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

By Emily Krings

21 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.

    There was a time when blogging was all the rage. But no one seems to have the time or attention span these days to read through lengthy pieces of text. Videos, especially short videos, and live streaming, seem to have replaced other mediums of mass communication over the internet.

    Facebook’s FB shorts, Instagram’s reels, and even new platforms like TikTok are gaining popularity with the masses. That’s proof that the video revolution is changing how we consume content.

    A major behind-the-scenes piece of technology that made this revolution possible is RTMP. It’s often credited with making video sharing as accessible to the masses as it is today. RTMP is considered the industry standard whenever live streaming or video sharing is concerned.

    Although the technology predates the mainstream use of cellular devices, it has now been modified to stream across almost any device you can imagine. The rise in live-streaming and video sharing meant modifications in the basics of RTMP’s mechanisms.

    Today, there are many variations of technology in circulation. RTMP proper refers to the classical version of RTMP technology and is often used as a yardstick to measure other RTMP variations such as RTMPE, RTMPT, RTMFP, and RTMPS.

    The highly-adaptable nature of this technology explains its popularity and widespread usage. The technology is known for its ability to transmit videos with minimum lag. We all know the importance of maintaining the audience’s interest and attention. Even slight delays in buffering can cause viewers to switch to another video or live stream. That’s the issue RTMP aims to resolve.

    RTMP is not hardwired but a streaming protocol that can be changed to suit your internet speed, video quality, and other variables. RTMP divides a pre-recorded video or live stream into smaller pieces of customized size before sending it from one device to the other. The size of each smaller fragment is set according to the internet connection available at both ends.

    The size of these chunks the video is divided into can be changed up according to need. Meaning RTMP technology performs well even though your internet connection might not be the smoothest and fastest.

    That’s exactly why RTMP streaming technology that has been vital to the history of internet video streaming. The role of RTMP in streaming has evolved over time, adapting to fit the needs of modern live streaming setups. 

    The importance of RTMP server hosting has increased in recent years because RTMP servers help broadcasters deliver low latency streams to their viewers, creating a better end-user experience.

    Today, we’re going to discuss everything broadcasters need to know about RTMP hosting.

    We will discuss RTMP server hosting, the benefits of RTMP, 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?
    • Five RTMP Variations
    • 4 Biggest Benefits of RTMP
    • RTMP and HLS: How Do They Work Together?
      • WebRTC vs RTMP vs HLS
      • HLS vs RTMP Streaming
      • MPEG-TS vs HLS vs RTMP
    • What is an RTMP Server?
    • RTMP Server Uses
    • How to Access RTMP Server Hosting
      • Via an Online Video Platform
      • Create Your Own RTMP Server
    • Conclusion

    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.

    Five RTMP Variations: 

    There are five different variations of RTMP that are used today.

    1. RTMP: Plain TCP-based protocol
    2. RTMPS: Incorporates a secure SSL connection for cloud-based streaming. RTMPS is great for things such as corporate meetings and town halls when you don’t want someone to hack into the live stream. 
    3. RTMPE: Lightweight encryption version of RTMPS based on Adobe’s proprietary security encryption methods. 
    4. RTMPT: Works with HTTP to help streams bypass firewalls and corporate traffic filtering tools. 
    5. RTMFP: Uses UDP instead of TCP

    RTMP and HLS: How Do They Work Together?

    Before we dive into the ins and outs of RTMP streaming server hosting, the advantages of RTMP to HLS servers, and whether you should use RTMP to HLS converters or not,  there are a few things that we need to clarify.

    First, let’s discuss RTMP vs HLS. Even though both systems are used for live stream video, they are not interchangeable.

    HLS, or HTTP live streaming, was designed exclusively for use with cellular devices.  It is a system of delivering video that is compatible with mobile devices. RTMP was initially developed before mobile viewing was a thing. Variations have since been adapted as technology changes to work with devices of all kinds.

    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.

    Even though RTMP and HLS differ fundamentally in how they operate, The two systems can still be used side-by-side to get the best out of both technologies. The systems aren’t interchangeable, but their usage does overlap with each other.

    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. Similarly, in cases where both RTMP and HLS are not required, RTMP to HLS transcode can be used to convert and send video files.

    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 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 low latency
    • RTMP requires Adobe’s Flash Player to be installed in the browser to play videos
    • HLS works natively across all devices such as Android, Apple, mobile devices or browsers
    • RTMP is the most popular protocol for ingesting, and HLS for known for its application in playback
    • Used together, an RTMP/HLS server produces streams with low latency, high compatibility, and reliable security.

