I have a little time on my hands so I felt like writing up a tutorial on how to setup a cross platform media server that is cost efficient and technically sufficient.
Before we begin, what is a media server? A media server is a server that will serve media to devices and people of your choosing. People subscribe to services like Netflix and Hulu to enjoy an array of movies and television series.
What if you had a large amount of storage and could serve your own content? You do not have to subscribe to any service and the only limitation is your own personal library. On top of this, you can still stream any of your content via 3G/4G through your phone provider, so if you have unlimited data, this will be a very nice addition. This is especially useful if you have an hdmi output on your phone or tablet -- you could plug it in to any HD television on the go and access hundreds of movies and tv series that are stored on your personal server.
There are more benefits than what was summarized above; you may notice them as the tutorial progresses. The media server we will be using, Plex, is cross platform and supports NAS+DLNA. You can stream it from any computer, mobile device, smart tv, or game console that has media server support.
Have a Dazzle or screen capture utility? You could theoretically record every single Laker game automatically, store them securely on your file server, and have instant access to them across all of your devices, even from a remote location (as long as you have 3G/4G).
Step 1. Storage Assessment
First, let us make an assessment as to how much storage capacity we will need. We will use the following key:
0.8800GB = x1 720P TV Show
1.2000GB = x1 720P Movie
0.0035GB = x1 MP3 Song
100 720P TV Episode = 88.00GB
100 720P Movies = 120.00GB
100 MP3 Songs = 00.35GB
I myself am setting up a 4TB system. 4TB is 4096GB; this would store about 4,655 HDTV episodes, about 3413 HDTV movies, or 1,170,200 MP3 songs exclusively.
If you run a search on amazon, you can purchase 4TB for around $160-230 more or less. This tutorial will not describe how to install a hard drive or connect an external hard drive via USB/firewire.
Step 2. Installing the Server
Now that we have our storage installed, we will install Plex.
You can get it for all of your other devices later, but we primarily want to be focused on the server right now, which will serve the media content. You first want to install Plex onto the machine that just received the 4TB storage upgrade.
Once you have ran the installer, open up Plex. The interface will look similar to this, minus the already added series and channels (I am in the process of decking my library out atm).
What you want to do is go up to the "My Library" pane and hit the
plus symbol to add some directories (paths) which contain our media. (Example... C:/Users/Wade/My Documents; this is a directory, and we store documents in this directory)
Select the section that is relevant to your content (you can have multiple sections) and specify some paths.
After you save the section with the added directories, it should automatically populate your content. Give this about 5-10 minutes, it will automatically scour the internet for relevant meta data and create a nice little library for you.
You can generate some beautiful libraries and display them in a few different ways. If we go back home and add another section, Music, and specify a relevant location; we get all of the same features as we do with tv shows and movies.
Go back home and checkout some of the "channels." Channels are free internet hubs that you can add into your media server, having access to thousands of additional episodes of high quality content without having to store them on your server! From Khan Academy and TedTalks to Hulu and Youtube, you can serve just about any content you want to any platform without having to sift through web browsers or various applications. Again, all of this is accessible from the TV in your kitchen, phone in your pocket, and laptop in your book bag.
Step 3. Setup client on external devices, activate optional remote services
The next step is pretty easy. Install the Plex app on other computers and laptops, get the app for iOS/Android phones and tablets (it is $3 but highly worth it; you can find it for free if you are a deviously dedicated pirate, arrg), turn on media server capabilities on your game consoles and Smart TVs.
It is as simple as that, the applications will automatically detect the plex server that you setup on the computer with 4TB in step 2. I just installed it on my android phone and it automatically picked it up, take a look:
Easy as butter.
PS3? Xbox? Instantly detects it.
As you can see, this can be nifty so you don't have to copy files between multiple devices, carry around an external hard drive, or subscribe to online services to enjoy a cloud of content you can enjoy for a one time ~$220 fee and some spare time.
If you would like to enjoy the social benefits of Plex, create a MyPlex account. It is free and does not store or tamper with any of the content you store on your physical drives. This service allows you to stream media from your media server at home to any mobile device on the go through 3G/4G.
*Create your MyPlex Account
*Login to your MyPlex Account on your phone/tablet(hotspot)
*Enjoy music and video wherever you are; the car, the mall, wherever.
Before you can begin streaming content, you need to connect the media server to your MyPlex account. This is critical. On the device that is hosting the Plex server (serving the media), go to Settings.
Navigate to the MyPlex tab and sign into your account.
It should automatically map the necessary ports.
If you are having trouble broadcasting content and your media server is behind a router:
Not only can you broadcast this content to yourself while you are away from the home, but you can also share it with friends who you add to your MyPlex. Friends can sift through eachother's libraries, downloading and or streaming content to their liking.
Success! You have successfully deployed the Plex media server and have activated services specific to your liking. Media servers serve multiple purposes and will definitely be of great use for the movie buff and music addict alike. This is also great for photographers. You could setup an auto-sync with Dropbox on a high resolution camera phone, which then downloads the photo to the Dropbox directory back on the home server, automatically populating a Pictures section within your Plex, if you wished.
If you are interested in this and run into any difficulties, feel free to ask, I am happy to assist.
Take care LN! --wade
Edited by -Wade-, July 09, 2013 - 04:27 PM.