One of the ways that I’ve been ramping up on the remote server idea is to test with a friendly machine nearby.

And something interesting happened…

Browsing the library through Plex/Web, through an iOS device, or through the Roku is actually significantly faster from the remote server.

Also; Videos start quicker, and playback is more responsive.

Why is this?

The setup we are testing is as follows:

Setup 1: A typical older server wired in locally

  • As mentioned before, this server is local; physically connected via Gigabit (1000Mbps) ethernet
  • Mini-ITX server, running Ubuntu, with SATA Hard drives
  • It runs Plex, and does all the downloading in the house
  • Normally, Plex has access to 98% of the CPU’s 4 virtual cores

Setup 2: A new iMac connected remotely

  • The connection here has to go through the public internet, with 15/15 FiberOp on both sides
  • i7 iMac, OSX 10.8, Fusion drive
  • This computer is rarely taxed, so Plex has access to 95% of the CPU’s 4 cores
  • Also of note, this computer is connected via wifi and is regularly asleep (Using any Plex client wakes it up)

Initial Conclusions

It’s quite obvious that if there is enough bandwidth between the server and client to do a HD stream, that the performance of the computer is a far greater factor on how much of a pleasure Plex is to use.

Plex/Web feels snappy, with thumbnails posters, and fanart loading almost instantly (subjectively, I would say that this is a 300% improvement)

With the Roku, pressing Play on a local-server file that does not need transcoding, there is a small wait of a couple seconds. I thought this was simply a cost of using the Roku this way…

However; even when pushing the limits, by pressing play on a high-bitrate 1080p file that needs transcoding, the remote iMac responds and the file starts playing while barely showing the Roku’s loading screen (it feels instant).

This requires further testing, but it seems that if you have a choice between upgrading your home server, or start looking at renting a remotely-hosted server,

it could actually work out better all around to rent a remote server instead.