    MPEG-TS vs HLS vs RTMP Streaming 

    MPEG-TS is also a streaming technology comparable to HLS and RTMP. Even with a spotty internet connection, the format supports synchronization resulting in an excellent viewer experience. That’s possible because the stream is divided into sections no larger than 188 bytes.

    So how does it compare to RTMP or HLS streaming? The major drawback with MPEG-TS is that it doesn’t constantly adapt the size of these sections according to the connectivity conditions of the user’s device. An advantage RTMP’s servers offer.

    How RTMP Streaming Works

    With online video streaming, a live video feed is recorded with a camera and then sent via an encoder to an online video host. This process is referred to as the first mile that your content goes through. 

    The content is scaled and sent through a content delivery network (CDN) to the end user’s device and to their video player. This is the last mile in the streaming process. 

    At the time of its launch, RTMP was designed to keep a steady connection open between the viewer’s video player and the server transmitting the video. It basically acted as a funnel to quickly and smoothly transport video data to the end-viewer.

    Thanks to the rapidly changing and evolving technological scene, That’s no longer the case.

    RTMP used to be used for the last mile, helping content play on Adobe Flash Player. Since Adobe Flash Player is retired, RTMP is now only used for the first mile of the video streaming process. 

    Think of it this way: RTMP used to be the main lead in the well-orchestrated protocol of smooth video delivery. It’s still there, just behind the scenes now as supporting staff. Its role is still vital to the end result of a glitch-free viewing experience.

    In the first mile, RTMP helps take your video data and split it into smaller chunks in order to effectively transmit the data. It acts as a protocol to carry the data packets. This is a three-step process that happens in a matter of seconds.

    • The TCP/IP Handshake: First, the client and server exchange information in what is known as a handshake, agreeing to work together
    • The Connection: Then, the client and server create a connection using a message sequence
    • The Stream: To get the video started, the client sends the server a create Stream invocation and then a ping and play the message. 

    This process is so quick, that you wouldn’t even know it was happening. This process allows your video data to be accepted by the server and carries your video over the first mile so that it will eventually reach your end user.

    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.

    Both methods have their pros and cons. Usually, using an online platform such as Dacast is recommended if you’re just starting. That way, you can focus on creating engaging content while Dacast’s RTMP server takes care of the technical end of video-streaming

    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 an 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 a private 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 easy 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 long process and can be more difficult to make your own RTMP server, sometimes a custom approach from scratch is the solution your organization truly needs.

    RTMP Alternatives

    RTMP is one of the oldest internet protocols around, having been around for two decades. During that time, live streaming has evolved. Live streaming is now available on all internet-enabled devices, not just web browsers. 

    RTMP doesn’t work at high bitrates, so it can’t be used to stream high-resolution videos, such as 4K content. RTMP is still one of the most used streaming protocols, especially for the first-mile content delivery process, after HLS. However, there are emerging streaming HTTP-based streaming protocols you should be aware of. 

    HLS Streaming Protocol

    Apple designed HLS, which stands for HTTP Live Streaming. HLS is used for last-mile delivery and is the most used streaming protocol for that purpose. HLS is scalable and compatible with mobile devices, web browsers, and other streaming devices. It is generally used with RTMP, creating a great first and last-mile video delivery system. 

    RTSP Streaming Protocol

    RTSP, which stands for Real-Time Streaming Protocol, is used for the last mile of the streaming process. RTSP takes your video from the cloud to the video player. RTSP allows the viewer to play, pause, and rewind the video, features people expect today with their video content. 

    WebRTC

    WebRTC, which stands for Web Real-Time Communication, is an open-source protocol. It is used to help with real-time communications, such as live streams. This protocol supports ultra-low latency, with as little as 500-millisecond delays. WebRTC works best for small broadcasts with low numbers of viewers or participants.  

    SRT

    SRT, which stands for Secure Reliable Transport, is a new protocol for first-mile delivery. It is designed to support low-latency streaming. It is designed to optimize bandwidth. The biggest drawback to SRT right now is that it is new, which means a full array of platforms doesn’t support it.

    As RTMP is an older streaming protocol, it is important to be aware of alternatives and up-and-coming protocols that could eventually take its place. 

    Conclusion

    The legendary Flash player came, saw, and conquered. But in this fast-paced era of technological changes and innovation, it’s outdated, and pretty much consisted dead. The same cannot be said, however about RTMP server hosting and the basic technology that powers RTMP.

    The technology is still very much around and relevant to video streaming, although its role has transformed. Using a platform such as Dacast leverages all the benefits this technology has to offer in your favor, without the precondition of you having to learn the ins and outs of every technological advancement in the industry.

    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.

    Interested in trying out all the features mentioned in this article for yourself? You can test out all of our professional features risk-free with our 14-day trial before making any commitments. 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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