Video Streaming Monitoring – Is your CDN value for money?

Date: 18th March 2011
Author: Deri Jones

We’ve seen a definite step up in the number of clients using video to engage with their visitors.  Some are doing simple stuff, just a couple of videos, and keeping it to a simple download before viewing delivery model.

But the increasing number who are using third party CDN suppliers to provide the video streaming, are finding that once the user journey based monitoring is applied, that some CDN’s are providing quite different value for money: and quite different levels of problems to users.

The big name CDNs like Akamai and Limelight are widely used – not infrequently a bigger client will use both, and juggle usage between the two based on the best deal they’ve been able to negotiate for the level of Committed traffic they can pay for.  But the level of transparency as to how the two providers actually deliver your content is not identical, nor is the flexibility you have to control them; and the User Journey based video streaming monitoring we have been doing recently has also highlighted performance blips and concerns that the big boys seemed unaware of.

Lower down the market, there are many video streaming service providers, some sitting on top of the cloud, some on dedicated hardware.

And as we have seen their performance across a wide range of clients, it’s apparent that cost/benefit ratio varies hugely.

Just this week we helped a client identify a significant problem for their users at peak usage times, slow performance and drop-outs.  The problem had been a suspicion for some time, based on the growing level of  concern shown in client feedback: but the supplier was not only hosting, but also creating the flash video streaming content: so there had been a reluctance to upset the supplier.  Their creative expertise was greatly valued.

Anyway, to cut a long story short – the hard evidence of our Video Streaming monitoring service in the end allowed the two parties to mutually find a way forward, and no one walked away unhappy.  The client was able to move the video streaming hosting to a new supplier, where our 24/7 measurements showed a good improvement: and was even a  little lower cost..  And the original supplier held on to the creative video production side and cool site development to support it: which played to their strengths too.

The motto is : measure the user experience 24/7, to check  your third-party video streaming 3rd-parties:  and you may even save money whilst making your users happier!

Website availability metrics on their own are not sufficient if they don’t include streaming services: or if they just measure up vs down.

And a tech-head’s final thought – Flash-based streaming video has ruled the roost for a long time, but the newly minted HTTP Live Streaming seems like its up-coming standardisation by the IETF committees, and it’s neat delivery in bite-sized HTTP packets: may well make it a no-brainer for new projects, it’s just a neat and easier engineering solution.

That could lead to a fast switch in the market away from Flash, within just months. Certainly the TV company I visited today are looking forward to getting away from the strictures of Flash for their extensive video delivery.

As video streaming monitoring becomes more and more a mainstream part of what clients bring us in for, the team here will also not shed a tear over the move towards standards-based mechanism.

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