Server Computer and Audio Hardware Requirements
The following sections offer basic hardware requirements for setting up your own streaming server, as opposed to leasing from a third party. Note: A streaming server must support every one of your listeners. Its requirements shift radically based on a constantly fluctuating amount of concurrent users. The examples in this book use a machine that needs to unicast a 56k stream to 100 concurrent users.
Your streaming server will need enough disk space to not only store all of your streaming media, but also to store logfiles documenting users (so that you can run reports on that data) and the operating system. Logfiles on a heavy-use streaming server can quickly take up gigabytes of disk space. Streaming servers should start with at least a 40GB hard drive. More high-end users will want to consider hundreds of gigabytes of disk space and even optimized disk systems such as the fast SCSI RAID configurations.
Since server computers need to be very flexible to deal with widely varying processing demands it's best to have as fast a clock-speed as you can get. Macintosh and Windows recommendations are below.
For Windows/PC (or Linux/FreeBSD UNIX) users, a clock speed of 1GHz minimum is recommended.
For Mac users, a PowerMac G4 running at 850MHz or above is recommended.
For streaming media server computers, at least 1GB of RAM is recommended. It's possible to get by on less, but with pricing where it is these days, why bother risking running out of memory?
You'll want to make sure you have a 100Mbps-network card to give yourself enough networking headroom. Due to TCP/IP networking protocols, 10Mbps cards can start to have problems with collisions and retransmission far below the theoretical 10Mbps maximum.
As always, back up your vital data. Backing up gigabytes of data can be time-consuming work, so choose a method that's quick, local, and portable (so you can remove the data backup to another location in case of fire, earthquake, or other disaster). Digital linear tape (DLT) is a good solution for server backups, but having extra disk drives dedicated for backups is often a cheaper (and quicker to recover from) solution.
Serving from Your Encoding Computer
If you plan to use the same computer to serve and encode, remember to account for the hardware requirements that both duties involve. It's unwise to choose this configuration if you are serving any more than 25 users because it doubles the chance of problems. What might only be a temporary resource glitch on an encoding computer could turn into a fatal error when shared with a streaming server. However, serving from your encoding computer to low numbers of concurrent users still doesn't guarantee seamless operation. If you do choose to encode and stream from the same computer, one way to increase the reliability of your stream is to use a dedicated box just for that purpose.