S3 vs. YouTube vs. Vimeo - S3 Media Vault - WordPress Plugin for Amazon S3 and CloudFront That Provides a S3 Audio Player and a S3 Video Player

S3 vs. YouTube vs. Vimeo

By Ravi Jayagopal | S3MediaVault

"Where to store my premium Videos, Audio and PDFs so that they are not stolen?"

If you are an Online Course Creator or Digital Creator and wish to protect different types of media files, and have wondered whether to use YouTube, Vimeo or even your own web host to store media files, then this article will show you exactly why you need to use Amazon S3 and use S3MediaVault plugin to securely store and deliver premium content to your buyers and members in your membership site or online course.

YouTube: Only videos. No audio (unless you turn the mp3 into mp4). No PDFs. Not secure. But Free.
Vimeo: Only videos. No audio. No PDFs. Mostly Secure (downloadable). Not Free. Expensive.
S3: Any file - Videos, Audio, PDFs, Zip, XLS, etc. Super Secure. Super Cheap.
Let's break it down by feature.

YouTube for Public Videos

Some of the types of videos published on a website are:

  • Sales videos
  • Content Marketing videos
  • Live videos
  • Tutorial and How-to videos

These could be Public (anyone who visits a public page on your website can see it) or Private (members-only videos that are reserved for members or buyers who have registered for free or have paid for your online course (one-time or subscription).

For Sales page videos, content-marketing videos & tutorial videos that you post on your own blog, or for posting on online forums, and any public-facing videos that you are ok with people sharing with one another, or you actually want people to share, you may want to use YouTube for all such videos.

Many years ago, in the early years of YouTube, for a while, it wasn't considered cool or professional to put a YouTube video on your home page. Of course, that was before YouTube became the 2nd largest search engine behind.... you guessed it, Google.com. Millions of people - including myself -  start their search directly on YouTube, especially for do-it-yourself, tutorials, and product reviews. And for your video to rank high on YouTube, say, when someone searches for "how to potty train a puppy", and you have an online course about puppy potty training, then you want your videos to come up high in the search results.

And one of the factors that can help your video rankings, is the number of video views, and also how many websites have embedded your video - among many other things. And the fastest way to rack up video views for your main sales videos and other documentation and tutorial videos, is to upload them all to YouTube, then take the embed code for those videos and put them on your web site on your home page, Of course, YouTube still prefers that you send all traffic directly to YouTube for maximum ranking boost.

Getting a higher ranking will not only help your videos rank better on YouTube, but also on Google.com searches, when Google will sometimes show videos from YouTube among the search results. So it helps your overall Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts for your YouTube videos.

There are however a few potential downsides to using YouTube for your Sales videos, specifically the one on your home page. I talked about this on episode #82 of my podcast: YouTube Sucks If You're Doing This (you can listen to it below).

Private Videos, Audio & PDFs

Next, if you have private members-only videos, do not host them on YouTube. There's a common misconception that your YouTube videos can be secured if you simply list them as "Unlisted". Sure, unlisted videos will not show up in searches, in side-bars or among recommended videos that show up right after a video has finished playing on YouTube.

But just because it doesn't show up anywhere, doesn't mean it is fully protected from unauthorized viewers. If you make your YouTube video unlisted, and then embed that video in your member's area, then once someone gets to that page, and sees that it's a YouTube video, they will be able to click on the YouTube logo, and get directly to that video on YouTube.com.

And they can now share your video link with anyone, by email, or post it on Facebook or an online forum, and suddenly, your members-only video that you thought was secure, is actually publicly available to everyone.

Next you might wonder if you can use a video plugin that will hide the YouTube logo from the video.  It cannot be hidden any longer (used to be possible until about a year or two ago). And even if you could, that would actually be a violation of YouTube's terms of service, and could get your channel or account banned.

"What about making a YouTube video "Private"?

Private videos can only be viewed by those whom you have explicitly invited to access the video. And you can only share it with a maximum of 50 people, and you need to know their email address in advance, and they'll need to have a Gmail account under that email address.

