One of the concerns we field with new radio station clients is our unwillingness to host their audio and video files on our server. Hosting is all the same thing and everything works like Facebook, right? Actually, no. Far from it.
If you were to upload a piece of audio or video to the WordPress media library, the first thing you’re going to notice is that the upload process takes awhile. But, you’ll think to yourself that it makes sense because the audio file is an entire football game or the video is your new 60 second HD commercial.
Once the audio or video is on your page or post, you’ll feel great about posting great content until you start getting feedback from your audience that looks like…
“I can’t play the audio file on my mobile device.”
“I tried to watch your video, but it stopped playing after a few seconds.”
“All I see is a black box and nothing happening.”
While the file may have worked for you earlier, now the page takes forever to load. You’ve watched videos on other web sites and never encountered these issues, so what’s the deal?
Just because you can upload an audio or video file to your website doesn’t mean you should.
Here are the reasons why you should not host audio or video files on your server.
Audio and video files can be quite large in size. Unlike images, which are typically measured in kilobytes, a large audio file or HD video file can easily weigh more than 100 megabytes. Now, imagine what will happen dozens of visitors attempt to play the same audio or video file at the same time. That large file request is not being downloaded for each one. Too many requests for a single large file will quickly exceed the limits of any web server that is not specifically tuned to handle this kind of traffic. This means that your site and any other websites on the server will slow to a crawl and possibly start showing errors.
File Size Limits and Storage Space
Skyrocket Radio limits the maximum size of uploaded files, prohibiting you from uploading audio and video files that are longer than a minute or two in duration.
On other services, large media files may violate the terms of the Acceptable Use Policy and result in your hosting account being shut down. If you’re able to upload large video files to your server on a frequent basis, you could eventually exceed the amount of storage space provided by your hosting account, especially if you regularly back up your site. In addition to the amount of disk space your video files will occupy, backups will begin to take significantly longer to execute. More data requires more disk space and takes more time to backup.
Slow-Loading or Freezing Video
If your video file resides on a single server with a limited amount of bandwidth, your audience may experience unexpected pauses while watching your video. It’s annoying. That’s because their computer is waiting for the file to download or stream to their computer. And it gets even worse if they have a slow connection.
No Single File Format Standard
Specifically for video, the current HTML5 draft specification does not specify which video formats browsers should support. As a result, the major web browsers have diverged, each one supporting a different format. Safari will play H.264 (MP4) videos, but not WebM or Ogg. Firefox will play Ogg or WebM videos, but not H.264. Thankfully, Chrome will play all the major video formats, but if you want to ensure your video will play on all the major web browsers, you’ll have to convert your video into multiple formats: .mp4, .ogv, and .webm. Now you’ve got three different video files to upload for just one video, each one potentially hundreds of megabytes in size.
You also have to create different file sizes for mobile and HD use. Now you’ve got half a dozen or more individual files so that your video can be viewed on all the major web browsers and devices. But how does your site know which of those files to serve to each person?
Even if you have a player that can detect which device is requesting your video, along with its connection speed, and deliver the appropriate version, you still have to put in lots of work and upload many large files for each video.
Loss of Visibility and Traffic
YouTube is the most popular video hosting platform in the world. More importantly, they’re also one of the first places many folks turn when they’re searching for a topic. When you host your video on a third-party site like YouTube or Vimeo, you also benefit from their popularity, and people could find your video—and subsequently, your own site—who otherwise wouldn’t have known your site existed.
Audio services like Soundcloud offer some of the same benefits.
It should be added that social sharing features on these services encourage visitors to share your media with their followers, increasing your reach.
So what’s the best way to add audio and video to your website?
First, upload your audio or video to a hosting service specifically designed for it like Soundcloud for audio or Youtube/Vimeo for video. Then, embed your clip into your WordPress post or page.
When people view your page, the audio or video will appear in the location where you embedded it. But the media file itself will be streamed from the host’s servers, as opposed to your own server, where your website is hosted.
The embedded player will automatically detect the user’s device, browser, and Internet connection speed, and then serve the appropriate version of the video file to them.
Audio and video hosts employ massive networks of redundant web servers all around the world. When you upload a video, it is automatically replicated on every server on their content delivery network, which means when a visitor to your site requests a video, it will be served from the location nearest to their location, ensuring smooth playback and an enjoyable viewing experience.
Using this method ensures your media file will be enjoyed the way you intended… no matter which device or browser your viewer chooses.