RTMP Server Hosting: What It Is and How to Access It

By Emily Krings

13 Min Read

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Emily Krings

Emily is a strategic content writer and story teller. She specializes in helping businesses create blog content that connects with their audience.

Table of Contents

    RTMP is an important part of the history of streaming video over the internet. As streaming technology developed, RTMP transitioned into a technology that functions better with more modern live streaming setups.

    In particular, RTMP server hosting has become much more important over the past couple of years. The reasons RTMP is possibly more relevant today than ever is because it makes it easy for broadcasters to stream with low latency which improves the viewer experience.

    Today, we’re going to discuss everything broadcasters need to know about RTMP hosting. We will discuss what RTMP server hosting is and how you can access an RTMP server host for your streaming needs. We’ll also cover the connection between RTMP and HLS, and how this is relevant to broadcasters.

    Table of Contents

    • What is RTMP?
    • RTMP and HLS: How Do They Work Together?
      • WebRTC vs RTMP vs HLS
      • HLS vs RTMP Streming
    • What is an RTMP Server?
    • RTMP Server Uses
    • How to Access RTMP Server Hosting
      • Via an Online Video Platform
      • Create Your Own RTMP Server
    • Final Thoughts

    What is RTMP?

    rtmp ingest
    RTMP has been very important throughout the history of online live streaming.

    Real-Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP) is a transport protocol that is used to move video files from one part of the live streaming workflow to the next. RTMP was designed by Macromedia, which is now owned by Adobe, to deliver video content to the Adobe Flash player. 

    Today, RTMP is most widely used for RTMP ingest rather than delivery since it is not compatible with HTML5 video players, which are the industry standard.

    RTMP is known for its low video latency streaming capabilities. It maintains a constant connection and splits streams into smaller chunks to transmit over the internet. RTMP uses the constant connection between the source and destination to determine the appropriate size of these chunks to send.

    There are a few variations of RTMP that serve slightly different purposes. These include RTMPE, RTMPT, RTMFP, and RTMPS. The “regular” RTMP is referred to as “RTMP proper” when being compared or discussed in terms of these other variations. RTMPS is particularly valuable for streaming on mobile devices over public internet networks since it is encrypted with an extra layer of security.

    RTMP and HLS: How Do They Work Together?

    Before we dive into the ins and outs of RTMP streaming server hosting, there are a few things that we need to clarify.

    First, let’s discuss RTMP vs HLS. Both are systems used to live stream video, but they are not interchangeable. HLS, or HTTP live streaming, is a system of delivering video that was designed for mobile devices. RTMP was initially developed before mobile viewing was a thing, although it’s evolved and adapted as technology changes.

    Flash is dead, but RTMP most certainly is not. HTML5 video players have become the standard in video streaming since they are compatible with just about any device and operating system. They are also very easily customizable, which is important for broadcasting at the professional level.

    Streaming with an HTML5 video player requires HLS delivery. The HTML5 video player and HLS protocol were developed to meet the growing need for a set compatible with accessing online video content from a mobile device. HTML5 and HLS made up for gaps and deficiencies that were left in the Adobe Flash player.

    Simply put, HLS is to HTML5 as RTMP was to Flash player.

    RTMP is still used in setups that use HLS delivery to an HTML5 video player, but its role is a little different. In this situation, RTMP is used for ingesting. That means that it is used to feed video files from an encoder or another source to an online video player or even directly to a video streaming CDN. This way, RTMP and HLS work together as a team using the strengths of each system to deliver a better end product. 

    The beauty of the HLS/RTMP duo is that it can produce streams with low latency, high compatibility, and reliable security. It is possible to stream with both gHLS delivery and HLS ingest, but this setup doesn’t support low latency the way RTMP to HLS does.

    RTSP, which is short for “Real-Time Streaming Protocol,” is another important video protocol that is often thrown into this mix. Many confuse it as an RTMP alternative, but it typically plays a different role in the live streaming process, primarily when it has to do with video player commands.

    However, RTSP can be used in encoding in some cases. Some platforms use a workflow that uses an RTSP to RTMP conversion to make ingest compatible with some sources, such as IP cameras

    Although it can be a bit confusing to understand what each protocol does and whether or not you should be using it, the main thing to remember is that HLS or RTMP each have their own unique capabilities and it’s important to understand how they can enhance each other for better overall streaming.

    WebRTC vs RTMP vs HLS

    Another common question is how WebRTC plays a role in video streaming. This technology is more commonly used in video conferencing when it’s crucial to stream in real time. In a virtual meeting, everyone needs to be viewing the same material at the same time and that’s the gap WebRTC was designed to fill.

    The downside is in compatibility. RTMP/HLS servers are more widely supported and therefore preferable for many uses.

    HLS vs RTMP Streaming 

    • HLS was developed as a solution to address the difficulties with streaming over mobile devices
    • RTMP is most commonly used today to ingest streaming data at a low latency.
    • Used together, an RTMP/HLS server produces streams with low latency, high compatibility, and reliable security.

    What is an RTMP Server?

    RTMP hosting server
    An RTMP server is what makes RTMP ingest possible.

    An RTMP server is the technical setup that is used to receive an RTMP data stream via RTMP ingest. Basically, an RTMP server is equipped with the necessary tools to receive and decode video files that are being transported from an encoder or other source.

    RTMP servers are created based on standard server technology, and they are often built into your online video platform or the platform that you’ve created to self-host your video content.

