In a previous life, I was a developer. I started out as a junior programmer, became a senior one, then a systems analyst, then a software architect, then I managed teams of developers and techies, and was close to becoming part of corporate management, when I finally quit (an extremely lucrative job) and became a full-time entrepreneur. So I've been through the gauntlet, so to speak.
And in this podcast mini-series, I've taken some of the great programming practices that are used to develop software and systems, and I want to show you how you can apply them to your own business, as an entrepreneur and digital creator.
Note: I have over-simplified a lot of the programming concepts for the sake of keeping it simple, so that I don't turn this into a programmers manual :-). Let's dive right in.
Listen to this mini-series via the audio players below, or read the transcript further below the players.
FICTION: "I want to make sure that NONE of my content can EVER be copied or downloaded".
FACT: Anything that you put out on the web, can be downloaded – one way or the other, directly or indirectly.
FICTION: "I want to lock down things so hard because there will be people who try to pirate my content".
FACT: People who are out to steal stuff, will steal it no matter how you hard you try to prevent it.
FICTION: "I'm afraid my paying members will download my content and upload it to illegal websites".
FACT: Paying members who value your content and your brand, AND also pay for your content, are usually not looking to rip you off by stealing your content and sharing it with their friends or family. They're paying you because they want to compensate you for the value you are providing. And sure, they might share it with a family member (child, spouse, significant other), but most of them are not going to risk uploading it to blackhat websites and save random strangers online free money at the expense of getting into legal trouble.
FACT: By trying to lock down your content too hard to protect it from the 1% of pirates, you may end up annoying the remaining 99% of your members who have absolutely no intention of ripping you off or stealing your content in any way.
Anything that’s out there on the web, can be duplicated, copied, screenshotted (new word), screen-captured, and possibly downloaded – one way or the other. Nothing online is 100% secure. If it shows up on a screen, it can be captured. You can't prevent that even if you have your own special device (e.g., Apple TV) or special software (iTunes or Kindle reader).
Yes, you could use "Streaming Only" technology (S3MediaVault makes this possible) to make sure even legitimate, paying members cannot download videos from your member’s area. But guess what? There are screen-capture tools – even free ones – that can be used to rip your video, and convert it into a file that can then be passed around on pirate sites. So preventing download of videos could result in upsetting your legitimate members, because people like to watch videos even when they’re away from their computer – like on their iPad when sitting on a bed or a couch.
Making everything "streaming only" means that they must be online and logged in to your member’s area every single time to watch your videos. Not a good thing for your members.
Same thing with PDFs. If it's displayed on a screen, it can be screenshotted, even if you prevent the download. Plus when it comes to files like Zips and Excel spreadsheets, there are no online viewers (unless you use Google Sheets, in which case they're not on your website any more) - they have to be downloaded anyway before they can be accessed.
So can your content be "too secure"? Absolutely! You can make it too hard for 99% of your legitimate members, just to prevent the 1% from stealing it (but they’re going to find a way to steal anyway). What’s the point, really? Those who are highly motivated to steal, will figure out how to pick your lock. So why make it harder for your real members?
Can people pass on their username/password to their friends to log in to your member’s area? Sure. But a membership plugin like https://DigitalAccessPass.com will lock their account from further access, if it detects an account getting logins from more than, say "5" (or whatever you set as admin) IP addresses.
Can people break your "password-lock", "print-lock" or any other kind of restriction you place on your PDF files, within seconds? Sure, they can.
No, your content can never be 100% secure. Any one who tells you so, is either lying, or doesn’t have a clue.
Your only goal should be to make it hard for the "casual" abusers, that’s all. Not to make it so hard that even your legitimate members have to jump through hoops to get to it.
The best membership sites we have seen, provide access to their content in multiple formats.
Do you publish video content? Then right below the video, also give them a link to "download" the video and "watch it at their leisure", publish an "Audio Version" in .mp3 format, publish a "PDF Transcript" of everything said in the video, so they can even "read" the content from your video.
