What does “streaming” actually mean?

The term streaming is on everyone’s lips and not just on the web, but also in daily network life. We clarify the meaning.

Media streaming is a technology that is driven by limited bandwidths on the network, but that starts on the local device: the core is that an audio or video file of the player (streaming client, renderer) is not loaded as a whole but arrives in it a steady stream of small data packages. This has the decisive advantage that playback can begin immediately, even with the usually very large amounts of data. Videos from the web or videos on demand cannot be realized with limited bandwidth. Moreover, such streaming for online video libraries in practice (but not in principle) ensures that the client device always receives only some temporary data, but not the entire media object. To ensure that the data flow does not stop due to small dropouts on the server or client side, media streaming always uses a specific data buffer, which can often be set variably on the client.

The principle of media streaming requires no user knowledge to date: the devices or software player dominate it easily, and when streaming in the local network such as the web, only the hardware must fit and allow the necessary throughput: up to 50 MBit / s required streaming snacks for Blu-ray films, for Divx to HD quality, the requirements of 3 to 30 Mbit / s. Audio streams only require stream packets in the kbit range and represent no obstacle anywhere.

On the network: streaming servers that support UPnP / DLNA

To stream media in the home network, classic network sharing is sufficient – at least as long as only intelligent devices such as PCs or tablets are involved as clients. However, access rights and passwords are required at file level and folder level. UPnP / DLNA servers, here are easier to maintain: all media are available without authentication, since UPnP only allows playback, but no file-level access (copy, change, delete). As a further major advantage of a UPnP server, clients such as smart TVs or AV receivers play a role, which could not do anything with network-level sharing. And a third advantage is the preparation of media files in handy categories such as “title”, “album” or release year. However, the latter can prove to be a disadvantage, namely if media files contain no or incorrect metadata: these media do not offer a UPnP server or in the wrong categories.