Hosting Services Doing More
Third-party hosters typically combine hosting with use of their own content delivery networks (CDNs). CDNs use very high-bandwidth technologies -- including broadband, cable, and satellite -- for Internet-based content transport.
Since the dot com boom went bust a few years ago, the ranks of CDNs have been dwindling. On the other hand, many of the surviving CDNs have been adding useful new features over the past year or so.
Mirror Image Internet recently added edge caching of dynamic content for speedier delivery, and Akamai has been working with IBM on application processing at the edge. Meanwhile, Speedera is reportedly beefing up its security, and Limelight Networks recently became the first CDN to perform an end-to-end MPEG-4 broadcast.
In deciding on an outside service provider, organizations should weigh cost against capabilities, including the provider's geographic range of coverage, Rayburn suggests.
"Cost may be important, but it isn't everything," says Rayburn. "If you're not planning to distribute content to Europe or Asia, you might not need a global provider like Akamai."
Outsourcing Video Production
Meanwhile, more outsourcing options are becoming available for third-party production, too. Magix, a German-based maker of content creation tools, recently produced a streaming media Web site for T-Mobile. "We'd be open to doing something like that for other companies, too," says Carol Soper, director of brand management at Magix. Magix also sells Media Manager, an integrated suite for gathering, sorting, and sharing digital media files.
Top-end outsourcers of video production run the gamut from giants like Hewlett-Packard to smaller production houses such as JHT and TKO.
Alternatively, many companies are hiring Web conferencing specialists such as WebEx and Microsoft's recently purchased Placeware to handle both the production and broadcasting of streaming media content. Ford Motor Company is one Placeware customer, for instance.