: Do you have any recommendations on good web hosting companies for a mid-sized site with video? I'm looking for a plan that allows for 1-2 GB disk space and a monthly data transfer around 25-30 GB. I would like support for PHP and MySQL as well as Real Video and Windows streaming servers (not for a huge amount of video but some). Michael Hoffman at See3 Communications says:
There are two factors to consider when hosting your video: 1) the amounPublish Post
t of traffic on the site and 2) the size of the files. In addition to volume of traffic, file size also increases the amount of content transferred, which impacts price and possibly quality of playback (depending on which solution you choose).
The first decision you need to make when considering the media delivery portion of your website is where you will host the video: at a single location, or through a multiple locations Content Delivery Network (and the rest of the site through a regular web server)
Single location serving
Serving content from one location for the type of website you describe (ie, not much transfer, not too video heavy) may work just fine. You will experience the best connection times closest to the server, so this solution works best for a mainly domestic audience. It may be unacceptable for an international project, especially at higher traffic numbers. Single location hosting is in the range of $30-600 per month, depending on the amount of transfer you will be using. Most hosting companies do not require a long-term contract.
Multiple location serving through Content Delivery Network (CDN)
A CDN is a global network of computers linked together across the internet. When a user sends a request to view a file, the file is cached to the server nearest to the user's location. This is the best method to ensure consistently fast play for a global audience if you have large files and a lot of traffic. It is also relatively expensive.
Once you've made the decision to host either through a single location or multiple locations (a CDN), there are two potential types of streaming solutions to consider for your media delivery:
Progressive download (http streaming), or True Streaming (Flash, Windows Media, Real Video, etc.)
Progressive downloading, also known as http streaming, is a type of delivery that can be handled by any web hosting company. A copy of the file will reside on the user's computer (some consider this a security problem). It requires fast connection on the user's side. Sometimes the file will download slower than it plays. However, with a site that is light on video and doesn't have tons of traffic, it could work very well. This is an extremely inexpensive option if hosted at a single location.
Although progressive downloading is called "http streaming" it is not true streaming.
True streaming requires a special type of streaming server: Flash Media Server, Windows Media Server, Real Video Server and so on. Some companies allow you to host alternate versions; for example, you could have one version of your files streamed through Windows and another version through Real Video. True streaming uses the network bandwidth more efficiently and thus delivers better audio and video quality to the user. It also never stores a copy of the file on the user's computer (better security).
We recommend Flash streaming to our clients, since most users have the Flash plug-in installed; one provider quoted it as over 90% of PC users. The Flash platform is pretty consistent and ubiquitous.
True streaming (single location)
This could be a good way to get the benefits of true streaming somewhat inexpensively, assuming you have relatively modest traffic numbers, a small amount of bandwidth transfer, and a domestic audience. Once you starting doing significant traffic worldwide on a video heavy project, the cost to performance ratio of this option is poor; ie, the money you save is small in comparison to the loss of quality.
Some true streaming (single location) providers include:
Windows/Real Video streaming providers: ValueWeb, Digital Rights Director
True streaming (CDN)
This is what the big boys and girls use - MSNBC, Dreamworks, you get the picture. True streaming on a CDN provides smooth, consistent performance internationally and is able to grow with your traffic. This is the method we recommend to large clients launching a large, sustained campaign with several videos and high traffic. Most CDNs will allow you to set up a test account for a week or two. However, keep in mind that the test will likely work fine. The real benefit of a CDN is handling large volumes of traffic, which is typically hard to replicate in a 2 week test.
Pricing again will be based upon the amount of bandwidth transfer you use. Most CDNs do require a year-long agreement, along with a minimum monthly commitment that may start around $500 per month.
Some options for CDN include EdgeCast, Mirror Image, and Limelight Networks. You may also check with your website host to see if they partner with any CDNs
Please note - no matter which type of media content delivery you choose - that you will want to host the rest of your website on a regular web server. Some options for this include HostMySite
One approach we recommend is to set up your site on a regular web server, delivering your video content through progressive download to start. Tell the hosting company your PHP and MySQL requirements and they will guide you to the correct plan based upon this information. Then test how the video on this server behaves, asking friends and coworkers with different computers in different parts of the country/world to test it. If you have more time to experiment, consider trying out a single location true streaming server. Most companies do not require a long-term contract, so you can try it for a month and see if the delivery is improved. Again, do a round of testing. If you are seeing large amounts of traffic and bandwidth transfer (especially if you have a heavily international audience), you would be better off paying for the CDN. However, for the purposes of the site described in the inquiry, a CDN is probably not necessary.The Ask Idealware posts take on some of the questions that you send us at email@example.com. Have a great option to suggest for this question? Hate the response here? Help us out by entering your own answer as a comment below.