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I have been working on setting up a website that aggregates webcams from several local businesses onto a single website. I would like to only require the businesses to need a webcam and not the supporting computer. It seems the best solution for this is an IP-Camera that contains the hosting hardware and provide ways to view the stream or to post clips to an FTP or email and are available for several formats including MPEG and MJPEG (possibly others that I don't know of).

I would like to have a server that is responsible for taking the stream input and distributing them to the webpages without each user directly connecting to the camera and maxing out it's allowed connections. Lastly, I would like to be able to view the live stream using flash and a common flash player instead of Windows Media Player or other external program, since flash video players are so widely used.

Ideally, I would like to get managed hosting similar to what influxis does but after talking to them, found they do not support IP cameras since flash media server must connect to a flash plugin on the computer connected to the camera.

I am new to this and am open to other options, but can't seem to find any solutions online. Thank you in advance for any advice and help!

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First of all, be sure to choose the right IP-cam model. It should be H.264 (MPEG-4 Part 10) standard enabled, since it's one of the most widely used codecs which are directly supported in Flash players. Another nice IP-cam feature would be it's ability to push streams to some destination(I mean streaming server here), not only publishing media on some ports.

Regarding second part of your question - this could be implemented using Darwin Streaming Server which is open source or other commercial streaming solutions as Wowza Media Server or Adobe Flash Media Server. Worth to mention that Wowza provides free version limited to 10 simultaneous client connections. Example installation presented here.

I have some experience with Wowza and it's seems to be the most simple solution to configure, if all you need is to publish live streams from several locations on a web-site, IMHO. By the way, you can find a lot of information on topic on their forums and site.

Additionally, you should consider Wowza for Amazon EC2 if you don't want to maintain your own dedicated streaming server. Another option seems to be Netromedia managed solutions, but unfortunately I can't provide any feedback regarding their services.

Hope that helps. Cheers

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