Advanced Techniques

How to Cost Effectively Scale your Live Streaming Platform

Michael Mitrakos
June 14, 2024
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Live streaming has become one of the most effective ways of reaching and connecting with a large and diverse audience. Regardless of whether you are a content creator, a business, or an event host, expanding your live streaming processes effectively is highly important in terms of quality, costs, and viewers’ satisfaction. Here we will explain the basics of live streaming at scale, including the advantages and disadvantages between DIY, software as a service (SaaS), as well as the benefits of a private cloud solution for companies looking to scale with a great cost advantage.

Live Video Mobile Phone

Scalable Live Streaming

Scalability is the capacity to accommodate more broadcasters and viewers without degrading quality or adding latency. As we all know, high volume traffic spikes are hard to predict as your product or audience grows, so we need to make sure that your architecture is agile. Let’s explore some of the most common ways companies can pursue live streaming functionality on their website:

DIY, SaaS and Private Cloud

When it comes to live streaming, you generally have two primary routes that people think about: DIY (Do It Yourself) solutions or SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions. There’s also a third lesser known option, Private Cloud, which has been gaining more traction recently due to its benefits at scale.

DIY Solutions

Choosing to handle everything on your own is a way to have full control over your streaming process. This entails owning your server, using free software and being in charge of every step of the process that is involved in streaming. Although this may be flexible, it is very technically challenging and resource demanding especially in terms of hours and cost - this includes infrastructure, custom software and integration, encoding and transcoding, content management, QA, user experience, scalability, security and compliance. Whew! What a list. There are many difficulties when it comes to this route, and we’ll cover this in another article, but for now we’ll focus more on the SaaS and Private Cloud options which are more common.

SaaS Platforms

Companies like Mux, Vimeo, Streamlabs, and Wowza present live streaming services with little to no configuration setup. These platforms take the responsibility of encoding, distribution, and scaling of the content, and this means that you only need to concentrate on content production. However, SaaS options are often associated with high costs per stream, and can be less flexible when it comes to customization and management. At scale, your cost can be very prohibitive which is where private cloud comes in.

Private Cloud

Choosing a private cloud solution is a balanced approach between the DIY and SaaS models for medium to large size companies. Private cloud provides a way to have more control over the streaming infrastructure while not having to build everything from the ground up. This method entails using cloud services to host your streaming platform so that the platform can easily be scaled up or down. It is also more flexible than most traditional SaaS solutions as it can be tailored to suit the specific needs of an organization while being backed up by a reliable cloud provider. At scale, this route can be more cost effective as you take into account economies of scale.

Already Using SaaS? Here's What to Consider

SaaS Cloud Icon

If you are using a SaaS platform (also known as multi-tenant) for live streaming and find that you’ve almost hit the cap of its capabilities, it might be time to explore other options. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind:

Cost Management

SaaS platforms can be costly when the number of viewers and/or streams  scales up. Be aware of your stream and viewer volume and determine whether the costs are reasonable in the long run. Switching off of your streaming stack can be difficult and time consuming as well, so make sure you think long-term.

Performance Needs

Make sure that your current platform is capable of handling high traffic and high volume streamers without a decrease in quality. High concurrency and low latency are important to sustain the viewer’s interest and time on site.

Feature Flexibility

Oftentimes, SaaS platforms are easy to get set up but offer limited features or customization. Make sure the platform you choose offers the right features that you’ll need as you scale your product and traffic in the future.

Advantages of Private Cloud / Single Tenancy

For organizations that want to have a balance between control, customization and cost, private cloud or single tenancy solutions are a viable option. While multi-tenant SaaS platforms share resources, private cloud infrastructure offers tenants dedicated resources which results in increased performance and security.

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Enhanced Performance and Security

Private cloud has many advantages and one of the most important is the ability to have exclusive resources. In the case of public cloud, the resources are shared by several customers while in the private cloud the computing power, storage, and the network bandwidth are all dedicated to you. This exclusivity enhances performance, because there are no commonalities that are shared among them. Resources that are dedicated are more secure; this minimizes the chances of data leakage and malicious access. Private cloud is created with the concept of isolation thus creating a secure environment for the data and applications.

