Best Media Server Frameworks: Tips how to choose one for your needs 
WebRTC media streaming is a popular technology that allows easy multimedia transmission using a simple web browser. Lately, it’s seen a huge uptick in popularity due to the increased need for businesses that must now handle video and audio live streaming to meet with clients and continue internal operations.
If your business is now ready to utilize a WebRTC media server but isn’t sure how to choose the right WebRTC video streaming server, we’ve compiled a list of the best open-source video streaming server options and how they can be utilized to help optimize your business.
What Is WebRTC?
WebRTC stands for Web Real-Time Communication and is an open-source tool that allows two or more people to transmit audio or video calls via the Internet.
Since its release by Google in May 2011, WebRTC has become one of the go-to standards for live conferencing app development as it can be integrated into any browser without needing standalone app downloads. It’s recognized by all major web browsers and enables peer-to-peer communication options for anyone who is able to have a stable internet connection.
The Benefits of WebRTC
Before WebRTC was released, it was possible to utilize peer-to-peer networks for real-time communication, but the complexities that came along with live streaming grew as more participants began to utilize a service at the same time, especially once more than 5 participants were added to the same call. Conferences with multiple people created a large server load issue as each participant must send their own audio/visual feed to each individual participant.
The resource drain had significant effects on the servers handling calls, so when WebRTC came onto the scene its main benefit was that it reduced the barrier that was preventing stable audio and video streams. It utilizes SFU (Single Forwarding Unit) capabilities to reduce the load on servers creating a faster, optimized conferencing experience.
WebRTC also has integration capabilities that make it able to communicate with multiple third-party systems making it a versatile way to connect your business to a myriad of platforms, which is especially important for customer service and engagement. The most popular integrations include Facebook Live, YouTube Live Streaming, and connecting SIP (Session Initiated Protocol) or cloud-served phone plans with video conferences.
How Can A Business Utilize WebRTC Servers?
The more your business needs to handle online conferencing options due to social distancing, increased growth in globalization, or a less centralized workforce, whether it’s audio, video, or both, the more likely it is that you’ll need to invest time or resources into adding customized WebRTC media streaming capabilities.
Having a dedicated platform to handle your multimedia needs allows for the ability to streamline options for meetings and presentations, prevents service interruptions due to server load or poor internet connections, and ensures that your data and projects are handled securely. If you want to take it a step further and need help developing a standalone video chat app, check out our complete guide to video chat app development and telemedicine app development.
How To Determine the Best Type of WebRTC Server for Your Needs
There are a few things to consider when it comes to determining what vendor to utilize for your media server. It can feel overwhelming trying to determine which one will best fit your needs, so here are a few suggestions to consider when choosing the right WebRTC server for your business.
- Can Your Team Handle the Coding Behind It? - Most WebRTC servers are open source which means that, for the most part, it’s free for anyone to work with and customize. While this is great for talented IT and web dev teams, it can also lead to a quagmire of issues if your team is unfamiliar with the coding used to build the system. Research the type of language the code is written with (normally Node.JS or Java) and have a candid conversation with the team who will be facilitating the implementation to see what they feel the best route for your business will be.
- How Can Your Team Monitor It? - WebRTC runs as a real-time code which makes it difficult to debug on the fly. Your team can mitigate this issue by utilizing monitoring applications to help assess the “health” of the code. If it’s difficult to do this, it opens up a potential world of problems that will leave your dev team scrambling to fix an issue that could have been prevented by utilizing some sort of diagnostic mechanisms. Make sure that whichever application your team uses has the capability to both log issues and offer recommendations for fixes.
- How Often is the Coding Updated? - Technology moves at a lightning speed and as improvements and innovations are made in the coding space, previously-launched apps will have to navigate how they implement these changes. If the coding for the WebRTC server you’re looking at hasn’t been updated in over a year, consider asking why as this could be a big problem showing outdated and potentially insecure coding. If it has been recently updated, check to see how often new patches or updates are made. The more you’re able to see improvements or updates, the more likely it is that this coding is supported by multiple developers who are tapped into the needs of the users.
- Has It Been Validated By Others? - While it’s great to be the pioneer for new launches to market when it comes to critical pieces of communication you’re not going to want to be the guinea pig. Read reviews, ask for recommendations from consultants or peers in your industry, and weigh that feedback heavily before deciding on a server to handle a critical communication line for sales, customer service, and HR.
- Can You Understand the Documentation? - If there is no documentation then that’s a red flag that should steer you elsewhere. Assuming there is documentation, make sure that your team can understand the comments and processes recommended by the original developer as this can be crucial when the coding needs to be debugged or updated. Ideally, the documentation should include a run over on the makeup or architecture, an API reference, a few case examples or demos, troubleshooting common issues, and basic configuration and installation recommendations.
- Will It Scale for Your Business? - As your business grows so too will your need for peer-to-peer communication, and you’re going to need servers capable of handling the increased load. Look for servers that have enterprise-level server load capabilities, or make a plan for what you’ll do when your business can no longer utilize the original WebRTC server and needs to move up to a new level.