So all of this complexity means that it is a cumbersome manual process, and you cannot automate the providing of access to your videos. So it's not ideal if you want to have more than 50 members in your membership site or online course, or if you want to provide automated access to the videos immediately after they sign up.

So for truly secure, private videos that you wish to publish in the member's area, make them available to only your authorized members (free or paid), while making sure that they cannot pass around the link to your video, audio or PDF, you have 2 options:

1) Amazon S3

S3 is fantastic for hosting private videos. You can use a plugin like S3MediaVault.com, which will help you secure your S3 videos, audio and PDF and any other type of file, and embed them in your member's area in such a way that it is secure, and cannot be viewed or shared outside of your web site.

2) Vimeo.com

Vimeo is a lot like YouTube, in that, people can upload their videos, there's a common directory to search for and watch videos, it's social, etc. But 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 allow the video to only be embedded and played on yoursite.com (you can't do that with YouTube).

It's called "whitelisting" - the same thing that S3MediaVault.com does for S3. It whitelists your domain, so that your video can only play from your website.

One big drawback of Vimeo (and YouTube): Even if you store your private videos on Vimeo and embed the private video code securely on your site, there’s still the question of other file formats – like audio, PDF, zip, doc, images, etc, none of which Vimeo supports.

So even if you use Vimeo for videos, you still need a solution for the other file formats, and we recommend Amazon S3 + S3MediaVault.com for that.

Once you've ensured that your video can only be played on your website, you then 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 (DAP).

2 levels of security

1) Make sure your video only plays from yourwebsite.com, and
2) Make sure only authorized members or buyers can get to that page

If you use Vimeo for this, then you need to sign up for their "Pro" package, because that's the one that has the whitelisting feature. And Pro costs $199 per year. So it's expensive. But you can customize your player colors to match your website look & feel, and you can get some video analytics.

But then, you can get started with Amazon S3 for free (they have a 1 year free tier for anyone new to AWS). And using S3MediaVault, you can do everything that Vimeo does (player customization, captions, etc), and a whole lot more.

S3MediaVault vs. Vimeo

What can S3MediaVault do that Vimeo cannot? A lot, actually. See the table at the top of this post. But some of the main ones are...

  • Encrypted Video Streaming with "Impossible to Download" videos
  • Encrypted Audio Streaming 
  • Secure PDFs by allowing you to create secure download links, or even embed them directly on to a page, or prevent them from being downloaded.
  • Securing of any file with any extension, like images, spreadsheets, zips, docs, etc.


1. For public videos that you would like to encourage sharing, liking, and commenting, use YouTube.

2. For private videos, use Amazon S3 + S3MediaVault paying a lot less (or Vimeo.com for a lot more).

3. For protecting all of your content - Video, Audio, PDF, Zip, Doc, etc. - and also embed them on members-only pages in your WordPress website, make them easy to access, and even optionally prevent them from being downloaded and pirated, use S3MediaVault.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some more questions people ask, as per Google:

Q: Should I use Vimeo, YouTube or S3 for my premium or members-only videos?

A: If you use WordPress, use S3 + WordPress. For public videos, use YouTube. If you don't have WordPress, use Vimeo. Read the post above for a longer and more detailed version of this answer.

Why do people Vimeo instead of YouTube?

Vimeo is a private and secure version of YouTube for your members-only, private and premium videos. But it is more expensive than S3, and protects just videos. If you wish to protect more formats (like audio, PDF, zip, doc, and even images), use S3MediaVault + S3.

Can you use Vimeo for YouTube videos?

Yes, you could upload your YouTube videos to your Vimeo account, as Vimeo has a search engine too for public videos. Not a bad idea to repurpose your public videos from YouTube, but don't expect much,  as the Vimeo audience is just a tiny fraction of that of YouTube.

CONTINUE READING: Read this post below if you create Videos for your Online Course: 25 Video Course Creation Tips For Online Course and Digital Creators


About the Author

Ravi Jayagopal is a Business Coach, 8-time Author, Speaker, Podcaster, Entrepreneur, Digital Marketer, WordPress Developer and also an Amateur Ventriloquist :-). Read more about him at https://SubscribeMe.fm/ravi-jayagopal

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