth, even if an entire datacenter is dedicated to a single site. A quick look at the fine print reveals all, with many providers that disclose unlimited actually meaning “unmetered”, implying clients aren’t charged for the bandwidth they use, just for the fixed amount set out in their plan. For example, if their plan is for 5GB of traffic and they use 10GB, they’re charged for 5GB, yet they’ll inevitably encounter issues if they need bandwidth far beyond the type of plan they’ve purchased (video sites beware).
This issue is papered over with tricky marketing words like scalable, which providers like iPage use simply to indicate that sites which need more bandwidth are free to purchase a less-crowded VPS hosting solution at any time. It’s not actually baked into the price they pay. HostGator is another to promise unlimited, scalable bandwidth but it lays a landmine in its fine print, indicating that “Shared hosting space may only be used for web files, active email and content of User Websites.” Videos simply aren’t a part of their promise. All this is basic proof that video-based businesses need to act with deliberation when looking for a suitable host.
“Gated” VPS servers
For those familiar with the technical limitations of server hardware and how bandwidth needs are satisfied, shared plans claiming unlimited traffic were already easily ignored. Websites that may have high traffic and need to serve thousands of video watchers simultaneously find that the best solution is one capable of responding to traffic needs proactively, not reactively. Therefore, many consider the minimum to be a Virtual Private Server, which are essentially the gated communities of the web hosting world. They provide a larger slice of a hardware server split with less people than plans labeled “shared”, but still manage to remain ambiguous.
Web admins will attest to the fact they have more control and more storage in a VPS plan, and that load and speed tests are better. With some providers, however, data on the exact specs or size of the server slice you’re getting are obscured with terms that technically have no meaning, things like “vCPU”. How big a portion of the physical CPU is allocated to the vCPU? It’s best to find a provider that runs its own datacenter and can answer these questions, reveals the maximum number of users on each VPS server, and also sells dedicated servers that cannot be affected by the needs of other entities in the first place. Asking the greater internet may yield a different answer, however, which is why video sites looking for a host need to stay on their toes and carefully conduct their due diligence.
Big Toys, Little Network
One of the biggest advantages of going for an established web hosting provider is its content delivery network size. Server warehouses that span the globe and are placed in smart geographical locations help viewers in a certain area (such as Europe or the United States) to connect faster to digital assets, and this is doubly true for video files. Video and audio files like .mp3 and .mp4 don’t benefit natively from Cloudflare CDN caching, so in order to make it work one first needs to separate out the web hosts which don’t give command line access to clients. This will work for embedded video, but many video-exclusive sites choose Cloudflare Stream service for dedicated, focused service. This is more convenient than running some minor commands to help all files become cacheable, which has little point unless the hosting provider has a network that can cache files on multiple global nodes.
If the network isn’t robust, it doesn’t matter even if the provider offers custom WordPress video hosting or cheap video hosting. This speaks to the importance of finding a solution which operates its own data centers, again, but also the ones that are geographically proximate to large potential sources of traffic. Websites and businesses that lean heavily on video to sell their products and services need to keep these caveats in mind when searching for a proper host. Otherwise, they may end up on a petite slice of a VPS server resold to them through a larger provider at high markup before enduring a squeeze as traffic begins to grow. Thankfully all it takes is awareness of what’s necessary in a video web hosting provider to specifically avoid this potential pitfall.