Use Amazon S3 with WordPress to host Private Videos

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Things Started Happily

I have a friend who wanted to create an online membership site (doesn't everyone these days?). They did this on their own, but I have permission to tell the story. So they recorded some video and uploaded it to their web server. It's what a lot of people do – and technically, it worked. So my friend was happy.

Then They Got Worse

Two things happen when you upload your video content to your web server for your membership site that is supposed to give only “insiders” access to this great content. The first thing is that performance can slow down. That's not always the case like if you host with a managed WordPress provider (I use Nexcess). But that's the first thing that can happen.

The second thing that can happen is worse. You see, what my friend didn't realize is that while the pages of her site were protected, her files weren't. What that initially meant was that people could join her membership site for a few days, go to those video pages, and then save the videos to their computer and quit her membership class.

But Wait… Things Get Worse

But that was only part of the bad news. Sometimes those people would ask for refunds. And because they were within the 7, 14, or 30-day window for money-back guarantees, she would give them their money back. That always sucks, but it's what happens when you don't drip your content.

So now she's losing customers and not making much money. But it got worse. She started doing some searching on terms that only would apply to her site and noticed another site (in another country) was ranking better for her custom terms than her own site. They had also downloaded her files and created a site where they were making money off her content.

What Can We Learn from This?

I think there are three things you can take away from this horrible story.

First — Save your video files off of your web server. I have used Vimeo (Pro) & YouTube in the past, but have now started using Amazon S3. There's a plugin that makes this really easy to do — and it's called S3MediaVault (S3MV) plugin.  It keeps the files off your server so that your site doesn't slow down.

Second — Pick a membership plugin that drips content. MemberPress does this. And when you use S3MediaVault, you don't have to make those videos on S3 public. you can keep them private and let the plugin make the video available for a certain amount of time. That means if a user copies and sends the link to someone else, it will expire and fail.

Third — Before you start creating a membership site, call someone who knows something. I don't blame my friend for her troubles. She did what most people do – they try to see if they can get something to work — and when it does, they're happy. But they didn't know that using Amazon S3 with WordPress would make things easier or better. They didn't know what dripping content would mean, do for them, or how it would protect them from having to give out refunds.

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Chris Lema
Chris Lema has been working with WordPress since 2005. Over the years he's been a blogger, a speaker at WordCamps, a coach for WordPress product companies, and the founder of the conference for WordPress business owners, called CaboPress. Today he's the VP of Products at Liquid Web, where he manages the world's first managed platform for WooCommerce stores.

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