The Best Media Server Software to Try in 2021

Control your personal media a little better

by: - Last updated on: February 6th, 2021

When you think of media streaming, be it music, TV shows, or movies, there’s a slew of applications to pick ranging from Spotify, Amazon Music, or SoundCloud, for music, and Disney+, Hotstar, Prime Videos, YouTube, or Netflix, for TV shows and movies. Although these services suffice the entertainment needs of most individuals, some people still prefer having their personal media server — especially those who have created an extensive library of music files, video files, and all other sorts of entertainment content.

Best Media Server Software

A media server can be anything from a dedicated computer or application software to as basic as a home PC or a NAS (Network Attached Storage) that gives you the ability to store all your media (music, videos, images, files, etc.) in one central location and access it using a client from anywhere over the internet.

Back in the day, such needs were met thanks to the popular and free standards like Miracast UPnP, DLNA, and SAMBA, with Miracast and DLNA coming out on top as the most popular ones of the lot. For the uninitiated, Miracast started rolling out with Android 4.2+ and Windows 8.1. And, while it managed to get off to a fairly good start, things didn’t quite bode well from there on as the standard failed to set itself as a mandated brand for devices, which permitted manufacturers to use their own branding on the standard for Miracast implementations for their devices.

Similarly, another people’s favorite standard DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance), which is more of a jumble of technology jargon, also saw sharp adoption rates in the initial days of the internet boom. However, with the dawn of media server software that introduced better visual interface and offered more control over media, and the rise of streaming services, which made the idea of downloading content on physical drives kind of obsolete, DLNA (and a few other standards) began noticing a drop in their adoption. As a result, we saw DLNA, founded by Sony back in 2003, getting dissolved and suspending its services in 2017.

However, if you find yourself belonging to the tribe that owns hundreds of gigabytes of media on their hard drives, and you don’t enjoy the traditional streaming services as much, here are some of the best media server software to help you create your own home media server.

Best Media Server Software

1. Plex

Plex is undeniably one of the best media server software you can get. It involves a fairly simple installation process that is mostly automated, and you can install it on a PC or a NAS (Network Attached Storage) effortlessly. To get up and running with streaming, you need to download the relevant app on the client device, be it a TV, gaming console, or some other device, and follow the on-screen instructions to install the software. One neat addition to the service is that it comes built-in with remote access utility, so you don’t have to go through the manual process of setting it up or performing port forwarding. When it comes to streaming, the advantage that puts Plex ahead of its competitors is the on-the-fly transcoding, which automatically adjusts the quality based on the network’s bandwidth.

Media Server Software

From the first instance of using Plex, you are greeted with a beautifully designed interface and a pretty soothing color theme running across the interface. The platform offers a detailed overview of files and folders with specific metadata to provide a comprehensive look at the library. Talking about the subscription, although you can get started with Plex for free, the software limits some of its features to the premium plan. Thus, requiring the need for you to upgrade.

Feature Highlights:

  • Clean UI
  • Easy to set up and install
  • Built-in remote access utility
  • On-the-fly transcoding
  • Live TV and support for recording

Supported Platforms: Computer (Linux, macOS, Windows); Mobile (Android, iOS); TV (Android TV, Apple TV); Streaming Devices (FireTV, Chromecast, Roku)
Subscription: Free, Paid
Check out Plex

2. Emby

If you are looking for something that is a bit more flexible and offers more customization options, Emby’s media server software is the way to go. The service supports a wide array of operating systems and hardware, including some of the popular gaming consoles. It offers a centralized database to organize all your media (images, videos, music, files) and access them using the web-based management tool. Further, you also get to manage and modify metadata for all your files, and not to mention, share them across different devices. To aid with streaming, the service automatically converts media on-the-fly so you can enjoy them seamlessly on any device.

Media Server Software Emby

Talking about the interface and ease-of-use, Emby organizes your content on the platform in a pretty simplified manner, or as it likes to describe it: an easy and elegant presentation that makes it easier for you to view all your media effortlessly. The media software offers cloud sync to give you the option to sync your personal media to the cloud to backup, convert, or archive your content for a simplified streaming experience across different devices. That way, you can access this media on any device (including mobile devices).

Feature Highlights:

  • Web-based management tools
  • Extensive customization support
  • Remote access
  • Live TV and support for recording
  • Cloud sync

Supported Platforms: Computer (Linux, macOS, Windows); Mobile (Android, iOS); TV (Android TV, Apple TV); Streaming Devices (FireTV, Roku)
Subscription: Free, Paid
Check out Emby

3. Serviio

Serviio is another open-source media server software with a tonne of customization options. However, unlike Emby, which offers a slew of features under its free tier subscription, Serviio restricts some of the advanced features behind its premium paywall. But regardless, with its free plan, you still get still access and stream content across various devices on your connected local network. Basically, you can use it to stream content on TVs, gaming consoles, smartphones, and other devices, without having to worry about the different transcoders required to serve the huge array of devices. And when needed, you can upgrade the plan to turn the Serviio into a more powerful media server.

Media Server Software Serviio

Furthermore, in addition to conventional media accessing, Serviio also allows you to stream content from online sources like online streams, RSS feeds, and web content. It even supports subtitles in different formats across all your devices and provides integration with Trakt. For those unaware, Trakt is a one-stop media management solution that helps you sync your media like TV shows, movies, and more across all your different devices. Besides, Serviio recently also received support for Alexa Skills (on Pro plan), which makes it easier for you to control your (Serviio) media server with voice commands.

Feature Highlights:

  • Open-source media server software
  • Remote access
  • Trakt integration
  • Alexa Skill support
  • Robust transcoder

Supported Platforms: Computer (Linux, macOS, Windows); Mobile (Android, iOS)
Subscription: Free, Paid
Check out Serviio

4. Kodi

Kodi, erstwhile XMBC, is an open-source media software. It’s not to be confused with a media server software like the Plex Media server or the likes. And although many disregard it for the same reason — that it restricts its media streaming abilities to a local network — its simplistic interface and a broader array of features put it on the list of the best media server software. However, that is not to say that you cannot use Kodi to stream your stored media via the public internet since the platform offers a bunch of add-ons, which make that possible.

Media Server Software Kodi

Talking about what you essentially get with Kodi, besides the usual functionality found on Plex, Kodi tops it up with a few additional features. Some of these include PVR: to allow you to watch and record live TV across popular backends, remote interface: brings remote controls, web browser, ability to customize the interface using various skins, and last, but certainly not the least, access to third-party tools: to take the experience to a different level altogether.

Feature Highlights:

  • Clean UI
  • Open-source media server app
  • Live TV and support for recording
  • Remote interface
  • Third-party tool support

Supported Platforms: Computer (Linux, macOS, Windows); Mobile (Android, iOS); TV (Android TV, Apple TV); Streaming Devices (FireTV, Nvidia Shield)
Subscription: Free
Check out Kodi

That’s all!

Those are some of our recommendations for the best media server software. Using these media server software, you can create an organized collection of all your media and access it on your computers and mobile devices. Besides if you are looking for a few more options to explore, here are some noticeable mentions: Subsonic (for music and video), Madsonic (music), OSMC (built-on Kodi for devices with less processing prowess), and Jellyfin (a fork of Emby that is prettier and open-source with almost the same functionality).

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  1. I think Ant Media Server(antmedia.io) should be on the list. I have tried Wowza, Red5pro, Janus and Ant Media. I think winner is Ant Media and my second choice would be Wowza.