Streaming from a Windows Media server vs. a Web server

Applies To: Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2

You can deliver Windows Media-based content either from a server running Windows Media Services or from a Web server. However, a Windows Media server is designed specifically for streaming Windows Media-based content; a standard Web server is not. If you decide to use a Web server, be aware of the following differences in the way the content is delivered, which can affect the playback quality:

  • The method of sending data differs between a Web server and a Windows Media server. A Web server is designed to send as much data as it can, as quickly as possible. This is the preferred method for sending static images, text, and Web page scripts, but it is not the best method for streaming digital media. Ideally, the data packets for streaming media content should be delivered in real time, not in large bursts, and players should receive packets immediately before rendering them.

  • A Windows Media server regulates the delivery of packets according to feedback information it receives while sending a stream to a player and according to the configuration of certain features, such as Fast Cache and Fast Start. When a player receives packets in this way, the presentation is much more likely to be smooth. Because bandwidth use is controlled, more users can connect at the same time and still receive streams without interruptions.

  • Web servers do not support multiple-bit-rate (MBR) video. When a file streams from a Web server, the quality of the delivery is not monitored and the bit rate cannot be adjusted, which can cause the playback quality to vary during the duration of the stream and can result in a poor user experience.

  • Web servers cannot use the preferred delivery protocol for streaming media, User Datagram Protocol (UDP), so delivery of a stream is more likely to be interrupted by periods of silence while the player buffers data.

  • Web servers do not support live streaming or multicast streams.

  • Web servers do not support indexed Windows Media files. (Indexing provides users with a means of fast-forwarding and rewinding through a file that is streaming.)

  • A Windows Media server includes built-in monitoring and logging capabilities with which you can gather valuable information about your streaming media session and its audience.


There are times when you may prefer to stream from a Web server—for example, if you plan to offer only a small amount of content or if you have a site with limited resources. A Web server can also be used for downloading files that you do not intend to stream, such as files with a high bit rate that are intended for local playback only.

See Also

Other Resources

Windows Media Server or Web Server?