The content-creation system is also where you need to decide what media file format
to make available to the end user. Choosing just one of the three leading file formats
(Windows Media Technologies from Microsoft, Real System from Real Networks, or
QuickTime from Apple) can be difficult, so many companies hedge their bets and offer
users a choice of two.
If you're going to offer more than one or two dozen videos, you'll probably need to
catalogue them and manage the catalogue. Content indexing, which makes your streaming
files searchable, requires an extra step in the content-creation system and generates
databases that you need to keep track of and back up. But creating such an index pays
off handsomely for all but the smallest sites.
Deliver it to the user
Pay attention to the network for distributing streaming media. These networks account
for more than half of the total acquisition cost and between one- and two-thirds of the
ongoing operational cost of the average streaming media package.
Network architects have to decide where and when to locate the content acquisition
and creation systems, where to store content, how to secure it, and what priority the
streams can have on the network. Putting caching appliances in remote offices can
alleviate some costs associated with network transport from a centralized operations
center to remote locations, but can introduce new questions, such as when to replicate
content or how to control access remotely.
Another set of questions revolves around server throughput and the bandwidth that a
streaming media network requires. Although you can calculate this based on the average
number of concurrent users you expect and the data rate of the streams, the glib answer
remains: streaming media needs as much throughput and bandwidth as you can give it.
Frameworks have a place
Though it helps to think of these three aspects of the systems separately, all of them
need to work in tandem and feed one another users and content continuously. When the
content fails to appeal to users, that information needs to get into the hands of the
content producers immediately. When a segment of the network is too costly to upgrade
for streaming media, users on that segment shouldn't be allowed to access the
Streaming media is here to stay. Over time, most of today's challenges will be
simplified. But don't worry -- you can count on new technology to bring new levels of