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Another in an occasional series – collating my notes on blogging and infrastructure that I’ve sent to my customers.

This time discussing the fun of getting video embedded into your blog.


The original conversation was when I was self hosting. Dropping a video into the blog was easy – the issues were really around performance (slow uplink) and impact to other services (such as VOIP). Being given a denial-of-service from your own infrastructure wasn’t a good plan. Every time a video was viewed the uplink was hosed – and services were down.

The variables

Performance. What is the user experience pulling down a video. What if they are in Seattle, New York, New Zealand, London, Berlin? Is there any streaming or does the whole video need to download?

Privacy. Really about access control – and how to stop private family videos getting leached or viewed.

Ease of use. Facebook is a great example of what people (consumers) expect. Shoot video on phone, link to a blog/email, click done. All of the magic (rendering, transcoding, codec mungling, upload, CDN placement) is done behind the scenes. 

Cost. Free is fantastic – but the elasticity of the above requirements changes that somewhat. For most of my blogging and video posting I’ve tended to rank:

  • Ease of use
  • Privacy
  • Cost
  • Performance

Somewhere in that mix is an immutable value that the cost cannot exceed ($5 per month? $10? $50 seems too much) – it should be ‘an affordable luxury’ as my friend Steffi put it.

The experiments

Self-hosting. Posting MPGs and serving them via Apache.

  • Ease of use – not great. Getting video to the blog was not a problem (ftp or xml-rpc) but embedding it was pretty crappy.
  • Privacy – good. Same authentication as the blog and photos.
  • Cost – fantastic. No additional expense.
  • Performance – very poor. Slow to serve, degraded service at home – all round a no go.

Amazon S3. Posting MPGs to S3

  • Ease of use – ouch. Much harder than self-host – I couldn’t see myself explaining to customers about S3 buckets, upload, setting security and finally embedding into a blog.
  • Privacy – medium. Security by obscurity.
  • Cost – good. Low cost to upload and store. Low cost to serve from S3.
  • Performance. Better than self host. European S3 buckets worked well for non-US visitors. Poor experience all round for non-US and non-EU visitors. US-only content was pretty slow for EU viewers – but better than self-host.

Post to shared hosting server. Post MPGs to shared blog.

Much the hybrid between the above two. Benefits to performance.

Video hosting service – YouTube

  • Ease of use – easy. Upload, click, done. Good plugins for embed to blog.
  • Privacy – poor. Private video – requires YouTube/Google login to view; share to 50 contacts. Or unlisted – which is leachable. Security by obscurity.
  • Cost – fantastic. Zero.
  • Performance – good. Fast and widely available. Good mobile support.

Video streaming/hosting service – Bits on the Run

  • Ease of use – easy. Upload, click, done. Good plugin for embed.
  • Privacy – medium. Security by obscurity – but less obvious than YouTube. Also can be protected by preventing download/leach.
  • Cost – medium. Storage and egress costs.
  • Performance – good. Uses Cloudfront CDN (soon to change??) which has global distribution – works well across the US, Europe and AP.

After hacking around with all of the options I decided to use Bits on the Run for hosting and streaming videos. I’ve been really happy to date. It’s costing me around $10 per month.

The conversation

Here’s the first mail – some slight changes – but the main tradeoffs are in there.

So what to look for:

– Performance

– Storage and bandwidth costs

It’s also a lot better experience for your various viewers. The video content is pushed out to a global content delivery network – see map below – so no matter whether you’re in Munchen or Sydney – you’ll get a smooth, fast video.

It’s all about your tradeoffs:

– Privacy (none with youtube)

– Speed (can you watch it without a painful wait)

– Technology (do you need a phd to get the video edited, uploaded, converted to the right format, put into the blog

– Cost

It’s the usual elastic maths – I ended up using a video streaming service because it really makes the speed and technology easy (upload and it’s done) and it integrates with the blog (easy) – but it comes at a price.

Then the follow up

The challenges of getting video securely into your blog were numerous:
– performance (slow, stop/start video, poor playback)
– technically hard
– getting the video into a format that was useful to play on the web
I’ve been testing out a video-on-demand service that seems to fix these issues. All you need to do is have your video ready to upload in AVI or MP4 format, upload it – then embed it into your blog. It should be that simple. All of the technical gubbins behind the scenes is looked after – along with getting the video to the right place on the web.
Bits on the run is a pay service that does all of this – and it’s reasonably priced. Notice that it’s not FREE. Depending on how many people download your videos – you might have some surprises. On the positive side it does let you control quite carefully the security (i.e. it’s not on YouTube with a kabazillion people able to watch your family) and it moves the videos to a close point on the web for viewers. Tie that into the web-site/blog security that’s already in place – and it’s pretty good all round.
Here are the points around the globe where videos are stored. This means that people in the US, Europe, Japan and Aus/NZ can view the videos with good performance.