The right hardware
Streaming isn’t usually very gentle on your hardware. Transcoding or encoding a video stream puts strain on your CPU, your GPU, and your RAM, so if you’re looking for a smooth experience for your viewers, you should go as big as you possibly can to negate the overheads of putting that content online. Machines with more cores and threads tend to handle the task much better. Dedicate a machine to streaming if you can; use a device such as the Avermedia ExtremeCap U3 to pull in a 1080p signal over USB 3.0, then feel free to tax the machine you’re creating content on, without fear of dropped frames.
That said, the most important asset of a good streaming machine is availability. If you’re not performing otherwise demanding tasks – say, if you’re only streaming your media collection – you can get away with a lot less, as long as your server is powered up and ready to go precisely when you need it. The best hosting hardware in this case is low-powered, low-noise, and able to be left switched on at all times. A specced-up Intel NUC, an old desktop tucked in an inconspicuous corner, an unloved laptop with its screen turned off, just about anything will do – and a cloudbased option, such as Plex Media Server, could be even better.
Regardless of whether you’re streaming to one or to many, your server needs a quality network connection. Don’t feel you’ll be able to rely entirely on wireless, because high-res video puts big bandwidth demands on your hardware, and shaky connections, naturally, affect performance, so wire it up via Ethernet to a strong broadband pipe if you can. Avoid powerline Ethernet – we’ve found it has a tendency to go up and down at random – and opt for an Internet package with as much upload bandwidth as possible. It sounds obvious, but some just have the ratio all wrong.