DevOps Blog

Stay in the know with in-depth articles about DevOps, micro-services and cloud native topics, delivered to you weekly.

Streaming Servers: Everything You Need To Know

Written by Marius Rimkus
on November 28, 2019

Live streaming has evolved from being an exclusive technology that only covered major global events to a growing industry that has taken the world by storm.

The influence is not just limited to individuals, but major corporate players and technological giants have invested in harvesting the growing potential of the live stream industry – it is now estimated to be valued at $70 billion.

But do you know how live streaming works? Apart from a camera and microphone, there is much more that goes behind making a live stream possible – such as the streaming server.

 

What Is A Streaming Server?

In essence, streaming actually refers to the constant state of media transmission that occurs over the internet – from the streaming source to your desktops, laptops, smartphones, etc. As such, the streaming server is the software foundation that enables the transmission.

How Does It Work?

Live streaming usually has three prerequisites – the source media, a streaming server and a web server required to deliver the files. Once the streaming server has the required data that it needs to transmit, it makes use of the webserver to help send the files.

When you access a web page and choose the file you want to access, you are basically sending a signal to the streaming server to deliver the required file (live stream) to your relevant screen. Once the request is received, the streaming server directly communicates with your computer – thus bypassing the webserver.

Much like other over-the-internet data transfers, audio and video components of the live stream are broken down into tiny packets of data before being sent over; the entire live streaming file is transferred via such small installments.

The media player of your relevant web browser continues to play these files as soon as they receive them. This allows for a highly immersive, uninterrupted experience that is the reason behind live streaming’s popularity.

However, the dynamic nature of live streaming is one of the major causes why it requires a different setup altogether – right from the very basics.

 

Live Streaming Servers – What Makes Them Different?

The transfer of data is administered by an established set of rules that facilitate such transmission. Some of the most commonplace protocols include TCP (transmission control protocol) and FTP (file transfer protocol) that allow data to be sent over the internet.

But TCP and FTP protocols have been in use for many years and operate a little differently. They were designed to prioritize reliability over the speed of transfer, which makes sense for conventional use like surfing the internet and downloading data.

These protocols make sure that the final file is complete and in order. Here’s a list of decisions theys undertake to make that possible:

  • They resend data packets that have been lost in transit
  • They resend packets that have been damaged
  • Data packets that are not in order can be reassembled once the rest of the file has finished downloading

Errors during transfer and varying internet bandwidth can affect how packets reach the destination. Protocols such as TCP and FTP ensure that regardless of such issues, you receive the complete file once the loading/downloading process is finished.

When it comes to live streaming, the only priority is the speed of transfer and how quickly it can be broadcasted on the destination device. This is why live streaming is governed through an additional layer of protocols that operate in real-time, including RTP (real-time transfer protocol), RTSP (real-time streaming protocol) and RTCP (real-time transport protocol) to name a few.

 

What Problems Can Lead To Buffering?

As explained above, streaming servers continue to send bit-sized data packets rapidly to ensure that the stream remains uninterrupted. This is why media players take a few seconds before they start streaming – they store the data for the first few seconds and then start playing.

While the stored data is playing, the player continues to receive packets which it continues to deliver to your screen. This provides the player with a few seconds’ worth of data in case the connection gets disrupted; this is what is known as buffering.

Over optimal connections, the live stream can continue to play smoothly as the few seconds’ worth of buffer is enough. But with slow connections or bad streaming servers, the network can experience a high amount of latency that can interrupt the video.

Some of the common problems faced by streaming servers include:

Latency

The location of the data, as well as the network’s infrastructure,  can induce latency. This can lead to interruptions in the streaming service and an overall deterioration of the user experience.

Congestion

A low network bandwidth, high amounts of data transfer and not having adequate protocols can degrade the streaming server’s performance. This leads to data access errors and lengthy loading times amongst other problems.

 

The Importance Of Having A Quality Streaming Server

The exponential increase in smartphone use means that every person is carrying a potential live streaming web server. And coupled with the increased consumer demand for live content, streaming servers have grown in popularity.

In fact, a study by Tubular Insights revealed that viewers are willing to watch live videos exceptionally longer. The surveyed participants spent 8X as much as time watching live videos compared to on-demand content.

This shouldn’t come across as surprising as there are similar trends across the world; Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) is one such example. Gone are the days when consumers waited for their favorite shows to come on television or bought vintage CD collections to store them for later viewing.

Modern consumers want to access their favorite content – regardless of whether it is a sports event, a television show or a movie – on demand and on their preferred device. Whether they are using a smartphone or a laptop, they expect providers to deliver an uninterrupted experience.

This business model has been the main force behind the success of Netflix and many other streaming services that followed its lead.

 

As the demand for streamed content continues to grow, businesses are increasingly looking for servers that can deliver.

At Cherry Servers, we provide high-quality streaming servers that allow you to provide a seamless streaming experience to your customers. Our unlimited 1 GBPS and 3 GBPs bandwidth streaming plans are designed to help businesses scale their streaming capability.

Subscribe to our blog

A Cost-effective Way to Handle Tomorrow's Performance-hungry Applications