How to Stream Audio and Video From Your Site

If you plan on streaming audio or video files on your site, you will need to make your hosting solution decision very carefully. There are many web hosting companies that offer advanced streaming solutions and many that do not support it at all.

As audio and video content become more popular, more webmasters are including this capability on their sites. While the vast majority of sites will allow you to serve audio or video files on demand, where the files are simply downloaded to your visitor’s hard drive before they are played, it can be difficult to find a host that will allow you to stream your audio files.

There may also be limitations for the types of audio and video files you can stream from your server. Some hosting companies offer the ability to stream Windows Media files, while others will only allow Real files. Make sure that you are aware of any limitations before you sign up. If all of your existing files are in a certain format, it can be very difficult to convert them to the supported format for your server.

Real file extensions include .rm, .ra and .mp3. Windows media extensions include .wma, .mov and .mp3. MP3’s are the most widely accepted form of audio file that enjoys an incredible amount of cross platform ability.

Once you have made sure that you can stream your existing content, you will need to make sure that your bandwidth allotment will support these streams. Streaming audio and video files can quickly eat up your data transfer limits and you may end up having to pay extra if you go over your limit.

You will also need to see how many concurrent streams your host will provide. The majority of hosts allow 10 concurrent listeners, or 10 people that can listen at the exact same time. You may be able to purchase more streams if you need them, or you may be better off going with a third party streaming service if this is not cost effective.

Normally, when you stream a file, you will need to provide a metafile on your website that contains the location of your stream. The contents of your metafile may look like this:

The path to directory will be your actual directory name where you have stored the files you are going to stream. The filename should be replaced with the name of your streaming file. This metafile must then be saved as a text file, but with a .ram extension for Real format.

Once you have saved this, you can upload the file to your server. You will need to transfer this file in ASCII mode, instead of binary to ensure that the data is not corrupted. Once your file is uploaded, all you will need to do is call the file in your link in your HTML page and you are ready to begin streaming your own audio or video files.

Your server may have a different protocol than the one we have mentioned above. However, the majority of web hosting companies do use the above standard. Always check with your hosting company to make sure that you are following their particular requirements before implementing the above recommendation.

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Posted on 12/14/05 10:38 PM

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