YouTube is an absolute giant when it comes to video streaming. It’s so obvious that many of us don’t even give it a second thought anymore. According to their own usage statistics, 500 hours on video (on average) are uploaded every single minute. An accumulated 1 billion hours of content are viewed every day.
There are more staggering statistics about YouTube usage and how it has taken over the entertainment industry by storm. This video-hosting website has come a long way since its inception in 2005. If you are a content creator and often upload to YouTube, you must have wondered at one point or another: will they ever run out of storage space? If you’re afraid of the streaming service’s downfall it’s worth investing in a portable hard drive and using Bit Downloader to save and watch all of your favorite videos whenever you want – even offline.
It’s a valid question. With the seemingly endless influx of videos, one simply can’t help but wonder about YouTube’s server capacity and how exactly they are managing to host this ungodly amount of content without frequently breaking down and losing data. So how exactly does their storage work?
How do they make it work?
The exact size of YouTube’s database is nearly impossible to estimate correctly, due to the continuous uploads and exponential growth of content hosted on the site. With hundreds of gigabytes being seamlessly uploaded every single minute, there is really no way to put a number on the exact amount of data stored on these servers.
In order to understand how the processing of such gigantic amounts of data works, check out some of the techniques YouTube uses to provide their seemingly flawless service.
While transcoding itself means changing up the format of the file to make it best-suited for streaming, it is also a very broad term which encapsulates a bunch of techniques, all dedicated towards making the uploaded videos smaller in size and easier to stream. It includes transrating, which is a method applied to reduce the bitrate of the video as well as the audio — this allows to keep the same format of your content, with a lower bitrate, meaning that it will simply take less time to load it up.
Next up, there is trans-sizing, which basically allows you to reduce the video frame (quality) according to your internet speed, in order to maintain low loading times. For example, if your video doesn’t load up very quickly, you can simply trans-size it from 1080p to 480p. Keep in mind that some videos are specifically designed for playback at certain frames and therefore won’t allow trans-sizing at all.
Everyone has experienced adaptive streaming, even if they didn’t quite know what it was. You know these annoying moments during a YouTube video, when the quality suddenly drops from full-HD to 360p for seemingly no reason whatsoever? They are especially frustrating when you’re trying to enjoy content on a large screen, like a television screen or a projector. It also works the other way around — the video starts out with horrible quality, but as it progresses, the images get sharper and sharper.
These drops are not signs of YouTube or your network malfunctioning. Actually, it is a very important feature of the streaming giant’s entire model of functioning. Adaptive bitrate streaming allows you to continue viewing the video, even if your network or device can’t handle it. Instead of stopping and long buffering times, YouTube has opted for the option described above for one simple reason — people are less likely to quit the app altogether if their quality drops than if their viewing is interrupted by constant, unsolicited pauses.
How do they store everything?
YouTube’s storage techniques are actually very clever and flexible. They are also much less complicated than you would think. The basics of YouTube’s data storage can be summarized in the following three methods.
Modular Data Centers
Those centers are where the majority of content is stored. In layman’s terms, they can be described as portable server farms — the entire data center is stored in a shipping container which is then moved around to different locations, depending on where the largest data storage capacity is required.
Content Distribution Network
Ever wondered how it was possible that hugely popular videos and live streams load so fast and efficiently on YouTube, whereas more obscure content sometimes takes ages to buffer? The answer is simple — Content Distribution Networks (or CDNs).
When a video gets really popular, it gets replicated and sent out to various places (in the cloud and to data centers). This means that the single popular video actually has dozens, if not hundreds of copies all over the world, allowing users to access them seamlessly from anywhere in the world.
Tip of the iceberg
All of the above mentioned data storing and redistribution techniques are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the way YouTube works and how it is continuously able to store ever-increasing amounts of data without hiccups. Whenever you load up a video now, it is worth remembering how much work and innovation has gone into this technology allowing you to access this never ending stream of entertainment.