Why You Should Never Host Your Own Videos, And What 3rd Party Video Hosting Services Are The Best To Use

Why You Should Never Host Your Own Videos, And What 3rd Party Video Hosting Services Are The Best To Use Thumbnail image

If you have your own website and want to show your users a video, then the obvious option might be to upload it to your server an embed it. However, in the majority of cases, I think this isn't an ideal thing to do.

Unless you get it perfectly correct, some users will end up having problems viewing your video. It won't be in the correct file format, it might not buffer correctly, you might not be able to skip forward, it might take forever to download from your server etc.

There are companies/services that specialise in hosting your videos and making sure your visitors can view the video. (I have no affiliation with any of these companies.)

These companies work full time to ensure that their videos and video players are usable by everyone. Unless you are going to sit there and test your website with every browser, every device, from various locations, internet speeds, browser window sizes etc, I really think you should just get a company to handle it for you.

Here are the problems you will face if you self-host video on your own server

Here are my main reasons for using a 3rd party service. I am going to assume that you have a 'normal' site that has some videos - for example, a blog with some videos in some posts, or a company website with some videos on various pages. If you are looking to make the next Youtube, Twitch, or another site that focuses on video content then none of these will apply. Also if you have your own dedicated server (especially if you have an unmetered one for unlimited bandwidth) some of these won't apply.

Piracy - self hosting makes it really easy

Preventing video piracy

If you self-host, then I can almost guarantee that there will be a direct link in your source code to the .mp4 video file.

This makes it very trivial for anyone to download the video file.

If you use a 3rd party, it is often a bit more hidden. Security through obscurity is not a good technique to avoid all pirated content, but it can help a bit.

Even with the best piracy protection, anyone can just record the screen and play it back in real time, so really no matter what you do or what service you use it can always be pirated if someone wanted to.

Your blog is probably on a small server - you might quickly run out of space

Video host server company

I have to admit that as every year goes by this becomes less and less of a problem. A lot of very popular hosts (such as Dreamhost, I think even Bluehost) offer 'unlimited' space. I mean, this is what they claim, but I'm sure they'll kick you off their servers if you started to use too many resources. It is common to use a VPS service such as Digital Ocean (which I would recommend if you have the know-how to manage your own server), and they often provide SSD disk space of under 60GB for the cheaper (under $20/mo) prices. 60 GB is a lot - but easy to fill up with large videos.

That 60GB (or however much you have) shrinks too if you do some form on backups on the same server. And if you (as you should) backup to another server/location, that means even more disk space every month that is used up. And then you have the additional space of different formats (see below).

So this one depends on a few things:

1) How many videos you have
2) How much space you have.

But this is kind of obvious, right?

If you start serving up too many large video files, any cheap web host will be in touch with you to ask you to stop doing that or will just close your account. Read their "Acceptable Use Policy"... ask them if it is ok to host videos.

Bandwidth

Again, looking at Digital Ocean you will get only around 3 TB of bandwidth (transfer) a month for under $20/mo.

If you had a longer video that took up 100mb, that is only 30 downloads a month and you've hit your limit. One video watch a day... And that is only 100mb, HD videos can easily become many multiples of that size.

Of course, you can pay for more bandwidth. But if you use a 3rd party video hosting company they'll often include either unlimited/unmetered bandwidth, or much cheaper than what any VPS or normal web hosting company will be able to offer you.

Even in 2018 we need different file formats for different browsers and devices

If you are self-hosting, you will need to generate the video files into different file formats. This is becoming less of a problem as browsers start to support more formats, but it has only been since IE9 that IE decided to support H264. It still doesn't support Ogg. But to be honest you'll be safe with just H264/MP3 (or H264/AAC) in .mp4 format in 2018.

But read the next point, for a bigger issue:

You need to generate different sizes/bitrates

You won't want to be serving huge 1080p HD files to mobile devices, and you won't want to serve 480p video to desktop machines on fast connections. So you need to generate each video in different sizes

Unlike the above issue of different video file formats, this is an important issue in 2018.

People will want to view your videos in different resolutions (roughly: desktop = hd, mobile = sd. Fast connection = hd, slow connection = sd (or lower)).

If you view YouTube, Netflix or any other major video site and your internet speed suddely drops, the video will still play but will suddenly go to a much worse quality.

This is the main reason, in my opinion, why it is just easier and better to use a 3rd party service to handle the video. Their video player will handle all of this, and you never have to think about it. Unless video is the main aspect of your website then I really don't think it is worth the time, effort or money to focus on this aspect.

(Even if you host a website that has, for example, video lessons and you let your students watch video on your site: I still don't think you are FOCUSING on video. If you run a website where people can upload video, edit videos, etc then you are focusing on video and you probably should consider self-hosting. But if you're doing that, you're hiring professionals who already know the answer to this blog post).

For every video, you will end up with at least half a dozen files (probably more) in multiple resolutions and various bitrates.

You will waste a lot of time converting videos

Related to the above point, but you will end up wasting a lot of time converting videos. Hopefully, you have some script in place to handle it for you, and upload the files (another thing you will waste a lot of time on, unless you convert it on your server - which I would recommend doing).

You have to worry about your video player

You will need to have a proper video player. The ones built into browsers are not as user-friendly as a custom video player. Think about when you play videos on Wikipedia (which uses the built-in video player in your browser) vs the experience when using Netflix or Youtube.

There are open source video player libraries which you can use (or ones you can buy, sometimes having better features but not always). But you will need to spend time testing these.

Some companies that you can use for hosting your videos

I have no affiliation with any of these companies. They are just from personal research for a project.

YouTube can work fine for many cases. If you already have a YouTube channel then it is perfect, as you might get subscribers. But I'm going to assume you have a company website and want to show your customers some videos. You won't want them to click away and end up on YouTube and forget about your site.

(BTW You can customise the player (or use custom players) to hide all of the YouTube branding/links)

Vimeo Pro

Vimeo is a well-known video site (similar to YouTube). They have a service called Vimeo PRO which is designed for people who want to host videos on their site.

The videos you upload are private, but they give you code to put on your site so they can be viewed. They are a popular service, many sites use them.

Pricing starts at 16 euros a month. See here

Brightcove

Brightcove is less popular than Vimeo, but they focus entirely on hosting videos for customers (unlike Vimeo which is massively popular with just regular (free) users uploading videos).

Wistia

This is another company that specialises in hosting for businesses.

They have a decent free tier for testing it out but proper pricing starts at $99/mo

Vidyard

Another option is vidyard. The video on their website's homepage, for me, loads the quickest of all of these companies listed. But that might be a coincidence. They have a good reputation though.

They don't list their pricing on their site but I've heard that you need to be spending $1000 or $2000 minimum a month before considering their options. They don't seem to focus on smaller websites.

Vzaar

Despite its silly name (and awkward to spell), Vzaar is another option. They claim to be "The World’s Most Trusted Video Hosting Platform" (not sure how true that is).

One of their key points that they focus on is the fact that they can deliver videos in China. However, I'm not sure that will help many readers of my blog.

Prices start at just over 200 euros a month.

Other useful companies worth checking out:

  • Frame.io "Video review and collaboration, solved"
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webdevetc

I am a 29 year old freelance backend web developer from London, mostly focusing on PHP and Laravel lately. This is my site - I mostly write about PHP here. Contact me here (especially for any contracting jobs early 2019 in London ;) ).

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