Posts Tagged ‘video’

What to look for in a web host, the basics

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Most people are somewhat at a loss when it comes to choosing a web host. It is generally believed that all hosts are created equal and the only real determining factor is price. Sadly this is not the case and if you let price alone drive your hosting decision you might end up with a big headache for the foreseeable future. Now don’t get me wrong, cost should be a factor, it just should not be the ONLY factor in making your decision. Besides, anymore a small business can get decent hosting for as little as $4/month so it is a lot easier to focus on what the host can do for you.


Server Software
The first stop on your hosting voyage should be about the functionality that the host offers. Now start back to your homework again. As I may have mentioned before making a plan is always the best any to start any web project. And if you have your plan handy, then you will know what you are looking for. At the most basic level you need to decide between Linux and Windows hosting. There are pros and cons to both, the key is knowing what your finished site will require (if anything) in order to function the most effectively. Linux is usually a safe bet if you are not sure and a basic static HTML site will work on either platform out of the box  but having a plan will take the guess-work out of it.

If your site is going to be built using PHP (whether it be a custom build or something like WordPress) you are best off with a Linux server. While with .ASP or .Net, a Windows server is a better option. There are components that will allow some things to run on either platform interchangeably but depending on your planned use, it is best to stick with the type of server it was initially designed to use.

Storage & Transfer
Other things to consider when choosing your hosting plan is the amount of storage space and data transfer you are allotted each month as part of your plan. Storage space is pretty straight forward – it is the amount of physical disk space you have available for storing your files on the web server but Data Transfer is a little trickier. Data Transfer is more about traffic. It is the amount of data that can be transferred from your site to your visitors each month. Now, I know what you are thinking, “that does not pertain to me because I don’t really have anything I want people to download”. Well, that is not exactly what it means. Data Transfer covers every page and every element of every page that is sent to a user when they come to your site. What that means is that if you have an HTML page that is 10K and you have 5 images on that page that are each 20K, you are transferring 110K of data each time that page is viewed.  Plans generally cover 2-5GB of data transfer each month and unless you actually have large downloadable files  or have mistakenly decided to host your own videos on the site, most small business will not have an issue with this. But be weary, If you do end up going over your allotment it might come back to bite you with up-charges. Video is usually the cause of data transfer up-charges and one of the best ways for small businesses to avoid this type of issue is to host your video on a sharing site like YouTube because you can still embed the video in your page but the data is being transferred directly from YouTube to your visitors so you get to see the benefits of having video on your site without the potential cost issues.

For most small businesses a basic plan will have all that you need.

Email is an often overlooked component of web hosting packages. Never discount the value of having an email address that is specifically associated with your domain. It presents a much more professional image and many times you get a great deal more functionality out of it that you would have with Gmail, Yahoo or your local cable provider. Most come with at least 10 email addresses and some come with hundreds. Make sure to pay attention to the available features for your email as well while deciding.

Depending on the type of site you are building you may also need a Database. And although PHP, ASP and .NET do not require the use of a database to be useful, their real power comes from the dynamic delivery of content. The most common type of database is MySQL which is generally offered with Linux plans (and required for WordPress) while Microsoft SQL server is the DB of choice for .NET.

A major differentiator between different web hosts is reliability. Most decent hosts offer a 99% + up-time guarantee. You need to make sure that the host you choose is not a fly by night operation that is going to cause more problems than it solves but bigger does not always equal better. Some of the big boys have had financial issues in recent years causing problems for their users when they had to sell out and the users had to jump through hoops to keep everything status quo.  Make sure you are comfortable with the host you chooses because the longer you are with them, the harder it is to leave. And if you do end up having to leave (no matter how little time you have spent with them) be prepared for the pains that can accompany it (propagating your domain to a new host can cause downtime with your website as well as wreak havoc on your email). The best option is to do your homework upfront so you don’t have to deal with the dentist over the issues caused by excessive teeth gnashing.

For the most part, customer service with your web host will be pretty transparent and you won’t really care, that is until you have an issue. And although they do not happen with great frequency, problems do occur and they seem to always happen at the most inopportune times. And at times like those it is good to know there is someone you can contact to get it resolved quickly. Check to see how they handle customer service. Is it email only or do they have a number you can call and do they have hours that will work for your needs? I know I have had to contact support in the middle of the night a few times for different clients and the fact that I was able to get a response from someone at 2AM and avoid the potential unpleasantness from eager site goers inability to do what they wanted was more than worth it. Make sure their availability will suite your needs (and a phone number as an option is always a huge plus).