Is your content mostly text? Then offer a PDF version of your blog post or page, so they can download it, print it (hopefully they don't, as that's not being green), and read it offline. Or make a "Read Aloud" version of your blog post and offer it as a .mp3 file, so they can "listen" to your content while at the gym, or while going for a walk, or while driving in their car.
Bottom-line: Don’t worry about the 1% who will never pay you, probably will steal your content, and pass it on to others one way or the other. Just focus on creating great value for the 99% of your paying members who pay you, support you, promote you, and keep coming back month after month after month. And that’s the best use of your time and resources, and that’s the only way to build a successful membership site.
Now for some great news: With all that said about security, using S3MediaVault can make your content as secure as you want it to be:
Don't want your members downloading your videos and audios? Use S3MediaVault's Streaming Video Player and Streaming Audio Player which encrypts videos and audios such that even using downloading software like Video Downloader, Video DownloadHelper or Internet Download Manager (IDM) will not help them download your videos (or audios). They just have to watch it (or listen to it) on your website.
Want to make your videos load super-fast AND allow them to download it? Use S3MediaVault's Standard Video Player and Standard Audio Player with both S3 and CloudFront, and it will load super-fast regardless of where they're located in the world. And just tick a checkbox and S3MediaVault will automatically create a download link to the video right under the video player.
Want your PDFs only viewed online and hard to download? S3MediaVault has a Online PDF Viewer that only opens the PDF in the browser itself, and makes it really hard to download.
Want to embed your PDFs right within your website? S3MediaVault has a PDF Embed feature.
Want to create video playlists and audio playlists? S3MediaVault has that too.
Want to allow your video viewers to pick their own video resolution to match their possibly slower internet speeds? Yup, S3MediaVault has the Multi-Resolution Streaming with "Resolution Switcher" and "Video Stream Optimization" feature too.
Want to create transcripts of your audio and video to use in a PDF or as a blog post? S3MediaVault has that too.
Whatever your security and content delivery needs are, S3MediaVault WordPress Video and Audio Player offers and meets them.
S3MediaVault's Video Player now offers your viewers a Video Resolution Switcher with Multi-Resolution Streaming and Automated Streaming Optimization.
S3MediaVault allows you to create streaming video in multiple resolutions. You can choose the resolutions in the Settings page - 1080p, 720p, 360p, 240p and 144p.
And when the viewer first presses Play on the video, S3MediaVault video player will automatically choose the lowest-but-best resolution for the viewer based on their internet speed.
If they're watching from a device which has slow internet speeds (like 3G, or 4G or maybe they're using a service that doesn't offer high-speed internet, offers slow speeds, or has tiered or metered access), S3MediaVault will automatically serve them the most optimized quality of video for their internet connection.
That means, your streaming videos will load quickly for them regardless of their connection speed, saving them bandwidth, as well as saving you on your AWS bandwidth bill (win/win FTW!).
Basically, this is exactly the same as what happens on YouTube: Your viewers will be able to change the resolution of the video to a higher or lower number, and the switch will happen seamlessly, without affecting their viewership experience.
Some use the word "Streaming" to describe any video that's playing in their browser.
But just because you are watching a video online, doesn't mean it is being "Streamed". Maybe true in the general meaning of the word, but not true in the technical sense. Let me explain, because it might not be of relevance to regular folks, but it is highly relevant to digital content creators.
Regular videos - aka “progressive download” videos - are progressively (aka continuously) downloaded to the viewer’s browser first, even if the video has been paused. And that's why using plugins like Video Downloader and Video Downloader will let you download the video you’re watching.
But as a creator, progressive download videos can increase your bandwidth costs to deliver that video. That's because, as soon as the viewer hits "Play" on the video, the video starts to download to their computer (in whatever the "temp" folder of the browser is, where it stores all temporary internet files).
