Aug 16, 2021

The Technology Behind Streaming Services Is Pretty Impressive

IT Services Blog


Most of us take streaming media for granted. Whether you are streaming a movie on Netflix, binge-watching a show on Hulu, or using one of the growing number of streaming television networks to stream sports, shows, and news, there is quite a bit of interesting technology fueling your entertainment. Today, we thought we’d briefly go through some of the tech that makes these streaming services, and their millions of simultaneous streaming feeds, possible. 

Often, Streaming Media is Not Pushed Through the Internet

If you asked the average streaming service subscriber how they are able to get their entertainment on demand, they would answer that the companies that do it simply push it over the Internet. You have to be connected to the Internet to get the content so it stands to reason that they just beam it over the network connection, right? 

As it turns out, about 85 percent of internet bandwidth is streaming video. That’s a lot of data to send across the internet, to the point where it would be wildly expensive to host these services in the traditional sense and expect it to work effectively for millions of users every day.

So how do they do it? The streaming services have spent a lot of time and money building out streaming infrastructure. Think about how you use your streaming services. You file through a catalog and then select something to play. Nearly instantaneously, the title you’ve chosen plays; on any device you want to view/hear it on. The process used to make this possible is called over-the-top (OTT) streaming.

OTT streaming is the act of delivering content to the user on a particular device. It has five steps. They are:

  • Video ingestion – This is the process of adding content to the streaming platform. Streaming services are always updating their content to provide users with new entertainment. 
  • Transcoding – With so many different types of devices being supported by streaming services, they need to alter the content’s code to play on the device you are looking to stream content on. Video files are wrapped differently for every platform. 
  • Management – This process is simply managing the content for users. Some users pay more for 4K video streaming and other options. This process ensures that the users get the content they are eligible for.
  • Delivery – Content Delivery Networks (CDN) is the hardware and software behind the service. Typically, the content is delivered through regional data centers to give users the speed and reliability that they demand. Netflix has their own CDN, as does Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon. Most streaming platforms utilize third-party CDNs due to the cost to build and maintain. In fact, in some cases, Netflix actually sends an entire server with their content library on it to local ISPs so the video content can be delivered to users as effectively as possible.
  • Playback – The end result, the playback of the content. Amazingly, all this happens extremely fast and users typically only wait seconds to get the entertainment they want.

Security is Not Cut and Dry

For streaming services—just like your business—keeping their customers’ personal and financial information secure is undeniably important. In fact, nearly 70 percent of businesses are now investing in some sort of video and audio streaming. As a result, finding vulnerabilities in the video dissemination process can be fruitful for the modern hacker. Moreover, for large-scale streaming services they also run into the issue of people frequently sharing their passwords, which is always a red-flag for cybersecurity professionals looking to keep networks secure.

These companies, like many others, also deal with your standard hacks, but when you consider how many people are lackadaisical about their Netflix or Hulu security, it can be much harder for these organizations. Let’s take a look at some of the hacks these organizations frequently deal with:

  • Phishing attacks – Phishing attacks are a major problem for everyone, and with so much demand for streaming media, hundreds of lookalike websites have been established on the Internet looking to take advantage of people who are tempted with free subscriptions.
  • Credential Stuffing – As mentioned above, it may not be too difficult to get ahold of people’s streaming media access credentials, this can cause major problems for the service itself.
  • Brute Force attack – For those hackers who don’t have access, sophisticated software is used to attempt to login through simple trial and error. 
  • Man-in-the-Middle – This is just the interception of account credentials and other information by getting between two communicating parties. This is why it is a sound strategy to utilize VPNs and always utilize the multi-factor authentication feature offered by a company.

Streaming media is one of the most utilized services and the number of people using it is growing rapidly. What are your thoughts on the technology used by streaming media? Do you utilize it regularly? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below and return to our blog for more great technology information. 


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