Even though this site is mostly dedicated to file downloads using premium multihost services, when it comes to videos, in a lot of cases, you do have an alternate option: online streaming. Here I’ll discuss some pros and cons of streaming vs downloading videos as well as when it might be beneficial to choose one versus the other.
Total number of choices: streaming vs downloading
Just based on personal observation, there are substantially videos online that are available for streaming than for downloading. You can find ‘downloadable’ videos by way of filehosting sites like Zippyshare, Depfile, Uploaded.net, 4Shared, Mediafire, etc, and usually people find those download links posted on blogs, in forum posts, random websites or websites that index files available on filehosting sites, which can be loosely labeled as filehosting site search engines. No doubt, there are a ton of videos out there that are available for download only through these mediums.
On the flip side, it seems that streaming video is almost everywhere. Sure, you have Youtube, Vimeo, Netflix, Daily Motion and the near-countless number of sites whose business models are comprised wholly of streaming video, but unlike download links to video files, videos themselves can be and are regularly placed even on non-video-focused websites. You probably won’t find a Keep2Share download link for a video on some mainstream tech blog, but you could potentially find the content for that link streaming on that same website. Maybe Keep2share isn’t the best example, but it’s the point here that matters: streaming video is just about everywhere.
Downloading streaming video
There is a third category here that overlaps both video downloads and video streaming: streaming videos that can be downloaded as well. I think it’s reasonable to assume that if a video is available for streaming online, there’s a good chance that it can be downloaded as well. Just due to the way that things work online, it seems like it should be true 100% of the time, but there are certainly certain methods of video streaming that make it much more difficult for one to download or otherwise capture that video stream.
There are plenty of tools out there that can help people to download streaming video. That capacity is built into some download managers, and it’s also included with multihoster services like Linksnappy and Putdrive and others like them. There are also standalone tools (software or apps) that can download from multiple different video streaming sites or are designed to work exclusively with an individual website. At the end of the day for most people, most videos that one might encounter could potentially be downloaded with the right tools or browser add-ons.
When video streaming makes more sense
Personally, and I’m speaking of my family as a whole, we stream a lot of video. We presently use Netflix, Amazon prime video, Amazon video rentals, Starz via Amazon, plus way too much Youtube streaming. At the house we have slow internet – maybe 4.5Mbps down on a good day – that’s maybe 500kbs download speed. If we wanted to, say watch a movie at the spur of the moment, even the old, standard DVD rip at 700MB would take roughly 30 minutes on that connection, provided we were able to find a download link that offered to let us download at full speed. Which, this is where a premium account or multihoster or even a torrent might come in handy… Still, if you’re time limited such as I am with kids and bedtime and wanting to watch something… downloading isn’t the best option for us.
Now, if you look at streaming that same video – you could potentially start that within minutes or seconds depending on how long it took you to find that video. Most or all pay-video-type sites (Netflix, Hulu, etc) should work with a 2Mbps connection or better, and even less-legit video sources, like those sites where you can watch videos, but you’re also more likely to land some kind of computer infection as a byproduct, can also support these lower-speed connections for video streaming. No, maybe you’re not going to get HD video or get a perfect image on your 50″+ tv screen, but if you’re not picky, streaming can be a good option.
Moreover, generally speaking, streaming can be more conservative than downloading videos. If you’re on a fixed-limit bandwidth cap through your ISP, streaming may use up less bandwidth than downloading a video to your hard drive and then viewing it. Yes, you’ll probably lose some in terms of the video quality and the finer details of the video and maybe audio, but if you’re not picky about such things, again, streaming might be the better way to go.
When downloading might be the best option
Downloading a video is the better option, from my viewpoint, in a few scenarios:
- You want the ability to watch a video offline
- You plan to watch a video over and over again
- You want to edit the video or cut out certain clips
- You want the best video and audio quality that a particular video, or specific content piece, can give you
When you stream a video, in a lot of cases, the quality is determined by your available bandwidth. The more overhead your internet connection has for streaming video, the better your video quality will be. Up to a certain extent, anyway. However, when that same video resides on your hard drive or NAS or local media storage or just is available locally instead of remotely, your video’s bitrate should be whatever is available through the video itself and completely independent of your internet speed. With supporting hardware, you can view the video in as high a resolution is supported by all of the necessary components.
Portability is a strong reason to download a video versus rely on streaming. When I used to travel for work, I’d stay in motels and hotels. Even though internet access was always available for me due to where I chose to stay, it wasn’t really reliable for much more than a basic connection at that time, let alone being able to stream a full movie. However, with videos on a hard drive or USB thumb drive and the right hardware to connect your laptop to the hotel’s TV, you could watch something without splurging on a PPV movie. There are plenty of situations where having videos available locally would be beneficial, this is just one example of countless others.
Try streaming: you might like it
My recommendation for people who have limited bandwidth available to them or don’t necessarily need to experience a video in all of its HD glory, 100% of the time is to try out video streaming. Most of us are familiar with Netflix, Youtube and Hulu, but there are so many more sites out there that offer streaming video. My personal philosophy has become, “If I don’t need to download it, why should I?” No matter how simple it is for you to download a video file, streaming that same video is probably easier. Pushing a play button, or potentially pausing it for a few minutes to let it buffer, is a pretty simple solution. And, truth be told, there are just so many different places that you can find streaming videos online that you, too, may ultimately find that it’s just so much better to stream than to download.