One third of our global screen time is spent watching videos. People retain information much better from a video than from a text with still images. A majority of executives prefer acquiring information via video rather than through reading text.
At this point in time, anybody communicating online needs to consider a video strategy. There is simply no better way to build audience engagement.
Whether you are a small business looking to use video messaging to promote your products and services or a content producer whose videos are the end product, you have to choose the hosting platform that is right for you.
In this article, we will look at what video hosting is and what makes it different from regular hosting. We will break down the pros and cons of free video-sharing solutions and professional video-hosting providers. Then we will look at tools you can use to do it all yourself.
There are a few different ways of consuming videos online. There is downloading, where you save the whole file on your computer or other device before watching it in a video player. There is streaming, where you start watching the video right away even as the video and audio data are still coming in. And then there is live streaming, where the video content streams from the producer’s camera to the users’ player software via a special live-streaming server.
In principle, sharing a video is simple. Your video is just a file in a format such as .MOV, .MPEG4, .AVI, or .WMV. You need to upload this file to a server that has a good connection to the internet. In order to embed the video on a web page to make it available for streaming, you will have to insert it into the page inside a video player.
There are several basic options for where to host your video:
The free platforms are often ad-supported. They impose a lot of restrictions on how you can show your content. Some of the free platforms support themselves by selling paid subscriptions to a premium tier for creative professionals or businesses.
The paid video hosting providers give you more control over the quality of the video stream and the appearance of the player. Some of them specialize in digital marketing tools with powerful video analytics and lead-capture functionality. Others are more focused on providing an experience optimized for educational content or internal business communications. Many also include a choice of ways to monetize your video content, ad-based, pay-per-view, or via subscription.
The DIY route of storing your video content on your own server gives you maximum flexibility in terms of the content, quality, and delivery of your videos. But this power requires more technical know-how, even if there are a lot of software tools to help you manage a video server and analyze the usage data it generates.
Streaming your average video requires two orders of magnitude more data storage and network bandwidth than a web page that contains only text and a few still images. That is why you need a hosting plan that includes extra-large storage and bandwidth allocations if you want to host video content yourself.
In addition, the server’s storage-access speed and network interface have to be able to keep up the steady flow of data to a number of concurrent users. For this to work smoothly and predictably, you need to have access to the server’s full resources without worrying that some other processes running on the same machine will use up your computing power or your network connection. That is why DIY video hosting is not recommended on a shared-server hosting plan or even on a virtual public server. Note that many providers will even prohibit streaming on shared servers to avoid an overload of resources.Therefore, a dedicated server is the way to go.
Whenever a lot of data has to flow to the end-user in order for them to start enjoying content as is the case with video, the experience can quickly become unsatisfying if there is too much of a lag in the response. That is why video hosting is often combined with access to a content-delivery network (CDN). These mirror the video content at storage hubs around the world. That means the initial request can be served from a copy that is more local to the user, which helps reduce load time.
There are quite a few places where you can upload videos for free. Your uploaded content can then be watched on the platform’s site or from within their app on mobile. You can also embed your videos on your web page within a player provided by the platform. There are not many limits to how many videos you can upload or to how many viewers can stream them.
Google’s YouTube is the Goliath in this space. Every 60 seconds, 500 hours of video are uploaded to Youtube. Its 1.9 billion registered users watch more than 1 billion hours of videos a day. YouTube relies on ad revenue, of which it keeps 45%, the rest being passed on to the uploader. The latter has no control over the ads that appear before, after, or alongside their videos.
Founded a few months before YouTube, Vimeo positions itself as a solution for professional content creators and artists. It allows up to 8K video, the highest quality of all the free services. Its player is lauded for its clean look. Your content is never sandwiched between ads. Vimeo Basic is their free plan under which are restricted to a maximum file size of 500 MB and an upload limit of 500 MB/week. Pro plans start at $7/month.
Based in France, Dailymotion has, by virtue of its early media partners, leaned heavily towards news, music, and sports content. It makes up for a maximum file size of 2 GB and a maximum video length of 1 hour by allowing unlimited file uploads. They have a fairly minimalist player for embedding into your website, but they will play ads before, during and after your video. To start getting a cut of the ad revenue, you have to qualify as an Advanced partner.
