Video Streaming Works
In this day and age, it’s extremely rare to find a person who hasn’t heard of video streaming. However, not many people fully understand what this concept means. Fortunately, it’s not that hard to explain to a person with non-technical skills.

We will be going through all the basic ABCs of video streaming, and we’ll also try to cover current and future trends that might emerge within this domain.

What Is Video Streaming?

Instead of downloading an entire video and then viewing it, streaming allows you to access parts of a video stream in real-time. Think about it the same as you would about television. If you’ve ever used Youtube and similar sites, you might have noticed that the video only loads the part that you’re watching.

It’s the same concept as a lake versus a stream: they both contain water, but the way they deliver it is different. The lake holds the entire body of water, and it holds it still, whilst the stream delivers a constant flow of water. That is basically the same concept as video streaming - deliver fresh content and let it pass instead of saving it to your computer.

Protocols - UDP, TCP, and more

Protocols refer to how devices use their internet connection to fetch content, upload data, and do everything else you can do online. UDP and TCP are transport protocols, meaning they are used for moving packets of data across networks. They’re the most common ones used for video streaming.

The simplest analogy we can make is that of a delivery man. TCP is the type of deliverer who needs you to sign the package both when sending and receiving. UDP, on the other hand, is the deliverer that throws the package on your front porch and gets done with it.

In short, while TCP is more reliable, UDP is much faster. You might miss a few frames here and there when streaming with UDP, but you’ll be far better off if your internet connection isn’t all that stable. TCP is the preferred option for those who want high-fidelity video of, let’s say, sports streaming online, and can afford a stable and fast internet connection.

Buffering? What’s That?

As mentioned above, streaming loads parts of the video instead of the whole thing. The buffer refers to the zone that is loaded ahead of time to ensure a smooth viewing experience once you reach certain points in the video.

Over slower connections, a video might take longer to buffer. However, because of the buffer, you can pause the video until it loads more of it before starting to view. And yes, buffering also works on live streams, so you no longer need a recorder.

Just pause the video and it will continue loading the live stream in the buffer. The same goes for rewinding earlier throughout the stream, even if you weren’t online at those points. You can see this feature in action wonderfully by watching live Youtube videos.

How to Troubleshoot Video Streaming Problems

At times, you might experience video interruptions even if you have a fast internet connection and the stream is using UDP. Because it’s common to happen, the methods for solving these issues are quite easy to pull off.

First, you can try to see if there are any network problems in your area. See if your neighbours are having similar problems or contact the ISP directly. Or, if you’ve got the know-how, you can check network issues yourself. On the other hand, you might also be experiencing problems outside of the network. We’ll get to those as well in a bit.

Network Issues

First off, you might be dealing with network latency. This issue is determined by how many people are using your network at that moment. Having high-latency apps in the background can also cause issues - Windows Update is one such example.

Secondly, network congestion can prove similarly frustrating. Sending thousands of data packets throughout the network slows it down and causes the buffer to function at a snail’s pace.

Other Issues

Wi-Fi problems are the most common ones after network issues. Oftentimes, the solution can be as simple as restarting your router or switching to an ethernet cable (which greatly improves download speeds, by the way).

The client devices might also be causing issues, especially if they’re more than three years old. If you’re using, let’s say, an Intel Atom netbook, you won’t be able to stream full HD videos. You can stream only 720p or lower to get optimum frame rates.

Low bandwidth is the final obvious culprit. Unfortunately, you can’t really control how much bandwidth you’ve got all the time. It’s often either a problem caused by the ISP, by an old router, or simply by having too many devices connected to the network at once.

How to Optimize Video Streaming

The best-case scenario is to have a super-fast internet connection. Depending on where you live, this can either be extremely cheap or incredibly expensive. Having no data caps also helps, as your speed won’t go down once you reach a certain download limit.

Secondly, you can make sure that your router and cables are all top-notch and represent no bottlenecks. Furthermore, streaming from a location that’s physically closer to your position can also help a lot. No matter how fast your internet is in general, the location matters just as much as your bandwidth and other related factors.

Finally, if you’re using a VPN, you might want to switch to a location closer to you or connect to a server that’s in the same country as yours. Yes, it’s fun to see Netflix context that’s available only outside your region. But it will slow down your connection considerably, especially when viewing a higher-quality video.

What Are Your Thoughts?

We’re curious to see if you have other advice or piece of knowledge regarding streaming. With that in mind, we would like to invite you to write your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below.