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Whether you’re looking for an alternative to YouTube or simply want to retain control over your videos, self-hosting videos is an attractive option. But does it really solve anything?
You might have been hit by YouTube’s changes to monetization. Even then, it could work out better on your pocket to avoid hosting your own videos. Plenty of alternatives are available (such as Vimeo), and one of them will almost certainly meet your needs better than self-hosting. Here’s why you shouldn’t host your own videos.
The Difference Between Self-Hosted and Embedded
Before we look into the reasons not to self-host your own videos, it’s important to outline how this is different to embedding videos.
Self-hosting means that the video is stored on your own site. Thumbnail images and maybe some audio clips are stored there as well. These files can all be uploaded to your site via FTP, or if you’re blogging, via the WordPress uploader.
Embedding a video, meanwhile, is when you paste a link onto your site to a video you’ve already uploaded elsewhere. You might upload a video to YouTube, Vimeo, or Facebook. With the embed code shared on your page, the video can be watched across the web, even though it’s held by a hosted video provider.
Now, let’s look at why hosting—rather than embedding—could be a bad choice.
1. Increased Bandwidth
When you start sharing videos that you have hosted on your own website, and people start watching them, the amount of bandwidth used by your site will increase. This has several adverse effects, notably server speed and cost (see below).
The reason for this is that video files are large. While standard- and low-definition clips are smaller, they’re less attractive to viewers used to high-definition video. A typical video will be over 100MB, which is not small (you’d only fit seven such videos on a CD-ROM, for example). As multiple viewers enjoy that clip, your site’s bandwidth will be reduced.
Ever wondered why websites have upload limits? This is why. Typically, the limit is 50MB, which would limit video uploads anyway. Although there are ways around this, it isn’t worth violating your web hosts’ usage terms.
While it is possible to upload videos to cloud solutions like Amazon S3, playback can be slow or stutter. And if you’re going to use S3, you might as well use YouTube or its competitors. Although it isn’t perfect, YouTube performance issues can be fixed.
2. Performance and Speed
Network bandwidth is only one problem. As more videos are watched on your site, not only is the network bandwidth taxed, but so is the server’s performance.
Do you want your website to be slowed down by your web host? Of course you don’t. But this will be their reaction if you start serving videos to regular visitors to your site. More than likely, your site is hosted on a shared hosting package.
This means that many websites are hosted on the same server. If one of those sites starts overwhelming the others, the host will reduce server resources to that site, or take it offline completely.
Your site should not be negatively impacting others. Web hosts rely on offering almost 100 percent uptime and won’t tolerate subscribers misusing their hardware. Persistent abuse could result in your account being closed, and your site lost if it is not backed up.
3. Soaring Server Costs
These first two problems will inevitably crystalize into a third, potentially more devastating issue: your server costs will soar. If you want to keep your self-hosted library of videos online, you’ll either need to move to dedicated hosting or find a different solution entirely.
Typically, a website costs around $5 a month to run on the most basic WordPress packages (if not less). For a site to host its own videos, you’d part with at least 10 times this amount. It could be a lot more. Our guide to the best web hosting packages might help, but only if you have a sizable budget.
Self-hosting on a home server, meanwhile, is impractical. Most ISPs limit bandwidth across their IP range whenever unusual activity is detected, even with a dedicated IP address.
4. Formats and Compatibility
When you upload to YouTube, Vimeo, or another video host, the site converts the video to a browser-friendly format. This way, the video can be viewed on virtually any browser and device.
But when it comes to uploading videos to your own hosting, you’re limited by format. Although YouTube and other providers use HTML5, the specification doesn’t specify which video formats should be supported by browsers.
Chrome plays all major video formats, but Edge, Mozilla Firefox, and Safari do not. The best solution here, to reduce massive server overheard converting your videos into a web-friendly format, is to convert them yourself. You’ll need each video in three formats: MP4, OGV, and WEBM.
While this might be an acceptable option if you’re just starting out with your own hosting, it’s a problem if you’re migrating videos from YouTube. Do you have the time? Is your computer up to the task of converting a massive amount of videos to multiple web-friendly formats? Even when you’ve done that, quality may suffer across different browsers.
5. Loss of Visibility
Another problem, and perhaps the worst for your videos, is the loss of visibility. On YouTube, Vimeo, or wherever, your videos can always be viewed. They’re hosted by some of the biggest sites on the planet, and they’ll always be available.
But on your own website, your videos are less likely to be seen beyond your Facebook friends and Twitter followers. Whereas you had several thousand views and subscribers on YouTube, now you have just a few dozen.
This loss of visibility can hit you far harder than YouTube demonetizing your videos. Thanks to self-hosting your videos, you’ve now lost your audience. There’s always a chance YouTube may reintroduce monetization for smaller YouTubers later on. Rebuilding your audience? That’s almost impossible.
And Then There’s Piracy and Unauthorized Use
As noted, there is a potentially massive financial cost for self-hosting. You might attempt to set up a membership site, where subscribers gain access to your content. This can work in some cases, but your content needs to be pretty unique to get away with it.
However, even if you do this, there remains the potential for your videos to be downloaded and shared. Video intended for your own site could soon find its way onto file sharing sites. In fact, it might even end up back on YouTube.
A bit pointless, isn’t it?
Are you sick of YouTube? Well, they might not be giving you monetization options, but the alternative, self-hosting, will really hit your pocket. No one wants that.