Streaming media has, over the last few years, become vital to online engagement, education, and marketing. It is estimated that the video streaming market will be worth more than $124 billion by 2025. Sixty percent of Millennial and Gen Z consumers stream video every day. Eighty percent of consumers would rather watch a video than read a blog post.
Driven by social media, podcasting, live streaming, and platforms such as YouTube, streaming media has become an essential part of the modern marketing and educational landscape.
If your organization wants to take advantage of the popularity of streaming media, it needs a streaming media hosting service to host the files. Choosing a streaming media hosting service can be challenging, so we have created a list of the five most important factors to consider.
Metered Vs. Unmetered Bandwidth
Media files and live streaming consume an enormous amount of bandwidth compared to text files and most other types of data sent over the internet. A plain text file of Moby Dick consumes about half a megabyte of bandwidth, whereas an hour-long podcast can easily top 50 MB.
But it is streaming video that consumes by far the most significant amount of bandwidth. If you upload a 4K video that is four minutes long to a streaming media server, and 1000 people stream it, you might burn through 400 GB of bandwidth.
Why does this matter? Server hosting providers allocate bandwidth in two main ways. The first is to allow you to stream a predetermined amount of data. For example, when you lease a server for media streaming, the host might include 20 terabytes of network traffic with the cost of the server as is the standard at ServerMania.
The hosting service meters how much bandwidth your server uses. If you use more than your allocation, you have to pay an additional fee, which is often substantial.
The alternative is unmetered bandwidth. The media streaming host provides a network interface capable of transferring a fixed amount of data per second. For example, at ServerMania, many of our dedicated servers include a 1Gbps network interface. That means it can transfer 125 MB each second. We also offer larger bandwidth connections from some locations.
With unmetered bandwidth, you can push as much data through the network connection as it is capable of transferring. We don’t meter how much data, and you’ll never pay an overage fee for sending too much data.
Is a metered or unmetered network connection best for your streaming media project? It depends on how much data you expect to send. If you plan to send less than 20 TB each month – the standard bandwidth allocation on ServerMania dedicated servers – then a metered network interface is the most economical choice.
However, if you expect to regularly exceed that bandwidth or your bandwidth requirements are unpredictable, then an unmetered connection is probably your best option. At ServerMania, we offer both metered and unmetered connections. Our server experts can talk you through the options and help you to decide what is best for your scenario.
An unreliable network is useless, however generous the network allocation or the throughput of the network interface. Many factors impact the reliability of a network, including:
- The quality of the networking hardware used by the hosting service and their bandwidth partners.
- The choice and quality of the bandwidth provider: larger bandwidth providers such as Level3, Telia, and Cogent can move data more quickly and reliably that lower-tier providers.
- The commitment of the hosting service to manage their network correctly, including not overselling their bandwidth excessively.
- The number of redundant network routes from the data center.
It’s possible to judge the reliability of a network based on experience – yours or other customers – and the hosting provider’s willingness to guarantee a certain level of performance. ServerMania provides a 100% Network Uptime Guarantee for all of our locations.
Global media streaming platforms such as Netflix are often mentioned as significant users of cloud hosting. They need orders of magnitude more resources during prime time than quieter parts of the day. The elasticity of cloud platforms allows them to scale infrastructure according to need.
But the truth is that the infrastructure that stores and streams video is almost always bare metal servers hosted in a data center near the streamer.
When you stream your favorite Netflix show, the video data comes not from a centralized cloud hosting location on the other side of the continent, but often from a position on the network’s edge within your ISP that might only be a handful of miles from your house.
Media streaming companies put their servers in hundreds of data centers around the world because location matters. Low latency is a function of network distance. Streaming performance is better the shorter the distance and better optimized the network.
ServerMania offers streaming media server hosting from a variety of data centers around the world, including several geographically distributed data centers in North America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region.
As we mentioned earlier in this article, media files consume a lot of bandwidth and storage space. There are two factors to consider when it comes to storage: the type of storage medium and how data is organized for reliability and redundancy.
A media streaming server must provide adequate storage with sufficient read speed to minimize latency.
Solid-state drive (SSD) and NVmE storage is the fastest but also the most expensive. SSD might be the right choice for some media streaming servers, but spinning disks – the traditional hard drive – is cheaper and can often deliver data fast enough for streaming.
Storage arrays should provide some measure of redundancy and reliability. In most cases, that means a RAID array with a scheme that duplicates data across more than one drive. Depending on the RAID scheme, it protects data and functionality if one or more disks fail.
A decent media streaming host will be able to help you choose the right storage and redundancy scheme for a particular application. ServerMania provides both SSD and hard drive servers, and we’re happy to build a RAID array that fits the needs of your project.
How much time do you want to spend managing your media streaming server? Like all servers, they require setup and configuration, updates, and maintenance. If your organization has the expertise and the time to manage the servers, then an unmanaged solution may be the best option.
But for organizations that want a server that “just works” for most of its life, consider the management services offered by a hosting provider.
The best hosting providers offer flexible management servers that range from unmanaged to fully managed with scope for custom plans if they are needed.
ServerMania offers unmanaged servers and two types of server management plan:Essential, which provides monitoring of essential ports and immediate response to outages; and Empowered, which offers unlimited support requests, proactive security patching, and initial security hardening, among other services.
There are so many factors to consider when choosing a media streaming solution. You’ll want to find a provider who can meet the bandwidth and network quality requirements that will lead to the optimal streaming performance for users.
A provider with a variety of locations worldwide will ensure that every user is able to stream content from a server nearby. As well, you will need to find a provider who can customize the server storage options and management packages that meet your needs.
ServerMania has the experience and infrastructure needed to power even the most demanding streaming setups. If you’re interested in learning more, you can book a consultation with us today.