If your organization needs to stream video, for your audience to watch as they do on YouTube, chances are that you need a video streaming server, and are looking for options. With a rapidly growing market of video platforms, there are IT vendors that can provide you with such a technology on the cloud or on-premise. Or you can create your own to cater to specific requirements.
In this blog, we discuss what a video streaming server is, and why you would need one in the first place? We then discuss two solutions for you, with the pros and cons of each and when to consider them. We also discuss how you can opt for a complete video content management system instead - a ready-made application to help you stream video content.
What is a Video Streaming Server?
Just like any other server, it is a computer that serves information (which is video in this case) to other computers called clients. A video sever is different from a normal server as it is packed with the technologies that enable the end user to view a video, without requiring to download it every time. This is done by continuously sending video data in chunks rather than a whole, and hence it’s called a stream. You can read more in our blog on what is video streaming.
Modern video streaming servers possess the capabilities to reduce bandwidth challenges and enable playback on a multitude of device types – PCs, tablets, phones. This done by transcoding videos (the quality options you see on YouTube), adaptive bitrate streaming, connecting with a CDN network and using modern streaming protocols such as HTTP Live Streaming (HLS).
The video data is fetched from a live camera and encoder in the case of live streaming, and from your storage in the case of on-demand video.
Video streaming servers can be set up on-premises or on virtual machines in the cloud. 3rd party video streaming vendors usually provide a set-up that can be easily installed on most modern virtual machines or physical servers – whether they are on a public cloud or in your datacenter.
Why You Need a Video Streaming Server?
In theory, for anyone that needs to stream live or on-demand video online, the video will go through a streaming server. Whenever a user requests a video, the server will stream the video to the user’s device.
If your use case is simple and you just need to upload and send a video – without any compliance, security or data ownership issues – you don’t need to worry about how video is delivered at the backend. It’s good for know-how, but you can simply opt for any free online platform like YouTube, or a SaaS based video platform like VIDIZMO.
But if you’re looking to stream videos within your internal network or need a scalable set-up to reach a large audience, or have varying input sources such as an IP camera, drone etc., then you might need information about the different streaming server options available.
Nevertheless, whichever use case you have, it’s always good to know about streaming servers as it will help you better evaluate IT vendors for your video platform.
Video Streaming Server Options to Consider
Depending on your requirements, you can set up a streaming server, and get videos up and streaming through 3 broad options:
Build Your Own (DIY)
This process involves coding your own server software or patching up bits and pieces from the open-source community. The latter is recommended as you don’t need to build from ground up. There are a couple of awesome video streaming open-source projects that you can check out here.
However, this method has its drawbacks that include:
- You have to patch up different modules together, which means you need to get a server to stream videos, an encoder to generate multiple formats, a player to view the stream output and more.
- The system is not actively maintained and updated, so you might face a few bugs and issues while using it.
- It may not be complete. For instance, if we look at the security of the stream, the process may not have all the required controls and cryptography in place. As such, your video data might be vulnerable to attacks.
- Your server may not support all types of network infrastructure, and you may find compatibility issues with major CDN providers.
- Your streaming server may not have the modern technologies in place to ensure smooth streaming. For instance, you might not be able to benefit from adaptive bitrate streaming; a technology in modern streaming platforms that automatically adjusts the quality of the video to match the end user’s internet connection.
- You can always set up a limited number of servers and will be restricted to be able to stream to only a certain number of people. As opposed to cloud streaming technologies that solve these problems, by automatically scaling up and balancing load in a short amount of time.
Opting for 3rd Party Applications/PaaS
You can also opt to purchase and install an already developed application or platform. These are not essentially complete end-user applications and would require you to build one to enable easy everyday use.
The benefit of opting for these is that the platform providers will keep the technologies up-to-date, and these are usually much more secure than open-source software. You also get detailed documentation and support to help you achieve your objectives.
Examples of these include Azure Media Services or Wowza Streaming Engine. Azure Media Services (AMS) includes a complete package, with a streaming server to deliver videos in HLS, and it connects with your Azure storage, encodes videos and more. Wowza too offers a bunch of options such as Low-Latency HLS streaming and integrations with numerous applications including players such as JWPlayer, VLC, RealPlayer etc.
Despite being effective, there are two major drawbacks of such platforms. Firstly, they are incomplete, and your users don’t get a YouTube-like interface to upload and stream their videos to intended audiences. Secondly, you would always need to develop something and can’t opt for additional services. Need a new feature based on changing business requirements? You’d need to develop it yourself.
Opting for a Video Content Management System
The drawback of getting a standalone streaming server is that it isn't the most user-friendly. You also need to manage large amounts of video content, ensure its security and data governance, share it ahead and do much more.
You can opt for a video content management system, where you get the complete thing; the backend streaming infrastructure installation, an end-user application, support and additional professional services. This is like buying a private YouTube for your organization, and the IT vendor will manage and install the application in any cloud – you cloud, public cloud, their own cloud etc.
Using VIDIZMO to Stream Videos
VIDIZMO offers a complete enterprise video content management system, with the option to install video streaming servers in any cloud; ours, yours (on-premise), Azure or AWS. You also get a complete application to manage end-to-end video use cases. With 20 years of experience, we are constantly working to improve video upload and delivery for our customers. Through a YouTube-like portal you get to stream videos and benefit from the following:
- Automatic transcoding to ensure playback on almost any device and under low bandwidth conditions.
- Adaptive bitrate streaming to enable playback on low bandwidth conditions.
- Out-of-the-box CDN network to cache videos, improve global delivery and minimize buffering.
- End-to-end encrypted video stream to keep your data safe.
- Easily scalable servers in the cloud, to stream to a large audience.
Moreover, you get multiple end-user features such as:
- Automatic closed captioning in more than 80 languages of choice.
- Both live and on-demand streaming.
- Securely stream videos inside the organization by defining for every video, who can watch it and who can’t.
- Insert quizzes, handouts, comments, surveys, files or annotations into videos.
- Integrate easily with Zoom to ingest recorded meetings or embed the platform/videos into your LMS. You can integrate with your SSO, CMS and more.
- Enforce video policies such as blocking downloads, external sharing for the entire organization, and more.