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Peer-to-peer video conferencing (P2P): A helpful guide


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Sending a text.
Picking up the phone.
Opening a chat box.
Initiating a video call.
Transcribing a message.
Sending an email.

Did we miss any other ways of communicating at work?

Maybe, but that just shows how many options we have today. Want to see your colleagues’—or cousins’—faces, even though they live halfway around the world? It’s now literally as easy as hitting a button, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Praise hands emoji for the internet and Wi-Fi.

Enter peer-to-peer video conferencing.

If this term is new to you, that’s alright. Let’s break it down:

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What is peer-to-peer video conferencing?

Peer-to-peer video conferencing is a form of video communication that’s directly between two people, no cloud or outside servers required. One individual and their computer acts as the server and can initiate a call to another individual’s computer by sending them their IP address information:
Peer-to-peer video conferencing
This boosts the quality of the audio and video signals on the call, and the connection between these computers doesn’t have to travel as far (like it would through a central server), making the call much more crisp and clear.

“But what about the cloud? Aren’t most video conferencing apps cloud-based?”

Sure. There are many cloud-based video conferencing software, and they have their advantages as well, so let’s break things down a bit more and shed a bit more light on how both of these communication tools work, and their advantages and disadvantages.

How does peer-to-peer video conferencing work?

Video conferencing signals have to go somewhere, and that’s where all this starts.

With cloud-hosted solutions, video calls are routed to a server off-site from the devices hoping to connect. This begins the connection of your meeting. During the meeting, you will be streaming your feed to a server that forwards that data to everyone else on the call.

So with the cloud, your feed is being distributed to an outside server.

In contrast, with peer-to-peer (P2P) conferencing, your video feed is going directly to the individual you’re talking to. That’s it. No in between server, just the two of you.

The advantages of peer-to-peer video conferencing

  • The directness of P2P conferencing can definitely be appealing if you’re looking for a bit more security on your calls. (After all, if there’s only one server involved, and it’s someone who is supposed to be in the meeting, then it’s nearly impossible for an outsider to crash the party.)
  • P2P conferencing can also be a more affordable option for some businesses. If you have the technical know-how, you can connect directly with other people and avoid the expense of cloud-based solutions that often come with a monthly subscription.

The disadvantages of peer-to-peer video conferencing

  • If you need to add more attendees to a P2P conference call, it can burden the peer network that has been established—and result in a lower quality connection.
  • Not only that, but your P2P conference quality will only be as good as the strength and stability of the internet service of the people on the P2P call.
  • Also, if you want to use it for your business (for example, if you want to hire someone over video or just interview them), they may be lacking certain features. If you’d like, you can skip ahead to see the alternatives to P2P that are better for businesses.

Basically, pure P2P video conferencing can realistically only scale to a limited degree. The more people you try to add to a meeting, the more instability you are introducing into the equation.

Options for P2P video conferencing platforms

Here are a couple P2P options that might be of interest:

Tox Chat

Tox Chat is a free peer-to-peer chat platform that’s encrypted, open-source, and decentralized (in other words, because it’s P2P, it doesn’t connect to a central server so it’s not a cloud solution). It comes with many enterprise-grade features such as video calls, voice calls, screen sharing, and file sharing.

Tox Chat, a free peer-to-peer chat platform

Tox has many desktop versions for all known desktop platforms like Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux (Debian, Fedora, Ubuntu, and ArchLinux). It also has connections for iOS (Antidote) and Android (Antox), all of which were released as an open-source project.

Tox also supports a neat group chat feature that acts like channels, but comes with audio call support. Kinda like a chatroom mixed with a conference call.


Retroshare establishes encrypted connections between you and your friends to create a network of computers and provides various distributed services on top of it: forums, communication channels, chat, mail… you name it. Retroshare is fully decentralized and designed to provide maximum security and anonymity to its users beyond direct friends:

Retroshare, a free and open-source peer-to-peer communication and file sharing app

Retroshare is an entirely free and open-source software. It’s available on Android, Linux, MacOS, and Windows. But for business purposes, it’s probably not as robust a platform as you’d need.

A powerful alternative to peer-to-peer video conferencing

When it comes to alternatives to peer-to-peer video conferencing, you’re mainly going to be looking at more familiar cloud-based solutions. Now, these alternatives will give you the video conferencing abilities that you want, plus other features like large attendees limits (you’re having a big meeting with 100+ people? No problem), tighter security, and more.
Here are some of the best alternatives to P2P video conferencing:

RingCentral Video

Whether you need to launch a quick meeting directly from a team chat with a colleague, or from a link in an email invite, you can do that with RingCentral Video.

One of RingCentral Video’s best features is that you don’t have to download anything to join a video conference. Your client, teammate, partner—anyone, really—can just click the link in the email invite or message, and the video conference will start right away in their internet browser. Easy peasy.

Here’s a quick peek at what it looks like:

For added convenience, you can even start a video conference or a chat or a phone call—all from the same desktop or mobile app.

And of course, if you were interested in peer-to-peer video conferencing because of security, then RingCentral Video is a great option here too.

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Happy shopping!

Does a peer-to-peer video conferencing solution make sense for your business?

Now that you’ve learned a bit more about how peer-to-peer video conferencing works (as well as its pros and cons), we hope this has helped you get a better feel for what may work best for your business.

As video conferencing apps continue to become more commonly used by everyday people, it’s important that you have a platform that you can rely on. Why not book a quick product tour of RingCentral to see how it works?

🕹️ Get a hands-on look at how RingCentral works by booking a product tour:

💰 You can also use this calculator to see roughly how much your business could save by using RingCentral to support your team’s communication with each other—and clients.

Originally published Jun 01, 2020, updated Mar 08, 2023

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