In this part we’ll look at the services that let you send video files online. Hopefully by the end you’ll have had a thorough overview of the landscape as it stands, and make better decisions with regards to how to send video files with your clients.
We’re going to compare each service on the basis of:
- Encoding options and choices.
- Support for devices and operating systems.
- Maximum upload sizes.
- Costs of uploading 1 GB, 150 GB and 1 TB, and/or storage costs.
- Bandwidth costs for viewership.
- Type of CDN.
- Security features.
- Interface for clients.
- Branding options.
- Special services related to our industry, miscellaneous, etc.
- Priority email
I’m leaving a lot on the table. But we all have to start with what’s most important. Don’t assume my analysis is definitive, because it’s not. Let’s get started.
Comparison of online video sharing solutions
Here’s a chart that compares all the services against the points mentioned above (click to enlarge):
Important notes and warnings:
- The chart does not claim to be accurate, in both features or price or anything. Please refer to the vendors’ websites for correct information.
- The chart is only demonstrating a method of comparing various services in a quick and painless way. We need this because nobody else is going to give us this information in one place.
- Where I’ve written ‘Best’, it means that I don’t know of any service that offers better than this.
- ‘n/a’ could mean information is not available, or not applicable. Don’t read too much into it.
- Where I write ‘Unlimited’, it is because the same is mentioned on the vendors’ websites, but they will most likely have a fair use policy or other fine-print that you must uncover.
- I don’t take any responsibility of any errors or omissions or mistakes. It’s my analysis, shared for information purposes only. Don’t take any action based on this. Do your own tests and research. You are fully responsible for your actions.
- There are thousands of services and solutions for each category. I’ve only selected a few that I know of. Doesn’t mean anything.
- If you don’t agree to any of the above, stop reading.
Here are my notes on each type of service:
Online Video Platforms (OVPs)
There are many OVPs, and I’ve only selected three.
On the positive side, Youtube is fast and available worldwide, at many bit rates, and all for free. It also did roll out a 4K service but that has been stopped. Don’t read anything into that except that Google can bring back 4K at will. It did it first.
Vimeo used to have better ‘quality’ than Youtube, though I’m not sure that’s true anymore. Vimeo has password protected videos so if you’re a low volume sort of business, Vimeo might be perfect.
Where Vimeo falls behind is limited storage and upload sizes. It’s understandable, they’re not Google. They make up by having better branding options and nice looking interfaces.
Like Youtube, the encode options are limited, though you can make a downloadable copy available (but restricted encoding-wise). Also, you have unlimited views, which is important.
Odemax is new and in beta. It has two negatives (they might call it positives!):
- You need to buy a Redray player.
- The codec is a proprietary *.RED format.
They are only offering limited subscriptions now, and are more focused on helping the independent filmmaker at this point. Red has done many cool things before, and have beaten many odds with their cameras, so you never know.
What could be simpler than email? Obviously, you’re totally limited by the size of your attachment. Of course, to get 15 GB you’ll need a Google account.
Is there anyone on this planet who doesn’t have one?
Unfortunately, self-hosted email services cap their email attachment sizes at the Megabyte-level. You can’t pay for more, even if you’re on their best plan. If you know of any email service that can send 10 GB or more per attachment, let me know.
FTP is just a middleman, like email. But it is more secure, because you can connect from one secure server to another and transfer an unlimited file size.
Look at the chart again, and try to highlight all the best points in each column. Other than enterprise solutions, FTP is the only solution that gives you complete control over the file sharing experience.
The negative is that it isn’t a service, per se. You need a solid infrastructure to take full advantage of it. Many of the solutions in this list support FTP.
Torrents work when you have many people hosting pieces of the video at the same time. That’s how they are designed to work.
When you don’t have a P2P network, it is inefficient. And, who’s going to educate the client on how to download torrents (with all the negative connotations the word carries)?
There are possibly thousands of file-sharing services. I’m only going to cover the big guns. Remember, these guys don’t have anything to do with video, they’re just file-sharing services.
