An introduction to peer-to-peer video conferencing

SMS, MMS, emails, voice recordings, audio, and video calls, virtual conferences. It seems there is no limit to the variety of options we have today. But what is peer-to-peer communication? If this concept sounds new to you, that’s okay. In today’s article, we’ll break it down and discover why it's different from cloud-based video conferencing and what its major benefits and potential drawbacks for remote business teams are. Let’s start!

An introduction to peer-to-peer video conferencing

The basics: what is a P2P network?

P2P technology has allowed people to share files without having to rely on a central server. This type of connection is the basis for many video conferencing tools. The first versions of these tools were very basic, but they allowed people to communicate with each other over long distances. And now P2P is supposed to be one of the fundamental components of the "new" Internet - the Web3.

What is P2P?

A peer-to-peer (or P2P for short) network is a decentralized network of computers that share resources without the need for a central server. This type of connection can be used to transfer files, share internet connections, or host applications. In a peer-to-peer network, there is no central authority controlling the flow of information or managing the resources. This makes them an ideal choice for decentralized applications such as blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

How is it connected to video conferencing?

P2P file sharing is a form of communication in which each participant sends and receives files directly from each other. The technology has traditionally been used to share music and videos, but peer-to-peer video conferencing apps take this process a step further by allowing video call participants to talk directly, just by sharing their IP addresses. Since the connection doesn’t involve third parties, this ensures the call quality and makes the image and sound clearer as if they were in the same room.

What's the difference between a P2P conference call and cloud-based video calls?

To answer this question, let’s analyze the whole process of video conferencing from beginning to end.

When you start a call via P2P, your computer sends a signal to another device, which it receives and, in turn, answers with another signal. 

On the other hand, when you initiate a conversation via a cloud-based service, like Zoom or Skype, your data first goes through Microsoft’s or Google’s servers, and only after that reaches its final destination.

What's so good in a peer-to-peer video conference?

Both cloud-based and peer-to-peer video conferencing have the potential to be called the best for virtual communication. But what are the advantages of a peer-to-peer network over traditional web conferencing tools?

It’s secure

P2P conferencing doesn't involve any central processing area, eliminating the need for a middleman and reducing the vulnerability to attacks. In terms of security, this solution is one of the most secure ways to communicate because it encrypts all data transmitted between hosts, ensuring that outsiders won't be able to connect to it and steal your data.

It’s cost-effective

Most cloud-based platforms include high monthly fees for their services that may be unaffordable for some companies. But if you know how to establish a P2P connection, this may save you a lot of money. Why so? P2P doesn't require a server like other video conferencing software. This can save your company money because you're not paying for a third party to host the meeting. That's why most P2P apps are 100% free.

It’s convenient

If one of the P2P call participants faces internet issues, they simply leave the meeting without interrupting other members and return when the connection is restored. 

Moreover, a peer-to-peer connection is considered to be faster and more reliable than a cloud-based. But is it really so?

Are there any drawbacks?

This type of connection is perfect for one-on-one online meetings. But with more users joining the call, the more bandwidth and network speed it requires to keep the conversation going without lowering the quality.

Furthermore, the success of a P2P call depends on the security and speed of each individual connection. Hence, an ideal software should offer to stream low latency video from multiple devices and maintain ultimate quality, despite the differences in bandwidth, so that the whole team remains connected from any part of the globe.

What is the best option for arranging video calls: a P2P connection or a cloud platform?

You won’t find the answer to this question until you consider both options. Let’s start with top P2P software providers.

Jami

With its focus on privacy and security, Jami is a perfect app for P2P video and audio conferencing. The app is an open-source project with no central server involved. This makes Jami an ideal solution for businesses that want to keep their communication private without having to worry about the safety of their sensitive data and files.

Its key features include:

  • High-quality video calls
  • High-resolution file sharing: up to 4K
  • Screen sharing: full-screen and a selected area
  • Audio and video messages
  • Quick and secure sign-up: no username is required
  • Available on Android, Android TV, iOS, Windows, macOS, and even Linux
  • 100% free with no ads

Tox Chat

Tox Chat is a decentralized, open-source, and encrypted P2P platform. It is completely free and comes without ads.

