The 5 Essential Questions to Ask Online Video Hosting Vendors

February 28, 2012 by VidCompare Leave a reply »

The following is a contributed post by Brightcove.

You already know how important it is to choose the best possible online video hosting solution for your business. The right platform will position you to win viewers, convert customers, and make money across every channel and device that matters to consumers. The wrong one will lead to a costly mess that stalls your success for years to come.

But the solutions available present a baffling array of choices in all shapes and sizes. How do you decide? Half the battle is knowing the right questions to ask.

It’s all too easy to get lost in checklists and spreadsheets of features, specifications, and value propositions. To streamline your vendor selection process, start by focusing on the five key criteria that will make or break any online video hosting solution. You’ll quickly find that the vast majority of vendors fall short in at least one area, and usually more.

1. Can you scale?
As online video continues to boom, hosting vendors are scrambling to build out their infrastructure. Sometimes, their business volume grows faster than their ability to handle it—and their customers are subjected to downtime that leads to lost revenue, missed ad runs, and damage to their brand and viewer loyalty. Spikes in viewership can push their systems to the breaking point, rendering publishers’ content inaccessible just when it’s most in demand. You don’t want to be the publisher who breaks the camel’s back. Make sure your provider already has plenty of capacity to keep its service up and running, and the scalability to grow well in advance of demand so it never gets caught short.

Scalability also applies on the level of individual publishers. As your online video business grows, your library becomes more complex and your strategy becomes more sophisticated. A bare-bones solution that meets your needs early on may lack the tools and automation to support larger-scale online video operations—forcing you to switch vendors at a critical point in your development. Make sure to choose a hosting vendor you can grow with, with the enterprise-class features to run your business effectively no matter how big it gets.

2. Will you deliver quality—every time?
With so many online video options available to them, viewers won’t put up for long with jerky, stalled, or low-definition video. They learn quickly which publishers they can count on for a high-quality experience—and they don’t waste their time with the rest.

Creating high-quality video is only the first step. You also have to make sure it’s delivered in the right way for each viewer, with the optimal balance of short buffering times and the best possible image resolution. Your hosting vendor should be able to automatically transcode video files into multiple renditions and stream at different bit rates for optimal playback on different devices and connection speeds. Whether you’re delivering on-demand or live streams, the platform should identify the amount of bandwidth available to each user and adjust accordingly. Getting it right most of the time isn’t good enough. Make sure every single stream shows you in the best possible light.

3. Can you reach every viewer on every device?
Desktop-only delivery is no longer an option. Consumers have moved beyond PCs to embrace video across devices of all shapes and sizes, from iOS and Android tablets and smartphones to smart TVs—and publishers need to do the same. To make it simple for you to reach viewers across the widest possible variety of browsers and devices, your hosting vendor should support transcoding into both H.264 and WebM for high-quality delivery to both HTML5 and Flash-based experiences.

As apps for mobile devices and smart TVs continue to explode in popularity, you should think about how you’ll deliver this type of experience as well. Many publishers and marketers are already incorporating apps into their video strategy—and quickly discovering the difference the right platform can make. Simply put, if you have to build out entirely new skills and processes for app development, you’ll spend a fortune every step of the way. If your hosting vendor can make it simple to create apps as part of your existing online video operations, you’ll cut cost and complexity while riding on the leading edge of the latest consumer trends and preferences.

4. Do you get social?
Social media plays a huge role in the way consumers discover, share, and engage with online video, from Twitter tweets and Facebook shares to blog posts. Synchronization with YouTube is essential for putting the power of social to work for your business—after all, it’s the world’s second-largest search engine and built for social sharing. But YouTube is only one part of a well-rounded, blended distribution strategy. Make sure your hosting provider provides player-level features that make it easy for viewers to share your video not only on YouTube, but also through Twitter, Facebook, email, IM, and cut-and-paste URLs. Facebook whitelisting is also key to make sure people can share your videos with their friends—and, ideally, play the content right in their feed.

5. Are you extensible?
As your online video business grows, you’ll soon find it desirable to integrate additional parts into your hosting solution, from content management systems to specialized tools for captioning, chat and ratings, and e-commerce. Ad servers and networks should be easy to integrate as well. To optimize your business based on holistic, multidimensional insight, you should be able to complement built-in video analytics with other sources of data, such as site information from Omniture, quality of service information from Akamai, audience data from Quantcast and Nielsen, and so on. A flexible platform with plenty of simple-to-use APIs will keep you from getting locked into your current functionality and give you ample freedom to extend and refine your online video operations.

As you sort through your online video hosting options, you’ll find these five questions highly effective for weeding out the also-rans and narrowing your list to the best in the business. At Brightcove, we’ve used guiding principles like these to make sure our online video hosting solutions truly meet the needs of publishers and marketers today, while helping them future-proof their business by staying one step ahead with the capabilities they’ll need tomorrow. You can learn more about the ins and outs of online video hosting at the Brightcove Learning Center.

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