There are a number of companies out there that can get you what you need, when you need it, with reliability and  service to back up the sale. Some of my top picks are below:


Now that you know what you are looking for (at least on a basic level), get out there and find the host that can help make your online dreams a reality.

To host or not to host (your videos), that is the question

Friday, November 12th, 2010

Video content can add great benefits to any website but how do you handle it on your site? Well, the simple (and not so helpful) answer is, it depends. I am asked regularly about the best way to deal with video content and while i normally advocate for having copies of all files integral to your site hosted with the rest of your content (on your web server), in the case of video, you have other options.

In the immortal words of Inigo Montoya…Let Me ‘Splain…no, it’s too much..let me sum up..

Video and other media takes up a lot of bandwidth to distribute to your audience.

Ok, too simple? All right here is a little more detail on that..sorry, Inigo.

Warning, technical babble approaching…

There are two types of data associated with any web hosting account, the storage space and the data transfer. The storage space is as you expect, the amount of physical space you have in your web server to store files. The Data Transfer however is a little trickier. The data transfer is basically the amount of data transferred from your website across the net to the different users, etc accessing your site.As an example, let’s say you have a video file is that stored on your server taking up 10MB, no big deal, right? I mean, have tons of storage space so no problem, right? Wrong. The thing with data transfer is it occurs with every user that comes to your site. You could have 10 people accessing that video file at the same time and each one of them will be costing you 10MB of transfer (not including and other graphics or files that they are viewing while they are there). Not much in this microcosm we are looking at, but now think about how many viewers you have per month x the number of videos on your site. It can easily add up to some major transfer overage charges all for a few videos you have plenty of room to store.

You are now leaving the technical babble portion of the posting..I think…

Ok, ok, i know, half way through that your eyes glazed over and you found yourself wiping drool from the corner of your mouth. So in layman’s terms, what does all of this technical babble mean to you and your site? Let me bottom line it for you: When it comes to media content (especially video) more often than not, you are better off pulling it in from a third-party source. Now there is one caveat to the content that follows, if you are offering the media in question as “premium” content (meaning that people are paying to see it), hosting the content yourself is still the best option but you may want to look into third-party storage like Amazons S3 services.

Now, for the rest of you, there are several ways to stream as much content to your site as you like without incurring exorbitant monthly costs. The most obvious choice is YouTube. I know what you are thinking, “but i want the content to display in my website and I don’t want to advertise other people’s videos”. Worry not, there’s an Ap for that…ok, maybe not an Ap per se but a way to make it work.

  1. First things first, go to YouTube and set up and account for yourself. Once that is done you will have your own “Channel” that contains only your videos and you can direct people to watch them. And i know you are not seeing it yet, but watch closely as the 3D image of the space shuttle materializes before your eyes…
  2. Upload your video(s)
  3. Marvel at the brilliance of your channel and tell your friends to go and look at what you have accomplished.

    Still not seeing it, huh? Keep watching. And see the magic happen…

  4. Once you are loaded up with at least one video, click-through to the video page like you are going to watch, then scroll down and see a GIANT button that says “embed”. This has nothing to do with sleeping, it is all about getting y our video from YouTube to you site. When you click the button a whole host of controls will be displayed allowing you to choose the size of the video, the colors of the player and more.
  5. Once you have selected the options you want you will notice the field filled with technobabble code..These ARE the droids you’re looking for. With this gobbledygook (it’s a technical term) you will be able to bring your videos right into your site with all e power of YouTube behind them.

Ok, now you are feeling it, I can tell so let’s move on.

All that is left is to take this lovely code back to your site and paste it into your page where you want it to go and VIOLA, you are set.

Now you are getting the best of both worlds, you have your video content where you want it on your site while at the same time making use of the streaming technology and bandwidth brought to you by your friends at YouTube. And YouTube is not your only resource for this, there are a number of other sites out there, like Vimeo, that work equally as well.

So what are you still waiting around for? Get out there and start loading those videos.