Video security vs compatibility

Video Security and compatibility are the two most important aspects of video hosting. When they come at odds we have to make decisions that represent everyone’s best interests.

Secure & Compatible Video Delivery

vzaar supports two different modes of video delivery: Secure and Compatible.

Secure Delivery leverages AES Encryption to encrypt videos as they move from vzaar’s servers to your viewers. It can give you peace of mind when your videos contain more sensitive content. However, it can also have a cost and performance overhead, so it’s not always desirable.

Conversely, our Compatible Delivery mode focuses on making your content viewable in as many contexts as possible. It works all the way back to IE8, alongside all modern browsers, and is vzaar’s default mode of delivery.

Security vs. Compatibility

For the sake of argument, let’s focus on the world of Internet Explorer. One of the world’s more challenging browsers.

AES encryption is supported for HLS video streams in IE11 and up (only if IE is running on Windows 8.1 or later). So what happens when AES is enabled, and the viewer is on, say, IE10?

On one hand, you’ve decided your videos require encryption between vzaar’s servers and your viewers. However, on the other hand, you want your videos to work on as many devices as possible. Should compatibility trump security?

To fall back or not to fall back

One solution to the question of security vs compatibility might be to use a fallback. You could, for instance, try to use secure playback mechanisms; then, when these aren’t viable, switch to using a less secure delivery method.

The problem here is that it amounts to disabling your security mechanism based purely on circumstance. Effectively allowing security to be circumvented by just switching to an older browser.

This approach isn’t something we’d recommend. It’s why secure delivery in vzaar is essentially an on/off option. In the words of Jon, our player developer:

Secure playback never falls back because otherwise it would no longer be secure

Which option is right for me?

That depends on who you are and what you’re trying to achieve. For example, if you’re a marketer, you’ll want your videos to be viewable by as many people as possible. In that scenario, Compatible Delivery makes the most sense.

However, if you’re a publisher who produces high-value content, then the additional cost of encryption may make sense for your situation.

Whatever your situation, vzaar can help you work out the best option for you.