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HOW TO SELECT THE RIGHT CDN FOR TODAY’S VIDEO DELIVERY NEEDS

CHECKLIST

In 2019, online video consumption was up 59 percent compared to just 3 years earlier.1 But in 2020, it’s business as [un]usual which means the need for online video – and the content delivery networks (CDNs) that deliver this video – is greater than ever before. Yet, even in these unusual times, consumer expectations around streaming video experiences are high.

 

To provide the best possible streaming video experience that will increase revenue and customer satisfaction, many organizations engage the services of a CDN. However, to choose the right CDN for your video workflow and business requirements, you must first evaluate your unique needs.

 

Based on our extensive experience with helping companies scale their streaming video delivery, we’ve developed this checklist that outlines key considerations to use when evaluating a CDN for video delivery.

1. START WITH THE BASICS

Where is your audience located?

  • ■ Global
  • ■ Regional
  • ■ Local

 

You want to reach the largest possible audience, yet the more you scale the more difficult the technical and business challenges become. You will want to understand not only where the CDNs you are considering have their Points of Presence (PoPs), but what the capacity is in each region where you have an audience. The CDN should have peering agreements with the local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that serve your audience, in order to eliminate “last-mile” bottlenecks between the CDN and the user’s internet connection.

What are your content security requirements?

  • ■ Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack protection
  • ■ Web Application Firewall (WAF) protection
  • ■ Bot Management
  • ■ TLS/SSL encryption
  • ■ Access Control
  • ■ Video Digital Rights Management (DRM)

 

If you are licensing rights for protected video content, you will need to enforce rights agreements – look for a CDN with integrated DRM supporting Google, Microsoft and Apple systems. To protect content from being intercepted in transit, choose a CDN that fully supports TLS/SSL encryption. To sustain uptime and performance when under attack, look for a CDN with DDoS attack protection and on-network attack scrubbing. Look for WAF protection to secure web applications against theft of viewers’ private information.

2. DETERMINE THE SERVICES YOU NEED TO ENSURE THE BEST VIDEO DELIVERY

There are a variety of video delivery workflows and options depending on the type of content you are provide.

Live Video Streaming

Streaming of live events, games and other live content is challenging and gets more challenging with scale. One popular method of live streaming in use today, HLS and MPEG-DASH chunk streaming, introduce delivery latency that can be unacceptable for some time-sensitive applications. As the audience grows, quality can suffer and some users can be denied access. To easily reach as many viewers as possible, consider the following:

 

Steps for success:

  • ■ Ingest the highest bitrate video stream your workflow can support, so subsequent processing will maintain high quality.
  • ■ Employ automated transmuxing to convert the ingest stream into as many different streaming formats as necessary for the different viewing devices that will be utilized.
  • ■ Use automatic transcode to provide the bitrate appropriate for each end user’s connection speed.
  • ■ Select a high-capacity global CDN with a proven ability to deliver streaming video with minimal rebuffering. A private network avoids congestion on the public internet.
  • ■ If low-latency streaming is important, consider new technologies that offer reduced latencies down to 6 to 10 seconds and even sub-second latency at scale.

Streaming Video on Demand (VOD)

Today’s online video audience expects an instant response and has no tolerance for delays or rebuffers. These expectations don’t change at peak times of demand when a large number of users may be accessing a variety of titles.

 

Steps for success:

  • ■ Select a high-capacity global CDN with a proven ability to stream video with minimal rebuffering. A CDN with a private network avoids congestion on the public internet.
  • ■ Instead of storing each video in multiple streaming formats, consider on-the-fly transmuxing to automatically deliver the correct streaming format to viewers, while saving on storage costs.
  • ■ Instead of storing each video encrypted in multiple DRM formats, use on-the-fly DRM encryption to add the appropriate content protection as it is requested for viewing.
  • ■ Choose origin storage that replicates content in multiple geographies, automatically serves from the fastest storage location, and is integrated with the CDN.

Video Asset Management

To manage video content and prepare it for distribution to various media devices, most businesses choose an online video platform (OVP) that is purpose-built for day-to-day management of streaming video operations.

Things to look for in an OVP:

  • ■ Automatic transcoding to multi-bitrate, multi-resolution formats.
  • ■ A video player application you can embed into web pages with HTML5 support to operate within modern browsers.
  • ■ Reporting and analytics that provide the information you need to optimize viewer engagement.
  • ■ Ability to easily create multiple playlists for your content.
  • ■ If you plan to integrate advertising into your content and playlists, choose an OVP with support for standard ad insertion specifications like VAST.
  • ■ If you need integration with other tools, look for API (application programming interface) support.
  • ■ To eliminate the complexity of using separate systems to manage and deliver your video content, choose an OVP that is integrated with a CDN and offers integrated analytics and reporting.

