The current COVID-19 pandemic has forced most organizations to transition to remote working. As most employees are now working from home, the need for robust collaboration and internal communication tools has never been greater. In this post, we focus specifically on how to successfully execute town hall meetings, or any large scale webcast, given the new networking challenges that all companies face.
Streaming large virtual events has ALWAYS been hard. There are many moving pieces, the bandwidth requirements are massive and there’s no room for error. Network health has always played a crucial role in the success of these webcasts, but now the network is completely different. Instead of being delivered via the corporate network, these large events must now be delivered over the public Internet.
Internet infrastructure is heavily taxed and less predictable. Streaming can get choppy, especially during peak hours and in geographies with a less developed infrastructure
When the Internet is stable and not overloaded, a single CDN is a reasonable delivery strategy for a virtual event. But these days, the public Internet infrastructure is heavily taxed and less predictable. So large streams can get choppy, especially during peak hours and in geographies with a less developed infrastructure. Some employees might connect from ISPs that are completely overloaded and, as the webcast admin, there’s seemingly nothing you can do about it.
Large enterprises and OTT services have transitioned from a single CDN to Multi-CDN and P2P
Well, it turns out that you’re not completely at the mercy of the Internet and there are ways to proactively become more resilient;
One strategy many organizations and OTT services have chosen, is to move from a single delivery source (the CDN) to multiple sources (P2P and MultiCDN).
Add P2P on top of your CDN
This architecture is also known as peer-assisted delivery. The more users you have, the better it will work. With intelligent client-side switching technology, the player alternates automatically between peers and the CDN, depending on which resource is the most performant at any given moment. When the CDN is choked in a certain region, or the route to the CDN is congested, the peers will still be able to deliver the content and ensure a more consistent and reliable stream. P2P connections are usually made inside ISP networks, so we’re not using the already congested links that connect the ISPs to the outside world (which, btw, is also good for the ISP).
Relying on a single CDN for a high-stakes event is risky. Using two or more CDNs provides the necessary redundancy and better performance. OTT providers have long understood that no single CDN performs the best in every region. Because of this, virtually all providers have adopted a multi-CDN architecture to protect themselves against suboptimal performance and service disruptions. Peer5’s MultiCDN service aggregates the delivery infrastructure of several underlying CDN vendors and creates a managed service behind a single API.
And here are five more tips to make your webcasting successful:
Treat the corporate network differently - Some offices around the world have re-opened (in some Asian countries for instance). Corporate networks typically require a special solution and not just CDNs because their ISP connection can easily get congested. The key in this situation is to identify which users are physically inside the network and which ones are outside based on their IP addresses or some other method. Once identified, the right solution should be used. Inside the firewall, use specialized ECDN (read about the different approaches). Outside the firewall, we recommend P2P and MultiCDN.
Sort out your VPN strategy - Most large companies use VPNs and, unfortunately, they are a major threat to the success of any webcast. The default behavior for VPN clients is to route video data through their proprietary proxy servers which are not designed to handle a large number of concurrent video streams and will introduce new bottlenecks. Options:
A. Configure a split tunnel that will route the video traffic directly through the Internet, bypassing the VPN proxy server.
B. Shut down the VPN client during the event. Even though it’s not ideal, for some organizations, this is the more practical option.
C. Use a next gen VPN such as Cloudflare Teams that use a vast network of edge nodes capable of streaming at scale.
Guide your employees to establish a high-speed connection - All of the delivery methods are irrelevant if, at the end, the user has a poor quality Internet connection. End users should test their connection (fast.com, speedtest.com) and ensure their Wifi signal is strong. If possible, ask other users at home to pause bandwidth sensitive applications such as video streaming apps and games.
Consider an audio only option - This can be a life-saving option for strict VPN environments where the stream must pass through VPN proxies with very limited bandwidth. From the end user’s perspective, it’s not ideal, but on the other hand, it’s not the end of the world. It’s better to listen to a flawless webcast than watch a stream that is constantly rebuffering.
Prepare, prepare, prepare - Practice makes perfect, and that’s especially true for live streaming, as so many things can go wrong. Use data, and learn from past events before you broadcast the most important event of the year. Here’s another blog post we wrote in 2018, which is still applicable, with 10 tips for better preparation.