Originally Published on wpmayor.com on August 26th, 2019 on By
As your WordPress site grows, you might be looking for a more effective, affordable way to manage your site’s images, videos, and other media files.
In this Media Cloud review, I’ll share a little more about how this approach works because you might not be familiar with it. Then, I’ll go through the whole Media Cloud feature list and show you how everything works.
Why Offload Media to the Cloud, Anyway?
If you have a small WordPress site without many media files, you probably don’t need to care about offloading images to the cloud.
However, as your site, and media library, grows, offloading your media to the cloud can have a few benefits:
- Reduced requests to your server – your server is no longer responsible for delivering your media files (and certain other files). This reduces the load on your server.
- Lower costs – typically, cloud storage providers are going to be a lot cheaper than whatever your web host charges you for storage.
- Separate media/easier migration – because your media files are stored on an external cloud service, it’s super easy to move your WordPress site around because all you need to do is move your database and files for your plugins/themes, rather than moving all your media files, too.
Media Cloud Review: Feature List
At a high-level, Media Cloud helps you offload your files to a variety of cloud storage services:
- Amazon S3
- DigitalOcean Spaces
- Google Cloud Storage
- Other S3-compatible services
You can automatically upload new files and also copy your existing media library over. And you also have the option to upload straight to the cloud (bypassing WordPress).
Media Cloud can also help you connect to a CDN to serve your offloaded files via a CDN.
Then, there are some neat features that go beyond just offloading your media files.
Most notably, Media Cloud integrates with imgix, which lets you dynamically serve optimized images from a global CDN. You can also edit images with an advanced image editor and add watermarks (learn more at imgix – it’s a separate service).
Other features include:
- Dynamic image serving, advanced image editing, and watermarking without the need for imgix (so similar to some of the imgix features…just happening on your server instead).
- Integrations with popular image compression plugins, as well as WPML, WooCommerce, EDD, and some other plugins.
- Support for Amazon Rekognition or Google Cloud Vision for automatic image tagging and classification via machine learning.
Media Cloud Pricing
Media Cloud comes in both a free version at WordPress.org as well as a few different premium versions.
Here’s how the premium plans stack up with month-to-month pricing. You can also get 25% off if you pay annually:
There are a lot of feature differences between the various plans, so rather than trying to explain what’s available on each tier, I’m just going to link you to this really handy comparison table that goes through all the features and which plan includes them. It also compares Media Cloud vs WP Offload Media, another popular plugin in this space.
Hands-On with Media Cloud
Now that you have a basic understanding of how Media Cloud works, let’s go hands-on and I’ll take you through it. I’m working with the premium version for this Media Cloud review, but many of the features that you’ll see are still available in the free version at WordPress.org.
When you first install Media Cloud, it will take you to the Features area where you can enable the exact features that you want to use:
I like this modular approach as it ensures you’re not bloating up your site with features you don’t want.
Once you enable the features that you want to use, you’ll be able to configure individual features in the Media Cloud → Settings area.
Connecting to a Cloud Storage Provider
To get started, you can use the Cloud Provider section to choose the cloud storage service that you want to use. Again, Media Cloud supports a pretty lengthy list:
- Amazon S3
- Google Cloud Storage
- DigitalOcean Spaces
- Other S3-compatible services
I’ll use Amazon S3 for this review.
Then, if you haven’t already, you’d need to create your Amazon S3 bucket and an IAM user with the permissions to manage that bucket.
Then, you’ll enter your IAM user’s keys, as well as the bucket and region that you want to connect to. If you’ve enabled transfer acceleration in your S3 bucket, you can also enable that feature in your WordPress dashboard:
Further down, you can control advanced settings for upload handling. For example, you can automatically add a file prefix or set up cache control details. You can also choose whether to upload non-image files, like PDFs or Word documents, as well as whether or not to delete files from your WordPress server after you’ve uploaded them to your cloud storage provider:
If you’re planning to put a CDN in front of your storage service for faster page load times, the CDN Settings box lets you automatically rewrite your URLs to serve content from the CDN instead.
