What is a Streaming Server?

What is a Streaming Server?
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Since many users have access to broadband plans, media providers are using a streaming server to deliver their content. This approach is different than the older method where users had to completely download the media file before they could start playing it. This method is slow and made the viewers wait before they could start enjoying their media selection. To diminish part of the waiting period, a streaming server solution was developed.

Even though some people are vaguely familiar with these types of servers, they are not aware of the details that are involved in setting up and maintaining a web application of this type. To help users to better understand the specifics involved in setting up a web streaming server, this article discusses the hosting support requirements, some of the problems involved with operating a server of this type, and the different available server applications.

First, in order for content providers to stream their media, these providers need a server hosting solution. Because of the resources involved in streaming content, such as video, a dedicated streaming server is used as opposed to streaming on a shared hosting environment.
Dedicated streaming server houses the applications of only one client. This ensures that the content provider has all of the machines resources dedicated to running their web streaming server or any other applications that the content provider may have on the machine. This is necessary because streaming multiple connections to the server requires more computer memory and CPU usage than websites that primarily serve static or dynamic web pages.

A web streaming server is typically hosted on a Linux or Window environments, since these platforms are the primary operating systems used as web servers. Because there are many hosting companies that provide dedicated streaming on these systems, content providers should be able to find a system to fit their streaming server hosting needs.

When media content providers are looking for a hosting provider, in addition to the streaming server solution, they also need to look at the amount of allowed bandwidth that they can use per month. The reason for this should be obvious. The media that they are streaming, and this is especially true for video, requires more bandwidth than serving regular web pages. If the content provider streams thousands of megabytes each day, they may find themselves running out of available bandwidth on their plan, if their plan does not allow for unlimited bandwidth usage.

To limit bandwidth usage, content providers can limit the number of viewers watching a streaming media event, and they can also limit the bit rate connection on the web streaming server. These actions save on bandwidth, but they may interfere with the video watcher’s viewing experience. As opposed to cutting down on the bit rate connection, content providers can make their video with less resolution. This will result in smaller file sizes, which will stream more quickly and take up less bandwidth.
As for the type of streaming server hosting application that can be stored on the dedicated server, content providers have several applications to choose from. Some popular commercial choices are the Flash Media Server, the Helix Universal Server, made by RealNetworks, and the Wowza Media Server. The Flash Media Server only streams flash formatted files. The Helix and Wowza streaming servers can stream flash files, as well as file formats such as H.264, AAC, and MP3. There are also several free streaming media applications, but media content providers typically do not employ these applications as a professional solution. This mainly has to do with reliability and support. There is also a QuickTime streaming server application, but this application has special QuickTime streaming server hosting requirements.

More specifically in regards to QuickTime, even though the Linux and Window systems can be used to supply dedicated streaming server support for QuickTime streaming, some users may prefer a QuickTime streaming server hosting solution. To implement this solution, the QuickTime streaming server hosting must be installed on a Mac OS X operating system. Even though the Mac OS X is a popular operating system among consumers, only a handful of hosting companies provide hosting services for the Mac OS X platform. The few service providers that do provide this support employ dedicated server hosting services. The costs of these hosting plans range in price from $75 to approximately $500. Given the limited options available for QuickTime streaming server hosting, content providers may want to use a Linux or Windows streaming server hosting solution, since they can easily find dedicated systems on these environments.
In short, a streaming server is an application on a server that streams media content. Furthermore, there are several types of streaming server hosting applications for content users to choose from. Because streaming applications require more resources than standard web applications, these types of servers are primarily housed on a dedicated streaming server. And lastly, to ensure a continuous connection, content providers should look for hosting plans that allow high bandwidth usage, preferably a plan with unlimited bandwidth.

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