Resource Allocation for Reduced Costs

Another benefit of private cloud is that it helps in capacity planning and management since it is fully controlled by the organization or the provider, and this results in reduced costs. If you can predict your current and future resources, you can help allocate resources better and hence avoid such scenarios as over-provisioning and underutilization. The ability to scale resources up or down based on demand ensures that you are not incurring unnecessary expenses during periods of low activity. This strategic approach to resource allocation optimizes performance while maintaining cost-efficiency, making it a financially prudent choice for businesses of all sizes.

Flexible Monetization Models

Private cloud solutions offer flexible monetization models that go beyond traditional approaches like Pay-per-view (PPV). As outlined in this article, the evolving landscape of content monetization now includes innovative models such as pay-per-unit (PPU). This approach caters to an increasingly price-sensitive audience, allowing them to be selective about when they tune in. By leveraging features like webhooks for real-time updates and client-side tokens for streamlined access, businesses can implement granular and dynamic billing systems. This adaptability in monetization strategies can significantly boost revenue while meeting the diverse needs of viewers. Note that the Native Frame™ platform is one of the few livestreaming solutions that offer granular billing.

Read more about how to monetize your live-streaming platform.

Conclusion

When you are growing your live stream operation, it is possible to do so at a pace that is manageable from a performance, cost, and control perspective. Regardless of whether you decide to go for an in-house solution, an out-of-the-box SaaS solution, or with private cloud, it is crucial to know your requirements and the organization’s growth path.

When platforms are moving from public to private cloud model, they can start benefiting from economies of scale they were not able to achieve before. Native Frame™ Private Cloud provides finer control of resources and their utilization and also presents cost advantages at a larger scale especially for the platforms with high volume of streaming traffic. This control also encompasses performance fine-tuning for the aforementioned specific needs, including codec choice, adaptive streaming options, and bandwidth management, thereby optimizing the viewers’ experience while minimizing expenses.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the key benefits of using a private cloud for live streaming?

A private cloud offers dedicated resources that enhance performance and security, more flexible resource allocation that can reduce costs, and customizable features that can be tailored to specific business needs. This approach provides a balance between control, customization, and cost-effectiveness, making it ideal for medium to large-sized companies looking to scale efficiently.

How does a DIY live streaming solution compare to SaaS platforms in terms of cost and complexity?

A DIY live streaming solution provides full control over the streaming process but is highly complex and resource-intensive. It requires significant technical expertise and investment in infrastructure, software development, and ongoing maintenance. In contrast, SaaS platforms offer ease of setup and management, as they handle encoding, distribution, and scaling, but can be costly per stream and offer limited customization options.

Why is scalability important for live streaming, and how can it be achieved?

Scalability is crucial for live streaming as it allows a platform to accommodate more broadcasters and viewers without degrading quality or adding latency. Achieving scalability involves using flexible infrastructure, such as private clouds or scalable SaaS platforms, that can dynamically adjust resources based on demand. Proper capacity planning and resource management are also essential to handle traffic spikes efficiently.

When should a company consider switching from a SaaS platform to a private cloud for live streaming?

A company should consider switching from a SaaS platform to a private cloud when it starts to hit the cap of the SaaS platform's capabilities, experiences high costs per stream, or requires more customization and control over the streaming infrastructure. Private clouds offer dedicated resources, better performance, enhanced security, and cost savings at scale, making them a suitable option for growing businesses with high streaming demands.

What are the challenges of implementing a DIY live streaming solution?

Implementing a DIY live streaming solution involves several challenges, including the need for extensive technical expertise and significant investment in infrastructure. Key tasks include server configuration, software development, encoding and transcoding, content management, and quality assurance. Additionally, maintaining security, ensuring scalability, and managing compliance requirements add to the complexity and resource demands of a DIY approach. This can make it a daunting and costly option for many organizations.

WRITTEN BY
Michael Mitrakos
Senior Software Engineer
Software engineer with a knack for coding in far-flung places. World traveler, taco enthusiast, and ice hockey lover. Currently navigating life one byte at a time, and always in search of the best bookstores.