And then, even if the viewer clicked "Pause" right after they clicked "Play", the video will still continue to download all the way until it is completely downloaded. So if it's a big file, then the entire file of tens- or hundreds of MB's of data is downloaded to their device first (whether it's their computer or mobile device). And regardless of whether they end up watching a few seconds video or a few minutes of the video, the video was downloaded in full to their device.
That means, the video provider (your S3 account) ended up delivering the entire video, even though they may or may not watch it, or only watch it partially.
So more bandwidth cost for you, the creator. And for the viewer as well, their internet bandwidth is used to download the full video, even though they may or may not watch it, or just watch it partially. So more bandwidth costs for your viewer as well. And especially more so if they're on a mobile device and are using their data and have a limited data plan.
And that's where "Streaming Video" is much more beneficial to everyone involved - well, almost to everyone involved, which I'll explain in a minute. And that's because with streaming video, the video is delivered as a "download as you watch" stream of data. The web service Amazon MediaConvert converts the single .mp4 file into a number of smaller chunks of file "segments" which have the extension ".ts".
There could be tens or hundreds or thousands of such segments depending on how long the video is. And those segments are delivered one by one to the viewer's device, as they continue to watch the video. But if the viewer hits Pause on the video player, then the segments will stop being downloaded.
So only the bare-minimum amount of video data is delivered to the viewer, as need, as they continue to watch. And that ends up saving you - the provider - money in terms of bandwidth costs; and also reduces the viewer's data usage as the consumer.
But there are two small downsides to streaming:
1) It costs a bit more in terms of your AWS bill, because to create a streaming video, you need to use Amazon MediaConvert, a cloud-based service that can take a .mp4 file and convert it into streaming "segments" (but it's a one-time cost).
2) If some of your audience are from countries where they have slow or poor internet access, streaming videos will be almost unwatchable to them, because their internet access will never be fast enough to download the video "segments" fast enough for them to continue watching normally. And may result in the video freezing up every few seconds while the downloading of the segments catches up to their viewing. But with progressive downloads, those who have poor internet access speeds, will be able to hit Play on the video, then hit Pause, and come back in however long, and the video would continue to download the whole time they're away from their device, because that's what progressively downloading means. But you can't do that with streaming where you can Play, Pause and come back later to a fully downloaded video, because the video doesn't download full with streaming.
So if you deliver your videos as regular "progressive downloads", you need just Amazon S3, and you get possibly (slightly) higher bandwidth costs because the video is fully downloaded to the viewer's device regardless of how much of it they watch.
And if you deliver them as "streaming videos", then you'll need S3 + CloudFront + MediaConvert. So the addition of CloudFront and MediaConvert increases your costs slightly, but you could also end up saving a little bit on the bandwidth costs, because only as much of the video is necessary, is delivered to the viewer's device.
Using S3MediaVault, you can create both progressive download videos as well as true-streaming videos that cannot be downloaded. So you don't necessarily have to use CloudFront to create secure videos, audio, PDF etc. You can do it using just S3 alone.
So media files created by S3MediaVault.com using both S3 and CloudFront are both extremely secure - the links to the videos (audio/pdf/etc) are expiring links, and are generated afresh every time the page on your website loads (which has the S3MediaVault shortcode).
And only that page can generate those links to those videos (audio/pdf/etc), and trying to share the link to the video on Amazon S3 will not work.
However, Streaming Videos are the most secure - because they are streamed in real-time, in bits and pieces, to the viewer’s browser. That means plugins like Video Downloader, Video DownloadHelper and even the most popular video downloading software Internet Download Manager won’t be able download your video (their only option is to record their screen to make a copy).
So here's the bottom-line:
S3MediaVault uses Amazon AWS MediaConvert service to create the streaming version of your mp4 and mp3 and then delivers that to your viewer, and makes it really easy and manage everything from within WordPress without having to log in to AWS or know any of the technical stuff behind creating a streaming video.