Serverless Computing at the Edge

Delivering compelling user experiences is growing more complex. It often requires developers to integrate services to deliver video streams, authenticate users, personalize content, serve each viewer the right video format and bitrate, protect your content, and more. But where should these functions be performed, and how can they scale? Handling them in a centralized datacenter can add latency and unnecessary cost.

 

One solution to these challenges is to implement a CDN with serverless compute capabilities that let you easily customize video delivery by making your code available to edge locations around the world. Executing at the network edge closest to your users ensures the lowest latency with the scale you need to meet demand.

 

Consider implementing capabilities such as:

  • ■ Dynamic ad insertion to avoid ad blockers
  • ■ Water marking video to deter unauthorized sharing
  • ■ Resizing images dynamically to optimize for screen resolutions
  • ■ Implementing access control to allow subscribers to access content, and redirect others to a limited time trial

3. IMPLEMENT YOUR CDN SOLUTION

If you’re new to online video delivery, you may find that a turnkey solution from an experienced full-service CDN vendor is the fastest path to success. If you already have some capabilities but lack a full end-to-end solution, you may need to fill the gaps in your solution. Here are some further insights that will help.

Your Roadmap

Assessment and planning:

  • ■ Define the goals you want to achieve within a manageable timeframe.
  • ■ Assess your current status and each component’s suitability going forward.
  • ■ Identify gaps you need to fill to accomplish your video delivery goals.
  • ■ Identify solutions and capabilities needed to fill the gaps and build out a plan.

 

To ensure success, it’s critical to understand these fundamentals. At this stage, you may benefit from some sound advice from an experienced CDN provider.

 

Determine the key capabilities you need:

  • ■ High-performance video delivery in all regions
  • ■ Video encoding to all of the common streaming formats and bitrates
  • ■ Automatic device detection and delivery of content in the optimal format
  • ■ Content access controls such as DRM and geo-blocking to restrict unauthorized access
  • ■ Cloud security capabilities such as DDoS mitigation and WAF protection
  • ■ Origin storage optimized for fast delivery of streaming video content
  • ■ Online Video Platform to manage video content
  • ■ Reporting and analytics that help you maximize the value of your video assets
  • ■ Configuration and self-provisioning tools to simplify content management and delivery (web-based management portal and/or APIs)

 

Your streaming video solution should provide viewers with a high-quality online viewing experience and offer easy-to-manage, cost-effective operations. Achieving these desired results typically requires many of the capabilities from the checklist above. You may choose to develop and implement the solution in-house, leverage professional services, or choose a turnkey solution from a full-service CDN.

Staffing and Support

If your video delivery experiences issues, every second matters. To avoid downtime, ensure that your CDN can provide prompt support.

Incident Support:

  • ■ Does the vendor offer 24/7/365 support?
  • ■ Is live support available, or are only email and chat support offered?
  • ■ How much does the vendor charge for support?
  • ■ Is support available in multiple regions and in different languages?
  • ■ Does the CDN have a 24/7/365 Network Operations Center that can ensure efficient traffic delivery?
  • ■ Does the CDN offer an appropriate customer notification system for planned maintenance and service incidents?

Let Experts Guide Your Way

When implementing new capabilities that allow your business to respond to changing requirements, experienced assistance can be invaluable. Some CDN providers have experts available that can act as an extension of your team, with expertise that can dramatically streamline solutions.

  • ■ Does your CDN vendor have an expert Professional Services team available to help you optimize your initial deployment?
  • ■ Does your CDN vendor offer specialized support offerings for major events?
  • ■ Can your CDN vendor offer workflow consulting and the implementation of best practices?
  • ■ Ask for examples where the CDN has solved similar problems for other customers at the scale of the service you are planning.

NEXT STEPS

The information in this guide is intended to help you move forward in your process of choosing the best CDN for your video delivery, with considerations for the video usage shifts we are seeing in today’s world of business as [un]usual.

 

Be sure you understand the fundamentals, whether you are doing live streaming, on-demand or both. Know the trends and engage with partners you can trust. Assess your current capabilities and your gaps. Do you need a high-performance turnkey solution, à la carte products and services to complement your current capabilities, or do you simply need fast transport for your existing workflow? Look for a CDN with expertise in video delivery that has the services you need and can support your transition with expert assistance. By considering all of these elements during the vendor-selection process, you will be able to find the right partner for your long-term success. For more information, visit us at https://www.limelight.com/products/video-delivery/.

FREE TRIAL

If you are considering CDN services, Limelight invites you to request a free trial. Allow us to demonstrate the quality of Limelight’s solutions and the commitment of every person to delivering the best experience first, for you and your customers, 24/7/365.

 

Learn more at https://www.limelight.com/free-trial/.

 

 

1Limelight Networks. “State of Online Video 2019”.