Dropbox is a solid solution, not married to any computer or software manufacturer. It has integration with both Vimeo and Youtube, so it could make up for Vimeo’s storage ‘problem’.
Hightail (formerly YouSendIt)
The other big name in file-sharing is Hightail. I have used the free option many times, and they have worked fine. It used to have a limit of 100 MB but now I think it’s 50 MB.
Unlike Dropbox, Hightail does only one thing, and does it well.
Google Drive is special because it lets you use Google docs and folders kept private and separate for different clients. You can share folders based on Google accounts. The big issue with Google Drive is that you need to integrate it with a Google+ account.
Some clients might be hip enough to go through that trouble (especially when you explain the cost benefits), some might not.
It also has the cheapest storage costs among the rest in this category.
This isn’t a file-sharing service, I’m afraid. At least, not in the way anyone else in the list is. I’ve just included it to let you know that!
SkyDrive (name will soon be changed) is somewhat similar to Google Drive, in that you can integrate it with MS Office 365. Negative? It can’t go over 100 GB, at least I couldn’t find a plan or a link to a plan.
Backup solutions don’t have video players. However, if you want to keep your storage costs low these services are extremely valuable.
These are different from file-sharing solutions in that they are not meant to be shared. It’s your own personal backup. Sharing would defeat the purpose.
Backblaze is not only cheap and reliable, they also have one of the coolest blogs (they tell you which hardware and software they use, and how). If you want it, and can pay for it, they will also mail you a drive in case something bad happens.
Crashplan, Bitcasea and Carbonite
These are three other big names in the online backup space. They are slightly more expensive than Backblaze.
In general, a service can claim security, reliability, up-time, whatever. But you never know. I would pick a service that can mail you a drive when you’re in a pinch.
What’s an ‘enterprise’ solution? First of all, they combine many of the above features and services. They are typically ‘configured’ for large enterprises or companies that can afford such a service. You’ll find these under the name ‘cloud services’.
Viddler is a well-known name in this space. They are focused on video, but are not cheap. Actually, this is slightly misleading, because they offer free views. In the enterprise space, you’re always paying for bandwidth. It’s great to know there is a solution that won’t charge you for it!
JWPlayer by Longtail
JWPlayer is an extremely popular player (for those who don’t like Flash, Youtube embeds or Vimeo embeds). It is fully customizable. Get a webpage just for your client, and embed your JWPlayer on it. The actual data takes place in Bits on the Run (though you don’t have to use that service if you don’t want to). Their charges are pretty high, so I’m not sure if I’ve made a calculation error!
Akamai is like dealing with an exclusive super-rich bank. They can give you anything, and charge appropriately. If you want a global operation, and are ready to make a yearly commitment, look no further. If you don’t have the money, or a high bandwidth requirement, don’t look.
From personal experience I know they don’t do business under a certain threshold. But they are the world leaders in this space. They deliver.
Brightcove is similar to Akamai (and many other CDNs), though a little more open about their prices.
Amazon Web Services (AWS)
In the last few years, Amazon has burst into the cloud scene. Their pricing is super aggressive, and they have a brilliant worldwide CDN.
The downside is that there’s a lot of technology choices, and not everyone will be comfortable with dealing with some techie stuff. I use Amazon S3, and it’s rock solid. If you want an enterprise solution, and have the determination to make a real go at it, I fully recommend AWS.
That’s a big list, and it’s nowhere near exhaustive! Actually there’s one more option, and that is self-hosting. but that’s just using one or more of the services mentioned above, DIY style.
What would I pick from each category? Here are my choices, just for fun:
- OVP – Vimeo Pro, hands down.
- The usual suspects – FTP and self-hosting.
- File-sharing – Google Drive.
- Backup solution – Backblaze.
- Enterprise – AWS and JWPlayer.
This ends our long and arduous journey into the world of sharing videos online. Of course, let us not lose perspective, because all the choices I’ve made are based on how to send video files to your client, and nothing else.
It’s all about making your client’s life easier, isn’t it? After all, they’re the ones who are paying for it!
What do you think? What is your preferred solution and why? How do you make it work?