Full glossary

Cloud video streaming

What is cloud video streaming?

A cloud video streaming service streams and stores your video data (or someone else's video data) in the cloud. A good cloud video streaming service will host video, deliver it reliably whenever you want, be scalable and able to reach millions with its content. Some popular cloud video streaming services include Netflix and Hulu, but they can also include services like YouTube, Vimeo and

Before cloud video streaming was a service you could buy, if you wanted to broadcast your video content to millions, you needed the right servers and hardware to do so. If you can afford the infrastructure and the storage costs for this, great. And, if you have time to optimize everything for video, that's even better. However, typically there's a steep, expensive learning curve for this. If you don't want to focus on how to host and stream video because your interest is in the content itself, then a cloud video streaming service is for you.

How does cloud video streaming work?

Cloud video streaming uses a network of servers that host and deliver video. When you are ready to live stream or upload a video for viewing, the service you've selected will transcode your video to prepare and optimize it for transmission. Your content will be transcoded into HLS and instantly made available. For a more in-depth discussion of how a video leaves a camera, travels across the internet and arrives on your display device, please see What are the Benefits and Drawbacks of RTMP?

Features of a cloud video streaming service

The ideal cloud video service will offer customers everything they need to ensure video broadcasting success. That means including:

  • API access - Depending on the type of service, a cloud video service's API features will be wildly different. For example Netflix's API lets you access data about their movie and TV titles. YouTube's API lets you retrieve information and videos for different users and add them to applications. And lets you build your own Netflix or YouTube or other type of video sharing platform.
  • Live streaming and recording - Transmitting live video and audio is a key feature of a cloud video streaming service, but equally important is live recording. Not everyone can tune in to your live stream when it's happening. That's why a good cloud video streaming service will allow you to record your live stream for playback later.
  • Transcoding - To prepare your video to be hosted or delivered, it helps if it's optimized for the web. Some cloud video streaming services expect you to prepare your video, but some services include transcoding. Because HLS is so widely supported, it's likely that your video will be transcoded to HLS.
  • Video player - Cloud video streaming services include a video player. HTML5 video players are the most popular and common -- even Netflix uses HTML5 for its video player.
  • Monetization - Depending on what angle a streaming service has, monetization is included so you can monetize your content, or its included so the service can monetize the content it shows you. Who controls the monetization depends
  • Video analytics - A useful feature for a cloud video streaming service is analytics. No matter the type of platform, knowing how it's being used is valuable. Some platforms, for example Hulu, won't expose analytics to the customer because that information is more for people who are offering the platform as a service to digest. But if you're building your own platform like this, the more analytics the better. In-between services like Vimeo or YouTube offer you some analytics. For the most control and detail, services like are great because you can learn so much about how users interact with your videos.
  • Content Delivery Network - A video streaming service is only as good as its content delivery network. Today big companies like Akamai and others ensure that their servers can process all types of content with ease -- including video. However, when it comes to video, the very best content delivery will be from CDNs that are designed and optimized solely to handle video. Many popular streaming services already do this with their servers by offering their own CDNs.
  • Support - If something goes wrong while you're watching content on a streaming service or building your own, you will want help with it. That's why every good video streaming service offers help in the form of live support and documentation to answer your questions.
  • Privacy and Security - All users and customers want privacy for their personal data and the ability to add privacy and security options. For example, if someone paid to view content on a streaming service, they want to know not just anyone can use their account without their knowledge. Or, in a set up where someone is building their own service, they'll want to be able to choose how to restrict and display their content to customers on their platform.