Stake Conference Broadcasts - Alternative to Church Servers

Conversations around originating a webcast for conference, including cameras and mixers.
BrianTAllen
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Stake Conference Broadcasts - Alternative to Church Servers

Postby BrianTAllen » Mon Aug 27, 2012 9:15 am

We're using Meetinghouse Webcast to broadcast stake conference from our stake center to 3 other chapels (our stake is rural and spread out).

We've put a lot of time, effort, and money into our equipment and internet setup, and it is quite reliable. We do lots of testing before-hand.

However, having a successful test during the week or on Saturday has nothing to do with how things will work on Sunday morning, when the Church servers are getting hammered with dozens of other stakes at the same time.

Yesterday we had our stake conference, and after having our test broadcasts go for 4 hours without a hiccup, we couldn't stay connected to the Church servers for more than 30 seconds. With 30 minutes to go we prayed about it and then had everyone come to the stake center, scrambling to setup every chair in the building and deal with parking, etc.

To complicate matters, for the first time I wasn't able to reach anyone at Church HQ, just getting a recorded message that ran me in circles.

We've had this problem in the past, but not to this extent. Usually dropping from high to medium quality kept us connected. This time even low quality dropped after 30 seconds.

Our internet is 8M / 1M at the chapels, and 16M / 2M at the stake center (turned up for the week of stake conference). Bandwidth speed tests showed all was working fine on our end.

What are others doing to deal with this?

Options include:

1. Setting up our own streaming server (would work fine for the other 3 buildings, but there would be no bandwidth left for shut-ins).

2. Working with our ISP to setup a streaming server for us and other stakes in the area, if they're willing.

3. Use a company that provides this service (there are many out there, and multiple companies could be worked with to eliminate the server as a single point of failure).

4. Perhaps the Church could setup regional servers (for instance we're in southern Utah, and there are probably enough stakes to justify a server being placed at an ISP down here, with a fall back option to servers at Church HQ).

5. Upgrades and additional reliability for the servers at Church HQ.

6. Give up on broadcasting altogether and cram people into every nook and cranny of the stake center each time.

I'm not sure what we'll end up doing, but we won't be rolling the dice anymore on the day of stake conference without some sort of fall back (and we've never gotten good enough audio quality using the phone backup to rely on that).

The disruptions and quality problems are significant enough to affect the attitude of the members about stake conference, so the status quo can't continue.

I really appreciate everything the Church has done to get us this far, and embracing technology is absolutely the way to go, so I applaud the effort and direction this is going.

Thanks,
Brian

russellhltn
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Postby russellhltn » Mon Aug 27, 2012 10:30 am

Are you sure it's the church servers and not the ISP? You might have hit a limit with them. I wouldn't go to a lot of effort until you've definitively determined where the problem lies.
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johnshaw
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Postby johnshaw » Mon Aug 27, 2012 12:48 pm

RussellHltn wrote:Are you sure it's the church servers and not the ISP? You might have hit a limit with them. I wouldn't go to a lot of effort until you've definitively determined where the problem lies.

I have to wonder if there wasn't some very large issue at CHQ this weekend. We have had reported now a pretty irate PVC user, and webcast failure, and we know this board was off and on all weekend. These three things may not correlate to the same time frame. Certainly the pre-recorded message that went round and round could have been the Global Service Center not having hours during the time frame of most Stake Conference Meetings (Ours would be 10am to 12pm Central, nobody would pick up the phone if we called having issues). But it could be that there were problems

Anyone have a good answer about it? Is Kurt Olsen out there, or is he recovering from a very busy weekend?

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Postby johnshaw » Mon Aug 27, 2012 12:53 pm

I would say as a follow-up. I've successfully completed webcasts for stake conference over the last 3 years at least 5 times. Successfully webcast a meeting involving the General YW, RS, and Primary Presidents, and at least 3 webcasts to 12-stake groups for events leading up to the KC Temple dedication. I've been overwhelmingly successful each time, and that is truly a miracle. Only 2 of my 9 buildings have better than a 1.5D/.5U speeds in our buildings. It is the lowest quality broadcast that can be delivered, but it certainly saves the saints time and money!

Edited for update, we also webcast the KC Temple groundbreaking, we used an aircard in a router with the webcaster (this was before the software version) running on generator power.

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Postby russellhltn » Mon Aug 27, 2012 1:13 pm

JohnShaw wrote:I have to wonder if there wasn't some very large issue at CHQ this weekend.


It will be interesting to see what the findings are. It's possible that the church might want to put the streaming servers on a different network connection so that any problems with servers/etc don't affect it.
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johnshaw
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Postby johnshaw » Mon Aug 27, 2012 1:24 pm

RussellHltn wrote:It will be interesting to see what the findings are. It's possible that the church might want to put the streaming servers on a different network connection so that any problems with servers/etc don't affect it.


I also think it would be interesting... I know of at least one global-enterprise data center architect who lives and breathes high availability that would love to provide an eagle-eye observation to some of the designs.

russellhltn
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Postby russellhltn » Mon Aug 27, 2012 1:48 pm

JohnShaw wrote:I also think it would be interesting... I know of at least one global-enterprise data center architect who lives and breathes high availability that would love to provide an eagle-eye observation to some of the designs.


Is he a member?
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Postby BrianTAllen » Mon Aug 27, 2012 2:06 pm

RussellHltn wrote:Are you sure it's the church servers and not the ISP? You might have hit a limit with them. I wouldn't go to a lot of effort until you've definitively determined where the problem lies.


Unless someone from CHQ provides more details I have no way to be sure, but I can say from experience that performance is consistently worse on Sunday mornings than it is on Saturday evenings or testing during the week (this is my 7th stake conference broadcast, plus 5 or 6 other smaller broadcasts).

The only "evidence" I can go on is anecdotal, but all of my own experience points to overload at CHQ. This is the first time I haven't been able to talk to a human (other than the operator) at CHQ, and it happened to come at a time when other network resources at CHQ were also offline.

In any event, I haven't found a predictable, consistent solution and I'm still looking for one. It would cost about $100 per stake conference to use a 3rd party server, so I'll likely do some testing on that (particularly since they likely wouldn't have a Sunday morning rush).

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Postby russellhltn » Mon Aug 27, 2012 2:33 pm

BrianTAllen wrote:Unless someone from CHQ provides more details I have no way to be sure, but I can say from experience that performance is consistently worse on Sunday mornings than it is on Saturday evenings or testing during the week (this is my 7th stake conference broadcast, plus 5 or 6 other smaller broadcasts).


You may want to try testing on Saturday morning. Seems to me that from the perspective of ISP load, it would be more like Sunday morning then the other times mentioned.
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Postby lajackson » Mon Aug 27, 2012 3:06 pm

RussellHltn wrote:You may want to try testing on Saturday morning.


We are always told to test on the previous Sunday at the same time that the conference is scheduled. We have more trouble on Sundays that at anytime on Saturday.

But even Sundays are inconsistent. I suspect it may depend on how much stuff Hq is supporting on a given Sunday.


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