It’s safe to say you’ve probably heard of a livestream. Whether that’s going live on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube or Twitch, playing your favourite TV show, or listening to the radio on your phone – these are all forms of live streaming. This now begs the question, how are live streams made possible? Well, nearly all live streaming services use cloud servers as their streaming servers, which are essential when it comes to streaming online.

Learn more about streaming servers, how they work, protocols that make streaming possible, as well as tips on how dreaded stream buffering can be reduced.

What are streaming servers?

Quite simply, a streaming server is a type of web server that focuses primarily on delivering live or on-demand multimedia streams to a user’s mobile, PC or TV. By multimedia, we mean anything from audio to video content. A streaming server allows the constant flow of media transmission via the internet, and has become a vital part of our everyday life.

Watching live TV on your phone? A streaming server will be involved. Listening to live radio on your laptop? This is all thanks to a streaming server.

What are dedicated streaming servers?

Similar to streaming servers, a ‘dedicated’ streaming server is one dedicated solely for your use and control. While external platforms like YouTube, Vimeo, Twitch and similar allow video hosting, they have their own limitations. Plus, you relinquish control over recommended content and risk potential account suspension. To reduce this risk, some content creators host their own dedicated streaming servers to have full control over their content.

Who needs a video streaming server?

Besides regular consumers, creators who want to share their videos online and allow their audience to watch their creations may need a streaming server. These individuals include:

  • Content creators
  • Schools offering online classes
  • Broadcasters in TV and radio
  • Sporting and event organisers

It’s possible to make own server for video streaming, use a third party, or work with a video hosting platform that provides access to servers and other tools.

Creating a website for the next TV sensation, or simply want to share your video creations with the world? Buy a .tv domain name.

How does a streaming server work?

Streaming servers use various real time protocols in order to stream video, audio and any other data via the internet. Each protocol allows a streaming server to transmit their data to a user’s device – we’ll go into more detail about protocols later. But, sometimes the data being transmitted can be quite large, so to combat this, streaming servers form smaller data packets prior to transmission.

But how does this data get from a streaming server to your laptop, TV or mobile?

Aso streaming servers are also web servers, they can use their web server ability to transmit data. For example, if you’re wanting to watch the news live and you visit the webpage of the news channel, as soon as you click on the live stream a signal is sent to a streaming server. This signal tells the server that you want to watch this stream and it’ll then send over the needed files via a web server.

Still with us? This whole streaming server process is designed to give users a seamless experience without lag or interruption.

What are streaming server protocols?

We mentioned protocols earlier, but what exactly do they mean when it comes to streaming servers?

When data is sent over the internet, there are a few protocols in place to ensure that the files end up in the right place, and fully intact. For example, Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and File Transfer Protocol (FTP) both help to protect the data that’s being transferred, and are incredibly reliable. However, when it comes to streaming servers, not only do they require reliability, but speed too. That’s why extra protocols have been added to these servers so that data is transmitted quickly and in real-time.

Real-Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP):

RTMP is a communication protocol, and streaming servers rely on this protocol to stream the correct video, audio and data via the internet.

Real-Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP):

RTSP uses transport protocols to packet and send multimedia streams. This protocol is used regularly to control streaming servers.

Real-time Transport Protocol (RTP):

Probably the simplest of the three, RTP is a network protocol that delivers video and audio via IP networks.

The above real-time protocols are used in conjunction with streaming servers in order to transmit live data.

How is a streaming server different from other servers?

In comparison to other servers, streaming servers use more features in order to reach their goals. For example, streaming servers use codecs to decode and encode their data streams and signals, this achieves a great broadcast quality for each stream. Broadcast quality is vital for streaming servers as users require great audio and video quality. As we explained earlier, they also use real-time protocols too, which sets them apart from other servers.

What is buffering and what causes it?

Watching the buffering icon go around and around is no one's favourite pastime. But, what exactly is buffering? In terms of streaming servers, buffering is the act of pre-downloading data before a stream begins. This means that if your internet connection drops out, there are a few packets of data stored and ready to play.

However, sometimes this isn’t enough, and we’re graced with the presence of the buffering icon. This is commonly caused by slow connections or data congestion due to your network’s bandwidth levels. This means that there’s no data left to play and the streaming server will rapidly store more packets once your connection is back.

How to reduce buffering on streaming services

Regardless of whether you’re a viewer or content creator, here are some ways you can reduce buffering:

  • Close other applications and programs running in the background
  • Pause the stream for a few moments to allow it to download more data
  • Reduce video quality to 720p
  • Review and speed up your internet connection
  • Remove other devices connected to your network that could be using bandwidth
  • Have a wired connection as opposed to using Wi-Fi
  • Clear cache and browsing history
  • Restart the app and/or router

Why consider a dedicated streaming server?

If you’re a content creator, there’s no doubt you may have toyed with the idea of streaming on your own dedicated server. While cloud services offer flexibility, scalability, and affordability for basic storage needs like music or video files, they might not suffice if you intend to create a personal streaming service or content delivery system. In such cases, the raw power and fully dedicated resources of a physical server are crucial for optimal performance. Read more about cloud servers vs dedicated servers to learn more about how they differ.

What to look for with dedicated server streaming

If you’re serious about a dedicated streaming server, then you’ll need to compare the following components with various hosting providers in order to find the best dedicated server for your content streaming needs:

1. Data

Dedicated servers typically have a high RAM and SSD capacity to facilitate high traffic work from streaming to websites. Our Dedicated Servers start from 32GB RAM and 2TB storage.

2. Bandwidth

You’ll need a good level of bandwidth for streaming. At Fasthosts, our bandwidth typically sits at 1GBit/s, but can connect to 10GBit/s on private networks.

3. Access control

A dedicated streaming server with full root access allows you to configure your server how you see fit. This includes full customisation options, access control, recording features, OS and much more.

4. Security

As the name implies, only you have access to your dedicated server. This means the risks of a breach are fairly low, as you don’t have the risk from shared servers. Shared servers (again, as the name suggests) shares resources with other users which not only increases the potential for lag, but can affect the security and integrity of your own data.

Now you know everything there is to know about streaming servers. Want to learn more about the other types of servers? Check out our server blog page. Or maybe you’re looking for a server of your own? From dedicated servers to bare metal servers, we have them all. Get in touch with us today to discuss all of your options.