- Will Its Licensing Options Work for You? - While this might seem like a silly point to make, it’s worth emphasizing that not all servers are built the same or have the same licensing available. While open-source software normally means “free,” that doesn’t mean there aren’t restrictions on how the framework can be used. Make sure that any coding your team decides to utilize is licensed correctly otherwise there could be serious legal headaches ahead. This is usually why we recommend commercial options (see the list below) as the licensing is built to be straight-forward and designed for B2B uses.
- Is There Support for It? - The unfortunate inevitability of any business that incorporates complex coding into its operations is that there will be a need for some sort of professional help to correct an issue or integration with it? If you decide to go with a free, open-source code for your media streaming, do research ahead of time to see if there are dedicated professionals who specialize in supporting it. This way when something breaks, you’ll know there’s a capable support system out there to help you quickly correct the issue instead of having to hunt on Github for others who may have run into the same problem.
The Best Media Server Options for Businesses
Now that you’ve weighed the options as to what your priorities will be for finding a capable WebRTC vendor to facilitate your media streaming, let’s talk about options. Choosing a third-party media server to use can feel like a daunting task, especially if you’re not normally in the media space so we’ve compiled a list of what we feel are the best WebRTC streaming servers available and how they can be used.
The Best WebRTC Server for Startups
When choosing the best WebRTC media server for your startup business, we often recommend Twilio for our clients who will primarily focus on phone app development or are diving into streaming servers for the first time.
Twilio’s one of the most famous WebRTC servers and is used by over 1,100 companies including Uber, Instacart, Lyft, Reddit, and eBay. Twilio’s best-known services are its SMS, contact center, and WhatsApp API solutions but what we love most is their dedication to the creation of a powerful infrastructure that utilizes WebRTC to deliver low latency video streaming options thanks to its flexibility to work in almost any video SDK. If you plan to have small streaming sessions like 1:1 or conferences of up to 5 participations and prefer to have a more out-of-the-box solution that gets your streaming capabilities launched quickly, Twilio may be your best option.
The Best WebRTC Server for Enterprises
If your business is pivoting towards more video conferencing and live streaming on a large scale (like digital conferences or large group video chats), MediaSoup may be the best solution for your needs.
MediaSoup is the platform we recommend to our enterprise-level clients as it has incredible versatility thanks to its Node.js module. MediaSoup was created to be a foundational platform which companies can use to create a variety of applications, so it’s better to consider MediaSoup as an integration tool rather than a standalone service. This impressive tech stack and ability to access its API in a variety of use cases allows it to be a flexible platform that’s capable of handling the delivery of video conferencing, broadcasting (both one-to-one and one-to-many), and RTP streaming on a massive scale.
Other Popular WebRTC Server Options
Janus https://janus.conf.meetecho.com - Janus, which is a service of MeetEcho, is more of a barebones media server, so is best used for projects that need to get launched quickly and don’t require a lot of customization. What makes it an interesting platform worth researching is its ability to communicate with plugins that can give it further capabilities to handle things like video streaming, end-to-end encryption, and echo tests.
Zoom https://marketplace.zoom.us/docs/api-reference/zoom-api - Zoom is likely the most well-known platform in the WebRTC server space as it’s an easy-to-install app that has free or low-cost options and offers the ability to utilize its API services to customize your media experience. There have recently been some concerns regarding its security capabilities which Zoom claims are being overhauled. To err on the side of caution, while it’s a fully capable server for video streaming, it’s probably best used for meetings that are quick and don’t contain a lot of trade secrets or sensitive information.
Kurerto https://www.kurento.org - Kurento is a versatile WebRTC media server that gives more control over how and where media flows by allowing users to define behaviors in-code which makes it especially useful for things like augmented reality devices or services which utilize computer vision, like facial recognition or QR code reading. If your business needs to include more automation than peer-to-peer communication, Kurerto could be your best option.
Vonage Video API (Formerly OpenTok/TokBox)
https://www.vonage.com/communications-apis/video/ - Created by Mozilla (the makers of Firefox) and then acquired by Vonage, OpenTok/TokBox has a powerful set of tools behind it, including audio detection, screen sharing, and video or audio stream customization features. If you’re looking for something more robust than Zoom and want the reliability of a company like Vonage behind you, their video API service is a great toolkit to have.
Jitsi https://jitsi.org/ - Jitsi is more of a standalone service so is great for efficient video meetings as it runs directly in your browser. It’s also a one-stop-shop that helps you get set up in a few hours, so if you don’t need much customization Jitsi would be a great service to use. Jitsi has an entire platform of options behind it like Jitsi Videobridge (their media relay SFU service), Jitsi Meet (for web conferences), Jicofo (for larger-scale conferences), Jigasi (SIP gateway), and Jitsi SIP Phone. Jitsi does not have a robust media recording capability as of yet, which is something that needs to be considered if recordings are a requirement for your business.
How Do I Get Started with WebRTC?
No matter the media server you decide to use, you’re going to need to establish requirements for what your platform can do and what expectations there should be for how it can be used. If you’re ready to dive into webRTC server utilization we’re happy to help. Contact us for recommendations on the right media server for your business. If you’re ready to develop a customized video-conferencing app and are interested in development or consultation services, see what we’ve done for our clients like you.