Most people know about shared hosting, VPS hosting, and dedicated servers, but one type of hosting service that goes overlooked is media servers. These are servers that are built specifically to handle the large amount of resources needed to stream video and audio. A media server allows you to add new elements to your site that you probably never even considered.
How Media Servers Work
Like I mentioned, a lot of people simply don’t know a lot about media servers because we typically use other services to handle our media for us rather than host it ourselves. This is because videos require large amounts of space to store and a significant amount of resource to stream. But media servers are often installed or added onto your current VPS or dedicated server as separate software.
The media server gives you the ability to stream media (typically video or audio) right on your site rather than rely on a third party service to do it for you. Also, media servers give you the ability to do things that you cannot do with YouTube such as live video streams right from your own website, video chats, and more.
In order to see the capabilities of media servers and how they work, take a look at Livestream.com or Justin.tv. Both of these sites use media servers for the live streaming capabilities.
Can’t I Just Use YouTube?
One of the first questions I had when I first began learning about media servers is “why can’t I just use YouTube?” That’s a very valid question and upon doing a little research, I grew to learn the advantages of using a media server rather than YouTube, Vimeo, or other video hosting sites.
- More control: With sites like YouTube, you don’t have control over your content. The TOS for YouTube is pretty strict and they reserve the right to pull down your videos at any time. With media servers you have complete control over what you can and cannot put on your site without worrying about breaking any rules.
- Branding: If you want your website to have a completely custom look to it, using a branded video player or media streamer such as YouTube or Vimeo kind of contradicts the goal. Since you’re hosting your own media, the video streamer will actually be a part of your site. It’s similar to having a blog with the domain name, companyname.blogspot.com vs. companyname.com. The former doesn’t have the same professionalism as the latter.
- Less competition: Look on the right side of YouTube when you’re watching a video. You’ll see a ton of related videos that are from other users. Those other users are your competition. YouTube serves them to your viewers on a silver platter which distracts users from your videos. Using a media server allows you to place the videos on your site without an option to redirect to YouTube where viewers will become distracted by competing sites.
- Reliability: When you use YouTube to host your videos, you’re relying on their servers to keep your videos up and running. If YouTube has an issue with their servers, then you have a problem as well. There have been plenty of instances where users have run into problems with YouTube videos not loading quick enough. Believe it or not, buffering doesn’t always mean you have a bad internet connection. Sometimes the slow or low quality video playback is a result of the site that is streaming the video. When you use a media server you don’t have to depend on a third party’s server.
Keep in mind that using a media server to host your own videos does not mean that you cannot place your videos on YouTube as well. In fact, I would highly recommend trying to distribute your videos across as many outlets as possible for more exposure and SEO benefits as well.
Putting Media Servers To Use
I want to go over some cool and creative ways that media servers can come in handy for your site.
- Live chat: We live in a time where people want a personal level of interaction with businesses, celebrities, and even bloggers. Hosting chat sessions on your website to interact with your customers or website visitors is a great way to get creative with your site. For businesses, you could use it as a customer service tool. For bloggers you could have chat sessions with your readers.
- Webinars: One of the most obvious benefits you get with streaming video on your own site is the ability to do live webinars. When you use a service like Wowza hosting, you can get time shifted viewing so webinar participants can pause and rewind your webinar as it streams.
- Exclusive video content: Another way to use your media server is to set up a section with exclusive videos for paying or special visitors. You could use this as a monetization method or just as a way to get more subscribers to your site. You can use the videos to showcase insider tips and tricks related to your business or site too.
So Who Should Invest In A Media Server?
By now, you should have a pretty good idea of the benefits of media servers and how they can be used on your site. If you’re still on the fence about whether or not it’s worth it to invest in a media server, consider a few things. Does your site rely heavily on videos? If the answer is yes, then getting a media server might make sense for you. On the flipside, if you only upload new videos once a year to your site then it probably wouldn’t make much sense for you.
Also, if you read some of the possible use cases I mentioned earlier and you think they’re features you could implement on your site, a media server could definitely benefit you. A media server isn’t a must have for everyone, but when you’re trying to capitalize on video and audio streaming media servers are definitely a great option to explore.