Its key features include:

  • Instant messaging
  • Voice & video calls
  • Screen & file sharing
  • Secure communication one-on-one and in groups
  • Encryption using open-source libraries

Videolify

Videolify is another platform for peer-to-peer messaging and web calls. Its developers claim their solution boasts the maximum video quality and the lowest latency that is seen in crystal clear video calls.

Its key features include:

  • Unlimited number of conference rooms without time limits
  • Full-HD video quality (up to 4k resolution)
  • Public & private chats
  • Streaming with screen sharing
  • Meeting recordings
  • File sharing
  • Interactive whiteboard
  • Maximum privacy & security

Whereby

Whereby is a bit different from other options, taking a hybrid approach - P2P connections for small-sized calls, and cloud-based for larger events. This app is quite popular in the business world, being trusted by more than 5 million people at companies like Ikea, Netflix, and Spotify.

Its key features include:

  • Browser-based video & audio meetings with up to 100 members
  • Smart video resolution control according to a user’s network bandwidth
  • Interactive tools: whiteboard, room personalization, live emoji reactions
  • Quick access via a room link
  • Integration with other services: Youtube, Google Docs, and Slack

What are the best cloud-based alternatives?

Whoosh

If your major goal is to organize engaging and high-quality virtual meetings, Whoosh is a must-have for your team. This platform can boast AI-powered functionality that ensures the quality and stable connection of each web-based call. Whoosh offers a powerful virtual workspace with all the necessary tools a modern employee needs for fruitful and productive remote work and communication. 

Its key features include:

  • Full-HD video and supreme sound with background noise canceling
  • AI-based touch-up tools and virtual backgrounds
  • Cloud meeting recordings with transcripts
  • 24-hour hassle-free conference calls with up to 100 attendees
  • Interactive tools for presentations and webinars: weatherman layout, virtual whiteboard, gesture recognition, screen sharing
  • Smart scheduling assistant
  • Integration with popular services
  • Professional web protection with end-to-end encryption and host controls

GoToMeeting

GoToMeeting is one of the most recognized online conferencing platforms in the world, trusted by many international companies. This app offers a reliable, quick, and effective solution for businesses of all sizes. It allows joining any conversation with a one-click-and-call tool, making video conferencing a truly simple thing. 

Its key features include:

  • Instant messaging
  • Quick access with a meeting link
  • Interactive tools: screen sharing, drawing, presenter control
  • Custom backgrounds
  • Analytics and reports
  • Integrations with popular business applications
  • Secure web-based communication
  • Cross-platform support

Zoom

You’ve probably heard of that giant of the industry. Many companies choose it over other variants thanks to its reliability, wide range of subscription plans, and advanced functionality. Zoom offers a free tier, which allows hosting unlimited one-on-one and 40-minute group calls. Its other plans include numerous helpful tools for all businesses ranging from small startups to global enterprises.

Its key features include:

  • HD video & audio conferencing
  • Instant one-on-one and group messaging
  • Smart scheduling and calendar integration
  • Waiting and breakout rooms
  • Meeting recordings with transcripts
  • Screen and file sharing
  • Touch-up tools
  • Customization: virtual backgrounds, dark & light themes
  • Web security: end-to-end encryption, password protection, custom meeting IDs

Final words

Taking the above into account, it’s not surprising that there are numerous companies offering apps for making P2P calls. They may be an ideal solution for virtual interviews, or chats with a colleague, partner, or customer. P2P video conferencing doesn't require any third-party plugins or software and is simple to set up. Since there's no middleman, such a direct connection cuts out the lag time and delivers high video and audio quality without interruption.

But after using such a communication tool, you may find out it’s not suitable for your team. These services have limited functionality and usually lack some features essential for running a business. 

But the choice is yours. Just remember that no matter what type of software you choose, it shouldn’t hamper your company’s development and success.

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