Q1: What’s the difference between storing files on Amazon S3 (and serving it using the S3MediaVault.com plugin), compared to storing the files right on your own web site and having DAP serve them directly to your members?
A: If all files are stored right on your web site, and you have a large amount of video, audio and other files, then a lot of people viewing and downloading them from your site will use up a lot of resources on your server – like site loading time, server memory, server bandwidth, etc – and your site could slow down considerably. Plus, on top of that, there are also bandwidth charges that your host will charge you with for all of those downloads, which are usually not very cheap.
And don’t put too much faith in your web host’s “Unlimited Bandwidth” clause, because if you read the fine-print carefully, you’ll see that as per their TOS, if you consume large amounts of bandwidth and use too much of the server resources, this could cause other web sites (belonging to others) on the same server to slow down and have a degrade in performance, especially if you are on a shared hosting account. And they could consider this abuse of their TOS, and could either slap you with huge bandwidth or server utilization fees, or may even ask you to take your web site elsewhere because you’re causing issues for other site owners on the same server.
Instead, if the files are stored on Amazon S3, then you don’t have to worry about your site slowing down, or you using up too much bandwidth and getting slapped with huge bandwidth fees, because the files are being served from Amazon’s huge S3 servers which have tons more resources and speed compared to your web host.
Plus in the long run, bandwidth is cheaper on S3 compared to your web host.
Q2: Can DAP protect content stored on an external site, like Amazon S3?
A: Not directly, not by itself. By default, DAP can only protect files (and any other content) that is on the same web site where DAP is also installed. For large files, we do recommend that you store files on a fast, scalable file server like Amazon S3. Now, the page or post itself (in which you post that Amazon S3 link) can be protected by DAP, and no un-authorized user can even see the content of the page (or the link within that page).
However, once a user has authorized access to a page because they’re a member, now they can see the page where you have that Amazon S3 link.
It’s similar to posting a public YouTube video on a protected DAP page on your web site. Sure, DAP can protect the page from un-authorized users, but authorized users can actually see the page, and see that it’s a YouTube video, and clicking on that video will directly take them to a page on YouTube.com, which DAP has no control over, and cannot protect once they leave your web site.
Similarly, DAP cannot directly protect that external link to your file stored on Amazon S3. And that’s where our Amazon S3 plugin S3MediaVault.com (S3MV) comes into the picture.
S3MV can make sure that your files on Amazon S3 cannot be accessed directly by anyone, even if the link were shared with others via email or on a forum, and can ONLY be accessed through a page or post on your web site (web site where you have installed the S3MV WordPress plugin).
NOTE: The S3MV plugin is included for free with your purchase of any DAP license, starting with the Unlimited-site license and above.
Q3: Can S3MediaVault prevent members from downloading the protected videos or audios?
A: S3MediaVault is not a “true streaming” solution. Which means, it doesn’t stream videos in real time, but rather, plays the video by buffering the file as the viewer is watching the video. And that’s the right way to do it, if you care about your viewers.
This means your viewers will be able to rewind, even put the video on pause (especially for large videos), so that it keeps buffering in the background, and then come back and watch it later when it has fully “loaded” , so that they won’t experience any real-time buffering. This is very useful for viewers that don’t have fast internet connections.
What this also means, is that anyone who watches your video, can also use free, browser plugins (like DownloadHelper) that allow you to download a video that you’re watching in your browser. This is not a security breach. They are able to download it to their computer, only because they currently already have been given authorized access to the video/audio itself.
Please remember that anything that is accessible online – like audio, or video – can always be easily downloaded to the viewer’s desktop. There are many different ways in which you can download what you are viewing in your browser. The bottom-line is this: If a video or audio is able to be viewed in a browser, it can easily be downloaded – or “recorded” using screen-capture solutions like Camtasia, or audio capturing solutions like Audacity), and then saved – to the viewer’s computer.
S3MediaVault makes sure no one can directly access your files from your S3 account, and can only play or view it from your site (where the S3MediaVault plugin is installed).
Then combine that with the Page/Post protection of DigitalAccessPass (DAP),which can make sure only certain people (like paid members, or free but registered users) can access the post or page where the S3MediaVault embed code is published.
Combine DAP + S3MediaVault, and you would have now completely locked down your content from any and every kind of un-authorized and illegal access.
So once someone has paid for your content (or registered for it), and are authorized users who have a right to view or hear that content, it’s OK that they get to download what they’re eligible for, to their computer, for offline use (like during their morning walk, or on the treadmill, or in their car, or when standing in line at the theme park!)
We don’t believe it is a good idea for you to completely prevent even your legitimate, paying members from downloading your videos. After all, they’ve paid for it, and should be able to download it and watch it offline (like on their mobile device, ipad, iphone, etc).
In fact, the best membership sites that we’ve seen, and have helped set up, offer the content in multiple ways: Download the videos for playback later universally on all devices (mp4), download audio version of this video (mp3), download the transcript of the video (PDF), etc.
The more you make it easier for your members to consume your content, the more they will love being a member, and stay with you longer.
If you absolutely must have “streaming” videos that viewers cannot download at all (and also cannot easily buffer ahead and play at their own convenience), then we recommend Vimeo.com/pro.