Streaming Video with Flash Media Server
The Macromedia Flash Media Server (FMS, formerly Flash Communication Server) is the powerhouse solution for Flash streaming. The FMS is basically a software package which runs on a normal web server and provides extra functionality for the Flash format (e.g. live streaming, chat, etc).
In technical terms, the FMS works by opening a "persistent connection" between the server and client (end user). In a normal server/client relationship the client sends periodic requests to the server as required. With a persistent connection the server and client are in constant, controlled contact.
Do I Need a Flash Media Server?
If you aren't sure whether you should use a Flash Media Server or progressive download, then there's a good chance that progressive download will be fine. For most websites the FMS is unnecessary and you will probably only need to consider it if you have a specific need. Don't just go with a FMS because you "want the best".
These are the main advantages of using a streaming server:
Advantages for the end user (client):
- The server can detect the client's connection speed and automatically provide the best video stream.
- Playback starts sooner, and the user can skip to any part of the video without having to wait for the whole file to download.
Advantages for the provider (webmaster):
- The ability to broadcast live streaming events.
- The ability to provide advanced interactive content such as live chat, video conferencing, etc.
- Video playback is more efficient, requiring less server resources and data transfer.
- Video files are not downloaded to the client's computer, so there is less chance of content being stolen.
- Detailed statistics, diagnostics, etc.
How Do I Set Up a Flash Media Server?
There are two ways:
- Purchase the software and run the server yourself
This is a nice option if you have the money and skills to make it work. However it is very expensive so you'll need to be able to justify it. You can purchase the server at macromedia.com .
- Sign up for a hosted solution
This is more realistic option for those getting into the game. Unless you are sure you absolutely need your own server, it makes sense to start with a hosted solution — you can always move on to your own server later. Macromedia has some recommended providers here .