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Video: How to Keep Your Webcasts From Failing

Microsoft Production Studios Digital Media Services Team Manager Travis Petershagen looks at the webcast delivery chain, explains where failures happen with large-scale webcasts, and how to be prepared to avoid them and keep your webcasts on the air.

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Read a complete transcript of Petershagen's remarks in this clip:

Travis Petershagen: When there's a streaming problem, people don't just say, "Oh, that's the state of technology." They associate that with your brand. They associate it with your content, your show, whatever that is. They make that a reflection of you.

This slide shows a typical webcast delivery chain. You've got your venue, such as this, not unlike me chatting here with the cameras in the back of the room. Sometimes there's a back-haul path in place where you use traditional broadcast, fiber, satellite to get the feed out of the venue to a broadcast center. The broadcast center is where you then encode it, and of course, this encoding could happen on-site at the venue. That happens quite frequently. I thought I'd give you the longest path.

The broadcast center then pushes to the encoded feed as a web stream to an origin server, which fans out over a content delivery network, which then is surfaced through some kind of a video player that is in a web host environment or a video streaming platform. Only after it gets through all these parts of the chain does that viewer finally get to see it.

Granted, sometimes parts of the chain, such as the origin CDN and web host, may all be contained within a single web platform or streaming service. Behind the covers, all of the pieces are in place, and when laid out as you see here, a single failure anywhere in the chain is going to knock that out for your audience at the end of the day.

Most of us, when we do a very large event, lay it out more in the context of this. We double up on everything, and we criss-cross the paths against each other, so that if we have failures, we're much more resilient. If a satellite truck goes down, the shows goes on. If a origin service goes down, the show goes on. Doubling up is a pretty essential approach to keeping your broadcast on the air when you're just in an environment where the show must go on and you don't have any tolerance for failures.

I actually really trust fiber as a back-haul contribution path. We use fiber a lot, but when fiber networks are laying out their networks, they have a goal of running the shortest runs possible. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and it turns out the people who are really good in the straight line business were railroads. A lot of fiber paths run parallel to railroads, which means they are susceptible to the occasional derailment, such as what happened here in Baltimore during, again, a live broadcast we had going through the fiber through a tunnel that was knocked out and took us off the air.

Those are just a couple examples. As a result of that, though, most of the events we do, we believe in a suspenders-and-a-belt scenario. We like to have both paths in place when possible. Sometimes it's not as robust as fiber and satellite. Maybe it's an IP stream and a satellite feed, something of that nature, but we try to have a lot of diversity, so that if there's a big storm rolling through, the satellite goes off the air, we've got another path through fiber. If a construction problem happens in a venue, we've got a path through satellite.

 

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