August 14, 2012

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Delivering Video Content Online… Are There Fish in that Stream?

When you are surfing the web and getting the highlights from last nights game, or checking out breaking news or just watching something funny on YouTube, the video is streaming down to your device. Right? Well, probably not.

The most common method of delivering video online is via progressive download. Progressive download delivers the video content over HTTP. This “http streaming” in reality is not streaming at all. It is just a very simple bulk download of a video file. A temporary copy of the video downloaded onto the local device so that the viewer can watch the video over and over without having to re-download the file each time. The video begins playback as soon as enough of the video has been transferred and the download bar expands as the rest of the video becomes available on the device.

Since progressive download video delivery runs over HTTP, website owners can add video content to their sites without the expense of additional hardware or specialized software. In addition, your web developer is most likely already familiar with delivering video over HTTP via progressive download.

An alternative to Progressive Download is true video streaming. There are three key benefits of video streaming.

1. The end user can begin video playback at any point of the video, or skip through the video.

2. Bandwidth is more efficiently used as you are only using bandwidth for the video that is actually being watched as opposed to HTTP delivery where the entire file is downloaded.

3. The video file is not stored on the viewer’s computer – the video data is played and then discarded by the media player. This allows for more control over your content.

As with any solution, the user load will affect the performance of the application. If you are considering adding video content to your site, you will want to ensure that you review your expected performance, availability and scalability requirements and of course, the cost of the infrastructure needed to effectively deliver the video.

Next up, using a content delivery network (CDN) for streaming vs. hosted steaming……

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