How NOT to Build a VOD Streaming Platform?

The famous David Fincher quote goes, "People will say, 'There are a million ways to shoot a scene,' but I don't think so. I think there are two, maybe. And the other one is wrong." The same can be said about building a video streaming platform. That "one right way" is, of course, different for each company, but there are some universal mistakes you want to avoid. Max Kalmykov writes about exactly how not to build a VOD Streaming Platform in his latest article.
6 min read
04/27/21
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By Max Kalmykov
Vice President, Media & Entertainment
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How NOT to Build a VOD Streaming Platform?

Is your company considering taking the next step and creating your streaming platform? There is a variety of choices one should make when building a streaming service. Recently, we launched DataArt Octopus, a white-label streaming platform designed to give companies a head start and save money when building their streaming service. When you are building such a flexible service, you have to count for every possible risky outcome. So, we did, and we wanted to share the knowledge we gathered throughout that process. Without any further ado, here are choices you shouldn’t make when building a VOD streaming platform.

Not Go Serverless

Server-based refers to a dedicated computer that stores all resources, applications, and programs in an organization’s network. That server is only used by one entity, so it inherently has limitations. On the other hand, serverless architecture describes a network architecture where computers, known as servers, can centrally manage access to the network and network resources and store data. While physical servers are technically still used, it is not something that organizations need to be concerned with.

Serverless computing is advantageous for many reasons, including the ability to scale vertically or horizontally without any effort on your end. Let’s say you launch your streaming platform, and it is a hit. Eventually, the traffic becomes too much to handle. You need to scale. With server-based, you will need more time and more money to achieve this task. The longer it takes for you to scale and avoid traffic overload, the more chances of some users experiencing difficulties, which increases the risk of users unsubscribing. With the serverless approach, your company does not have to worry about allocating resources to server maintenance since this is handled on the provider’s end. Organizations are only billed for what they use, making serverless computing a cost-effective investment.

Plus, deployment is much quicker than server-based since there is no single point of origin that traffic is routed to. Slower deployment rates can affect the user experience, cost money, and a bad word of mouth for your streaming platform. Сhoosing serverless over server-based for your streaming platform ensures that you can scale your platform and accommodate a sudden influx of users.

Build Without Scalability in Mind

Scalability is important to ensure that the user experience is uninterrupted even in the face of a huge increase in traffic. Streaming platforms that are not built to scale will deliver poor user interface experiences. This means slow response times, failures, and time-outs. The reason is that there is not enough processing power to serve each user. This results in frustration among your audience due to latency, which means losing trust and your audience seeking content elsewhere. Your streaming platform needs to scale automatically to handle an influx of traffic, or it needs to be built with wiggle room to accommodate growth.

Currently, there seems to be an industry-wide best practice for scaling that consists of three stages. Most popular streaming services use the following steps before videos are released to their audience.

  1. Validation. Videos are analyzed using software for any digital errors that may cause color inaccuracies or even missing frames. Videos that have errors are denied from entering the second step until they can pass initial validation.
  2. Parallel Encoding. In the second step, the video is broken down into smaller fragments due to its large size. Fragments are encoded in parallel and then merged back to a single file. Validation occurs again to ensure there are no new errors.
  3. Encoding Profile. Files created during encoding are used to ensure a video format for each device type. These formats are called the encoding profile.

Skip Security

Inadequate security can spawn various business risks. To put the risk of obvious data leaks and their possible nightmarish collateral damages aside for a moment, in some instances, the threat of piracy can be another highly damaging problem for the business of video streaming. The damages can include revenue loss and brand image damage. If you are planning to let other users host their content on your platform and monetize, then the high risk of piracy will prevent users from trusting your platform.

Streaming Fraud

The digital world runs on statistics. However, if you are planning to host third-party content, those third-parties might want to promote their content in fraudulent manners. Once discovered, there is an automatic distrust of your company and your brand for participating in unethical practices. This can put a dampener on future growth.

The other thing to be aware of is avoiding unethical marketing agencies who participate in streaming fraud as a way to boost your stats. Ensure you thoroughly vet marketing agencies to ensure that all practices are legal and in line with best practices.

Poor Protection Against Piracy

A lack of adequate security can lead to poor digital rights management, leaving the content on your streaming platform vulnerable to copyright infringement and piracy. Watermarking and digital forensics are adequate solutions, but utilizing digital rights management (DRM) technologies is the best method of ensuring your platform is secure.

Digital rights management (DRM) uses complex encryption technologies that prevent your platform’s content from being read without a decryption key. Only your third-party DRM can supply this key platform. This encryption level is far more secure than simple encryption methods and, therefore, much more effective at protecting your content.

Choosing and implementing DRM technologies to your streaming platform follows a basic process. First, companies determine the platform’s requirements in terms of whether to use in-house or SaaS deployment and then hire the services of a DRM provider. Every piece of content is encrypted and integrated before being released on the platform for your audience.

Essential Security Features for Online Video Platform

  • Password Protection. Strong passwords are the first defense level by only allowing those with the password to access the content.
  • Domain Restrictions. Places parameters on which domains your content is allowed to be played on. The reasons you may not want certain domains playing your content varies. For instance, maybe you want to restrict one or more domains because they are not in line with your brand’s overall goals and mission.
  • Geographic Restrictions. This allows you to decide which countries have access to your video content. For example, suppose you only sell your product/services to the United States and Canada. In that case, there is no need to use up resources for individuals residing in Australia to watch your content.
  • Referrer Restrictions. Similar to domain restrictions but is based on «referrers» instead of addresses. For instance, if you do not want Bing referring people to your content, you can restrict them from doing so.
  • Copyright Permissions. Prevents illegal use of your content. Piracy is a big issue that results in lost revenue for your company. It is important to have the right permissions in place to ensure your content is not illegally obtained, downloaded, and distributed.

Building a video streaming platform is not an easy task, so make sure you do it the right way — the right path for your company and your intended users, that is. Hopefully, we were able to guide you closer to it. If you still have questions, feel free to contact us for a free consultation.

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