Regular web hosting is not meant for media hosting. Not even if you have a VPS or a Dedicated Server. Standard web hosts are not optimized for serving large files - like Video, Audio, PDF reports, Zip files, MS Word Docs, MS Excel files etc - hundreds or thousands of times a day, sometimes all simultaneously, as hundreds or thousands of your members and subscribers all try to access it.
If all of your media files - like Video (.mp4), Audio (.mp3) and other files like PDF, Zip and Doc - are stored right on your web site, and you have a number of such video, audio and other files, then a lot of visitors and members 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.
In turn, that could cause your web site to slow down considerably - or worse, completely crash. In addition, there may also be bandwidth charges or resource over-utilization penalties that many web hosts charge you with, for all of those downloads. And those fees can turn out to be expensive, or may even get your site shut down or banned.
Don’t be mislead by 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.
There's a reason why Content Delivery Networks (CDN's) - like CloudFlare, Amazon S3 and Akamai - even came into existence, and are so popular, and used by all web sites that serve some form of media (Video, Audio, Documents & Files). Among all of them, Amazon S3 is easily the cheapest, most efficient and heavily optimized for media, and its API's and pricing are perfectly tailored for small businesses and web sites that run membership sites and online courses. All of Amazon's web services (like S3, SES, etc) are also developer-friendly, which is why there are so many developers using those services in creating and plugins and services around their offerings - just like we have created S3MediaVault as a WordPress plugin that integrates with Amazon S3 and can securely embed Video, Audio and Files stored on Amazon S3, into a WordPress Page or Post on your site.
Youtube videos are great for public videos - like Sales videos, Documentation videos, Tutorial and How-to videos, Feedback videos, Update videos, etc. But they are not suitable for videos in your membership site and online course. You cannot secure a Youtube video. Even if your video is "unlisted", it just means that the video cannot be found in an online search and won't show up in search results on Youtube or Google.
Even if you put a Youtube video in the member's area, and protect the page itself using a membership plugin like DAP, then once someone does get to the page (because they have paid for it and have a valid username and password to the member's area and are a legitimate paying member), then they can see that your video is being served from Youtube. And if they click on the Youtube logo, it will take them straight to Youtube.com, and they can then pass that Youtube.com URL to their friends and colleagues and post it in an online forum, or Facebook, and there's absolutely nothing you can do to protect a Youtube.com link, because it is on Youtube.com, and not on your site. Which means, no software you install on your site can protect a video on Youtube.com.
Don't fall for Video players which try to hide the Youtube logo. Altering the video to remove their logo, or try to hide that it is a Youtube video, is against Youtube's terms of service, and can get your Youtube account (and your Google account suspended, or worse, banned).
Plus it looks cheap and unprofessional that you are trying to rip off Youtube just to save a few pennies and hosting the video on a professional host - like Amazon S3.
Check out these 2 episodes from my podcast at SubscribeMe.fm, that talks about Audio, Video and Media hosting.
Audio, PDF & Media Hosting
Video Hosting for your Membership Site
If your 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 way cheaper on S3 compared to your web host or any other media hosts.
DAP by itself cannot directly protect a file stored on Amazon S3. 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).
Vimeo.com is just like Youtube, in that, people can upload their videos, there's a common directory to search for and watch videos, it's social in nature, and so on. And Vimeo also has a way to make your video private, which means your video will not show anywhere on Vimeo.com or in recommended videos at the end of other people's videos.
However, the one big difference between Vimeo and Youtube's private feature, is that Vimeo has a setting where you can configure your video to ONLY be embedded and played on YourWebsite.com. It's called "whitelisting" - so this is the same thing that S3MediaVault does for S3. It whitelists your domain, so that your video can only play from your web site.
Now, once you've ensured that your video can ONLY be played on your web site, then you now have to make sure that ONLY a certain group of people - like your registered free members, or your paid buyers, or your monthly subscribers - can even get to that page that has this private video. And that's where you need a membership plugin, like DigitalAccessPass.com.
Google Drive and Dropbox are not really meant for commercial distribution of files. So while you can use those services to send files to people, or make a back up of your personal or business files, you can't really use them to host videos and audio that you're going to be "playing" and "embedding" in your member's area of your membership site or online course.
Also, another issue: Security. If you simply wish to embed a link to a Drobox file or a Google Drive file on your site, that's fine. The real problem is that a member who logs in and sees that link to Dropbox or Google Drive, can actually pass around that direct link to others, and you can't prevent them from doing so, and you cannot protect those links, because those links are pointing to the third-party web sites of Google and Drobox.
You may wonder: Won't there be a similar issue with Amazon S3 too? Isn't Amazon S3 also a third-party web site like Drobox? If you did wonder that, then you would be right. That is why, simply taking a regular Amazon S3 link to a file you uploaded to S3, and then inserting it directly into a page on your web site, would have the same issue of lack of security, because anyone who has access to that link, can pass that link to anyone else, publish that in an online forum, or post it on Facebook or Twitter, and you won't be able to do anything to stop it.
And that's where you need a plugin like S3MediaVault, which allows you to securely embed regular files, Audio and Video from your Amazon S3 account, on to your web site, in a WordPress Page or Post in the member's area. And the links that S3MediaVault generates, are secure and expiring links that will expire minutes after they're "freshly created" in your member's area. So an authorized member who logs in to the member's area will be able to access the Video, Audio or PDF (or Doc or Zip). But if they tried to copy the link and send it to their friends via email or post it on Facebook or in an online forum, then by the time they do that, the link would've already expired. You the admin can configure how soon the S3MediaVault secure links will expire (we recommend setting it to expire in 15 minutes).
So to securely embed a Dropbox link in your member's area in a way that cannot be shared and abused, you would need a plugin similar to S3MediaVault, but developed for Dropbox. Like DropboxMediaVault, or GoogleDriveMediaVault. Unfortunately, there are no such plugins for Dropbox or Google Drive.
But we have developed the awesome S3MediaVault just for Amazon S3 and WordPress. And S3 is one of the best options available, S3MediaVault is one of the best plugins available for S3 and WordPress. So you have everything you need right here.
Use on 1 WordPress site
FREE BONUS: None
Use on Unlimited* WordPress sites you own
FREE BONUS: 1-site license of CoolCastPlayer.com (a $47 value)
* S3MediaVault Unlimited-site license is only meant for use on web sites owned by a single individual, and not meant for use on Client sites, JV sites, friend, family, church, non-profit or organizational sites, etc.