The two companies with the biggest social-media mindshare in Western markets also let you upload unlimited numbers of videos. With their massive audiences and easy sharing features, they can be a good place for marketers to grow brand awareness. However, they have the lowest video quality of all the free options, and their commercial priorities dictate a rather unsatisfying user experience.
While they differ in their particulars, the free video-sharing platforms come with a similar set of pros and cons.
All in all, you get what you pay for. When you are ready for more control, you can switch to one of the paid services without losing out on the social environment of the big free platforms, since a lot of the premium services also allow you to automatically cross-post your videos to YouTube and others.
There is a wide spectrum of plans from providers specializing in video hosting for businesses. Usually the players in this arena focus on specific markets or applications for digital video. Some of them offer free plans with minimal feature sets. In all cases, they deliver an ad-free experience and unbranded players.
Jetpack is a WordPress plugin with video hosting as part of its Premium and Professional plans starting at $9/month. It gives you unlimited storage and seamless integration into the WordPress editing environment. You get detailed statistics about individual video plays and overall viewership. Jetpack also comes with access to a content distribution network.
Brightcove is an enterprise video-content management platform designed to give companies the capability to serve high-quality video to massive audiences while plugging into the tools they already use for marketing automation, content management, and business analytics. They assign a dedicated support lead to each customer to help with set-up, integration, and advanced services. Plans start at $199/month.
JWPlayer is an affordable option with good integration into advertising networks. It delivers detailed play analytics and data-driven video recommendations. It runs an HTML5 player across all platforms and promises fast-loading videos optimized for each screen. It targets the dev-shop market with APIs and Software Development Kits for iOS and Android. Developers can start for free with an expanded set of features and a small storage allocation, while more robust hosting capacity starts as low as $10/month.
Wistia is a digital marketing company with a heavy focus on high-quality video communication. Its player is fully customizable. It includes a variety of different calls to action that can be embedded into videos for interactive experiences across devices. Its lead capture capabilities, A/B testing functions, and full-spectrum marketing analytics are geared towards maximizing brand reach. Its Pro plan is $99/month.
Uscreen offers monetization options that go beyond the usual model, such as bundles, lifetime access, and rentals. It allows customers to easily create their own branded video-streaming apps for mobile devices, PCs, and smart TVs. The platform combines behavioral analytics, smart marketing tools, and community features to boost engagement and maximize streaming revenue. Pricing starts at $49/month.
What if you wanted to keep all of this video-hosting business completely under your purview. You already run your website and some backend software on a hosted server, so why not migrate all that to a dedicated server that has enough room and bandwidth for your videos?
If you are serving videos from your own server, you will be in direct possession of all the data about them: their actual viewership, in real time. You’ll be able to see where people connect from and when they abandon a video. If you require registration to start browsing and watching, then you will have data allowing you to discern your visitors’ preferences, or at least their patterns of browsing.
This is the gold mine the Googles, Facebooks, and Twitters of the world rely on to keep their services free. They sell this data to their advertisers. If you can take back control of your user data by running your own video server, some of that gold might stay with you.
As an independent video streamer, how realistic is monetizing the data you can collect? There are thousands of companies offering to help you get value out of that kind of data. It’s a field in constant evolution as algorithms, formats, and preferences keep changing. However, a lot of the companies that have the sharpest insights on the video-streaming market are the premium video-hosting providers mentioned above.
Your hosting package will cover most of the monthly outlay for an operational dedicated video server on top of the web and app servers you will need to run your business. Hosting packages vary in price depending on how much storage, network traffic, and computing power you sign up for. And when you make the calculation for streaming video, you will see that the totals can add up quickly.
For extra peace of mind, hosting companies and third-party developers offer many useful enhancements that also come at a cost:
Video content can be entertaining, informative, inspiring. Brands can extend their reach by capturing the attention of would-be consumers through well-crafted spots that reinforce their identity. When placed on a website, video content has been shown to increase retention and improve conversion.
That is why every business should have a video-content creation strategy. Proper execution of the strategy will consume quite a few resources. The costs associated with making the videos produced available to the world are low in comparison. With a premium platform, the benefits from analyzing the data and leveraging advanced marketing tools should far outweigh the hosting costs.
In a scenario where you just need a few tutorials and demonstrations to showcase technical aspects of your products, it is possible to serve these short video files from your dedicated server without breaking the bank since they are not meant to be viewed on a large screen and therefore don’t need to be stored in high definition.