    By using an RTMP server and RTMP ingest, broadcasters can tap into the benefits of RTMP as a protocol even when they are using HLS streaming to deliver their content.

    RTMP Server Uses

    In general, RTMP servers are used to offer support for RTMP ingest. This comes in handy for several different use cases. There are many reasons to use an RTMP server, including the encoder, advanced scheduling options, VOD libraries, low latency and reduced buffering, and adaptive bitrate streaming.

    • RTMP encodersOne of the most notable uses of an RTMP server is to connect with RTMP encoders. RTMP encoders are cheap and accessible, which is not yet the case for HLS encoders. This gives you the flexibility to choose between a variety of software and hardware encoders with a wide range of functionality and price points.
    • Advanced scheduling – With RTMP ingest, you can connect sources in advance so that everything is in place to go live at a scheduled time. This is something that comes in handy for new programs that do linear broadcasting. This setup also works well with IP camera streams and webcam streams.
    • Video on Demand – RTMP servers are also used for uploading video content to create video-on-demand (VOD) libraries with dynamic content.
    • Low latency – It is important to reiterate that RTMP ingest via an RTMP server gives broadcasters the ability to stream with low latency. This is really important for certain types of events, like webinars, conferences, sporting events, church services, and other streams that could call for participation from an audience. Low latency streaming helps virtual events to feel more lifelike since it helps viewers to experience the happenings in real-time.
    • Reduced Buffering – That lower latency capability means reduced buffering. Buffering occurs when an internet connection or equipment is too slow. RTMP’s ability to maintain a constant connection while streaming helps correct this problem.
    • Adaptive Bitrate Streaming – RTMP servers offer adaptive bitrate streaming, which matches the streaming to the user’s equipment. This makes content more accessible to everyone and gives them the best experience they can have on their equipment, whether they are connecting with a smartphone, tablet, or PC.

    How to Access RTMP Server Hosting

    There are a couple of methods for accessing RTMP server hosting. Many broadcasters use an online video platform that is equipped with an RTMP server, and others build their own.

    Let’s take a close look at each of these methods.

    Via an Online Video Platform

    online video platform
    Broadcasters can access RTMP server hosting, through a dedicated OVP.

    An easy way to access RTMP server hosting is through a professional online video platform, like Dacast. You’ll want to specifically look for a professional streaming platform that supports RTMP ingest and has RTMP servers.

    This approach is a favorable one because it doesn’t involve much technical know-how or support from an experienced developer. The RTMP server hosting happens behind the scenes, so connecting your RTMP-compatible sources is as simple as copying and pasting a URL.

    Since everything is automatically handled by the online video platform’s developers, you don’t have to invest money and other resources in hiring a developer or purchasing the supporting software.

    Aside from Dacast, some online video platforms that support RTMP ingest and have RTMP servers include Brightcove, Wowza, IBM Cloud Video, Panopto, and more. Kaltura uses RTSP to RTMP ingest, but it is not clear if the platform supports RTMP ingest independent of the RTSP conversion or with RTMP servers.

    We encourage you to check out our comparison of the top video platforms to browse additional features, functionality, and pricing for the platforms we’ve mentioned above.

    Create Your Own RTMP Server

    If you are not using an online video platform, it is possible to access RTMP server hosting on your own. Some development experience will come in handy, so if you don’t have that experience yourself, it is wise to hire someone who does. Either way, there are a few tools you can use.

    To host your own RTMP server, developers first need to choose a server-building tool to create their RTMP server. Adobe Media Server, Red 5, Wowza’s Live Streaming, and Nginx engine are four of the top offerings. These software options are paid, but you may be using one or more of them for other operations.

    The process for creating an RTMP server will vary depending on the tools you use. We recommend checking out Doug Johnson’s RTMP server setup video tutorial for a technical walkthrough of this process with Nginx.

    One benefit of creating your own RTMP server is that you have the power to adjust it to meet your specific needs. This comes into play when you are streaming different types of events that require different levels of latency.

    For example, if you are concerned about a potential mishap (think wardrobe malfunction, foul language, or sharing of improper information), a little latency is helpful. However, if you’re focusing on peer-to-peer streaming, the lower the latency, the better.

    Again, this approach is much more technical and will likely require support from a developer with relevant experience. Even though it’s a longer process and can be more difficult to create an RTMP server, sometimes a custom approach from scratch is the solution your organization truly needs.

    Final Thoughts

    RTMP server hosting is important for broadcasters that want to use video encoders, video sources, and other supporting software that requires RTMP ingest. As a broadcaster, you can opt to host the RTMP server through Dacast’s VOD platform or build one of your own.

    Using a service like Dacast to access RTMP server hosting is an easy and cost-effective solution for most broadcaster’s needs. Instead of hiring a developer, you can easily get started streaming today.

    If you are looking for a professional video hosting platform that is equipped with an RTMP server for RTMP ingest, we invite you to give Dacast a try. In addition to RTMP ingest, we support HTTP live streaming to an RTMP video player, which is the perfect setup for high-quality, ultra-compatible streaming with very low latency.

    You can test out all of our professional features risk-free with our 14-day trial. All you need to do to get started is create a Dacast account, and you’re ready to go. No binding contracts or start-up fees. No credit card is required.

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    author avatar

    Emily Krings

    Emily is a strategic content writer and story teller. She specializes in helping businesses create blog content that connects with their audience.

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