By default, the plugin will serve images straight from AWS, which is fine as well:
After configuring a couple other smaller settings, you can save your changes to get connected.
Now, if I upload an image to the WordPress media library, Media Cloud will offload it straight to Amazon S3. You can tell that it’s working by looking for the little cloud icon. And if you hover over an image in your media library, you can view more details:
Ok, so setting up the basic offload functionality went pretty smoothly. Let’s look at the other features now.
If you go back to the Settings area, you can use the drop-down to move between the settings for different features:
Let’s go through some of these features, starting with the Vision integration.
With Amazon Rekognition (or Google Cloud Vision), you can use machine learning to automatically apply categories or tags to your images.
For example, if I tell Rekognition to detect labels, then it will use machine learning to automatically apply labels like “mountains” or “flowers” as either categories or tags. You can even have it detect faces, including a special option for celebrity faces:
Then, here’s how it works:
I upload a photo of a mountain and Amazon Rekognition uses its machine learning to automatically apply categories.
For example, for the image below, Amazon Rekognition generated the following list of categories, which are pretty darn accurate:
ice, mountain, mountain-range, nature, outdoors, peak, snow
Pretty cool, right?
With the imgix integration, you connect to the (separate) imgix service. Imgix will help you dynamically serve optimized images to readers. For example, it can automatically serve the best format and size based on a visitor’s browser.
Imgix will also serve your images via a CDN.
I didn’t really play around with this feature too much – but it’s there if you want it:
The Dynamic Images feature lets you perform similar functionality to imgix…just on your own server instead of via an external service.
For example, you can set a lossy compression level and a max image width/height for the dynamically-generated images:
Advanced Image Editor
If you’ve ever played around with the native WordPress image editor, you’d know that it doesn’t give you very many options. It’s fine for cropping and resizing images, but that’s about it.
With Media Cloud, you get access to a much more detailed editor:
Some things you can do here include:
- Color correction, including an Auto Enhance option
- Rotation or image flipping
- Add image borders
- Stylize image (e.g. throw on some sepia)
- Add a watermark and choose alignment
- Focus cropping based on a focal point or human faces
This is me cranking the sepia way up and adding a watermark:
This feature is pretty neat as it gives you more power for on-the-fly image editing/corrections.
The Storage Browser tool in the Media section of your dashboard is another neat addition that lets you browse your S3 bucket from your WordPress dashboard, rather than needing to fire up your AWS console.
Beyond just browsing, it also lets you create folders or upload files straight to your S3 bucket right from your WordPress dashboard. You’ll need to enable the Direct Uploads feature to enable these latter two features:
Some Other Tools
To round out this Media Cloud review, let me take a look at a few other helpful tools it includes.
First, the Image Sizes tool helps you work with WordPress thumbnail sizes and also create your own thumbnail sizes if desired:
It also includes its own tool to regenerate thumbnails after you’ve made any changes.
There are also two batch tools to:
- Offload existing files on your server to your cloud storage provider.
- Bulk process images through Amazon Rekognition.
You can also run these tools via WP-CLI if that’s more your speed.
Final Thoughts on Media Cloud
Media Cloud comes packed with a ton of functionality. Not only can it help you offload files to a variety of cloud storage services, but it also comes with all those other features that I explored above.
One thing to remember is that the default behavior is just to copy your files to cloud storage and serve them from there. By default, it still leaves the files on your server as well, though. You can tell Media Cloud to delete files from your local server after you upload them, though, and it also includes a feature to transfer those files back to your WordPress site’s server if needed.
All in all, the plugin works exactly as described, has a convenient interface, and includes lots of neat features, like that Amazon Rekognition integration for automatic image categorization and dynamic image serving, either via your server or the imgix integration.