The basics of streaming servers
Do you watch Netflix, listen to Spotify, or tune into your favorite podcast on your iPhone? Well, my friends, you are technically a “streaming services user.”
Streaming is, in essence, a method of viewing video or listening to audio content without needing to download any files. Compared to downloading content, streaming technology continuously transmits audio or video files from a server to an end-user.
However, before any of this content in question can be streamed, it needs to be read from a file on disk. This just means that the respective video or audio file is stored remotely, only to get transmitted over the Internet via a computer, smartphone, or other connected devices.
So, without further ado, let’s dive a little deeper into some streaming server solutions that any beginner or newbie can use, whether you’re streaming recorded video or live streaming.
What is a streaming server solution?
Just like a streaming river, think of content streaming the same way, ebbing and flowing.
In a perfect world, streaming video and audio content are synonymous with a fast server. This just means you don’t encounter any lag (latency) or poor video/audio quality. No one likes to watch or listen to something online that intermittently stops and starts up again, right?
So whatever type of content you plan to stream online, your setup should contain the following basics:
- Video or audio files
- A device that transforms this content into the appropriate format (an encoder)
- An Internet connection to transfer the stream
- A streaming server solution where users can watch your content on an external platform or website
In this section, we’ll give you a brief overview of three open-source streaming solutions that you can use to stream audio or video content:
A great choice if you’re not super tech-savvy, Red5 is a media server that’s ideal for all types of live streaming and virtually any Video on Demand (VoD). Flexible in design, it’s a simple plugin that’s easy to install and integrate into your website. Available in both an open-source (free) version and a paid version, Red5 is used by Amazon and Facebook for video streaming.
A free streaming service with ad-supported videos, the Plex media server features a wide variety of options. While the simplest version acts more like a personal media library tool you can run and watch on a PC (yes, it scans all those movie and TV show files you’ve accumulated across your computer and hard drives), it also acts as a streaming server that you can connect to your TV, gaming console, or even your smartphone. Although Plex is more or less free, it does have a paid tier called Plex Pass that lets you download files to your phone and get exclusive access to the latest updates.
Incredibly popular with Twitch users, OBS Studio captures and records your screen as well as audio (up to five audio sources, actually). By eliminating the need for an internal capture card, OBS saves you quite a bit of money. Given it’s an open-source live streaming server, it supports a wide variety of streaming platforms such as Dailymotion, YouTube, Smashcast, Facebook, and the aforementioned Twitch.
Thanks to the power of open-source software, practically anyone these days can set up a live streaming server. If you’re super tech-savvy, you can also create your video streaming server using the Linux or BSD operating system.
Using a Dedicated Server solution
Unlike sharing on external platforms, e.g. YouTube or Switch, where you are often limited by certain rules and regulations, when you choose to host a streaming website, you’re looking at a lot more freedom and flexibility.
And if you happen to be streaming heavier amounts of content, you need website hosting that can handle these large amounts of traffic as well as any processing needs. While entry-level Shared Hosting is fantastic for a variety of reasons, it doesn’t let its users stream.
That’s why Dedicated Server Hosting is your best bet, providing you with these said resources. In fact, a personal Dedicated Server gives you all the freedom over how your content gets shared and distributed with your audience and/or subscribers.
Since Dedicated Servers are hosted in a data center environment, you’re looking at a huge amount of bandwidth to use at your disposal. While the bandwidth for Dedicated Servers is typically allotted by the terabyte (TB), different hosting providers may have other specifications. Dedicated Servers from Namecheap, for example, feature up to 100 TB of bandwidth per month and 1 gigabit per second (Gbps), which means lightning-fast data transferring for all your streaming needs.
Data storage is also a huge benefit when streaming with a Dedicated Server. Given that an audio or video file needs to be read from a file on a disk before it can be streamed, many Dedicated Servers use solid-state drives (SSDs) with SATA hard-disk drives (HDDs) used for backup.
Namecheap’s Dedicated Server Hosting also offers server management options as well as free website migration for existing websites, free SSL certificates, routine server backups, firewalls, server customization, and 24/7 customer support.
Just with other kinds of web content, streaming is subject to the same sorts of delays and performance issues. Because this streamed content is stored elsewhere, your hosting location makes a big difference, similar to any other content that’s accessed on the Internet.
So depending on your needs and what type of content you plan to stream, make sure to check the bandwidth limits of every solution we’ve mentioned and keep your eye out for any additional costs that may come your way.
Do you stream? Let us know what your preferred method of streaming is in the comments!