Web hosting for OTT Networks in 2020

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It seems every year about this time we get a rush of new customers that are just starting their OTT services.    This results in a bunch of service requests from users with insufficient web hosting.

So to help our new customers understand OTT hosting a bit better I am writing this blog.

Shared Hosting (aka "Budget" hosting)

We get a lot of support tickets from customers that have “Shared” hosting.   In fact, the biggest issues are caused by “budget” hosts not working with Roku or FireTV properly.

In a lot of cases this is because the host has cut corners to squeeze as many people onto a single server as possible.   The big names that we generally see not working:

  1. BlueHost
  2. JustHost
  3. BitNami

We’ve found that if you ask each of these hosts tech support for help with the more complex issues with OTT, most times they can’t (or won’t) do anything about the issue.  

Another issue to mention with budget hosts which is overloaded servers.   Sometimes hosts will load hundreds of sites on just one server.  They know that 99% of websites hosted there will never see much traffic and in most cases that is true.  

Unfortunately video sites generally require a bit more power and tend to slow your site down so much it becomes unusable.

For example I was an aspiring blogger during the Boston marathon bombing.  My blog was hosted on a cheap host who were charging me $15/month.   However when I published a piece about the bombing Google News picked it up and sent me hundreds of thousands of visitors.   My site crashed.   Hard.

I immediately contacted my host to see if I could upgrade to handle the traffic.    After 4 hours they finally replied but Google News had removed the link because it was down.    I was never able to hit that synergy ever again.

However, I learned my lesson… no more “cheap” hosting.   With the more advanced hosting options you can generally upgrade automatically from the control panel which saves a lot of time.

“But can I use some budget host?   Surely one must work?

This really depends on your plans.  If you only plan on having a few pieces of content and  only plan on using Roku Direct Publisher as your OTT platform, then yes you can.

Here’s who we do recommend:

 If you find a host that is awesome, and want us to test it out please let us know!

VPS and Managed WordPress

When we are asked to recommend hosting to one of our clients we generally recommend either a VPS host or a Managed WordPress system.

VPS (Virtual Private Server)

VPS is similar to “shared” hosting in that you still share space with other websites.  The difference comes where VPS accounts have dedicated resources.  The advantage to this setup is no matter what other sites are doing on that server, your site will remain available.

There are two caveats to VPS that you should be aware of.

The first is you may need more resources, so it’s recommended you find a VPS that allows you to make add or remove resources via their control panel.

The second is you should be somewhat competent in running servers.   While most support staff will do their best to help you, they generally take a bit of time to get back to you.    Should the problem be more complex than the support person is trained for, they may ask a lot of needless questions which will take more time.

Managed Hosting

If your goal is to run an OTT website using Rovidx plugins like WP Smart TV we do not recommend VPS servers.  Instead, consider using a Managed WordPress environment.

This means the hosting company takes care of everything for you to run a super fast and reliable WordPress site.   If you run into a technical problem (ie: my site is slow but you don’t know why) they will scan your site and let you know where the problem is and some solutions.

After working with dozens of hosting companies over the years here are my top 3 favorite hosting companies for managed WordPress.  Please note that these are affiliate links so there may be limited promotions available when you click them.

#3 – DreamPress by DreamHost – starting at $16.95/month

I have been using DreamHost since 2006 and have found them to be reliable servers.   My major gripe is their tech support seems to get slower every year. 

Recently while working on a project for a major health brand who had a dedicated server I had lots of dealings with their tech support and found the 4+ hour wait for response to be almost unbearable.   

I only recommend DreamPress if you are on a tight budget and can wait a few hours to get problems fixed.

#2 – SiteGround GrowBig – starting at $19.95/month Promo: $5.95/month

The amount of extras provided by SiteGround on a GrowBig plan are impressive.  Everything from Free SSL & CDN to Email and unmetered traffic, this is a great deal for OTT and IPTV networks.

#1 – WP Engine Startup – starting at $25.00/month

We love WP Engine.   Yes, you can get the same features from other companies but WP Engine has something the others do not… amazing tech support.  I’m a big believer in an ounce of prevention going a long way which is why we use their servers exclusively for Rovidx sites.

Having your site offline costs you money.    Waiting for tech support to help you with an issue costs even more.

With WP Engine tech support the wait is generally less than a 30 seconds to talk to someone.   No matter how big the issue they have answered and provided solutions within an hour. 

Another issue we have with other hosts is unqualified people answering tickets.    At WP Engine the tech support are properly trained and can usually answer most questions without the need to escalate the ticket or wait for a server engineer to come online.   In the few cases we did need more advanced help, support quickly transferred us to someone with more experience.

Dedicated Servers and Cloud Environments

Generally dedicated servers and Cloud environments are reserved for bigger networks that need power and speed to deliver content.   

All the companies mentioned in this article offer dedicated servers and cloud environments but if you are new OTT network, they are not needed for channels with under a million views per month (on average).

If you are an established network and are interested in upgrading your server game, please contact us and we can help you get started!