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3. How are you compensated for network outages?
No matter what you are told, all networks have outages. While most networks offer a 99.9% uptime guarantee, streaming media service level agreements (SLAs) typically do not go into detail as to what exactly is guaranteed. They may only be guaranteeing that the server is up 99.9% of the time, not that the network will be.

Service level agreements are typically very generic when it comes to streaming media delivery services. The most important question to ask is how are you compensated due to an outage of the network or any portion of its hardware that affects you. Most providers will put down in writing how they will compensate you monetarily should they have outages that last a certain length of time or happen with a certain frequency. You can also have the SLA amended to allow you to cancel your contract without early termination fees should the service provider have a long outage or have outages frequently.

4. What cities are the streaming media servers located in?
Nearly all service providers promote themselves as being global, but everyone has a different opinion on what global means. Global is traditionally classified as a provider who has multiple streaming servers located in North America, Europe, and Asia. Many providers say they are global or have a map on their website that shows a lot of pretty colors connecting a lot of cities, but many times those cities do not have a server and are just peering locations. While it is nearly impossible to get actual numbers from providers, and since many of the numbers they do provide are useless or not relevant, just ask what cities the servers are located in.

Don’t rely on the numbers they throw out there. I’ll use Akamai as an example, since their sales pitch consists heavily of telling customers they have 20,000-plus servers. While I do not doubt that number, it’s useless unless you know what percentage of them are streaming servers as opposed to web servers. Of that percentage, which servers are just for the Windows Media format, and of that percentage, how many are for live streaming versus on-demand? That 20,000 number is a lot smaller at the end of the equation. Bottom line: Ask what cities the servers are in and what formats those servers support. Keep in mind that bigger is not always better. It’s about choosing the right provider based on the type of content you have, where it needs to be delivered, and what specific needs you have based on your business model.

5. What kind of detailed reporting statistics do you offer?
Reporting is one of the most important elements, and you need to investigate it thoroughly. If you have no way to accurately measure the delivery of your content, then how can you show a return on investment, especially if you are delivering your content for marketing and promotional purposes?

Providers tend to have their own reporting system, so comparing one to another requires some effort and hands-on time with their solution. For starters, if they don’t offer a web-based system where you can go and see your reports at any time you choose, they are not interested in being a serious provider. Some providers will email you a copy of a WebTrends report or raw logs if you ask, but that is insufficient unless you specifically want to parse your own raw logs and generate your own reports.

When evaluating reporting, get a login to the provider’s system and test it out. Do not base your decision on screen shots, a marketing document, or what someone else tells you. Get a demo account, make sure the demo account has all the functionalities enabled, and make your decision based on seeing what it can and can’t do.

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