“You said it was your aim from the beginning…why didn’t you start with this?”
I know, I know!
Since every Offload-Media plugin out there involves some sort of cost…either with the plugin functionality, or with the Cloud Storage Providers they support, I had to explore every possible avenue to find the best balance between cost, quality and convenience for our customers.
After all, we wanted to fulfil a couple of needs and every additional plugin installed brings a further load on server resources. Your aim should always be to cover as many bases as possible with one dependable and “lightweight” plugin.
We also knew that most of our customers had either a personal Google Drive account, or OneDrive Personal with ample storage included with their Office subscriptions…and we were hoping to help them utilise those.
Lately there’s been a few new Offload-kids on the block, but they all have very similar functionality and pretty much the same Cloud Storage integrations. And none of them offered exactly what I needed.
In the interest of not repeating all the same info in my failed attempts I opted to discuss the biggest player in this category of plugins:
WP Offload Media Lite and Pro.
This plugin has been around for many years with consistent good reviews and a somewhat steady flow of updates.
The free version fell off the boat rather quickly due to a bit too many limitations. The biggest issue is a simple feature, but probably the developer’s greatest cash cow in terms of luring free users into becoming paid customers. It cannot automatically offload existing media from your server. Only new media added after activating the plugin is uploaded to the cloud.
The Pro version does have an add-on which enables you to manually trigger uploading of your pre-existing media. (That upload to the cloud, and getting rid of the local server files is what we call “Offloading” from your WordPress site).
Your offloaded media is properly indexed in your media library since the local links are merely replaced with the cloud versions. You can also manage the files from inside the media library.
Unfortunately, another huge drawback, even the Pro version cannot upload your media directly to the cloud at all. Any media you upload via the Media Library uploads to your website’s server first, then uploads to the cloud from there.
Why is this a problem if you can opt to have the media deleted from your server after this process? Most hosts also impose bandwidth limits and if you upload a lot of media, it will could even deplete your entire bandwidth quota. Remember, bandwidth is the amount of data flow through your website’s server. So the upload into the media library will use bandwidth, and the “offload” into the cloud will double that immediately.
If you’re not aware and your host charges overages automatically, this exercise may well become a very expensive lesson learned.
Re-downloading the media to your website’s storage (if you want to deactivate the plugin) will again use bandwidth, just be aware.
WP Offload Media can also be very expensive. On top of your business class cloud storage buckets charged by Amazon S3 or Digital Ocean Spaces etc, you pay for the number of offloaded media managed by the plugin! Pricing starts at $69 per year for up to 2,000 media items offloaded, or $99 per year for up to 6,000 offloaded media. The cheapest plan that supports WordPress multisite is $199 per year and covers up to 20,000 offloaded media items. This goes right up to a whopping $1,199 for unlimited media!
The one positive I can add right now is that it’s an “unlimited sites” license. You pay the one fee per year and you can integrate as many sites to the cloud as you wish.
In a sense, this model is considered fair by some, since a huge company like Ghetty Images would host millions of files for a single site while you might be a startup business and only manage a small number across 3 sites. If you had to pay per site in stead of per image, your cost would be more than that of a multi-million dollar company.
On the other hand, I feel that this is where payment for the storage provider comes in. The plugin just manages the integration, regardless of the number of files. Just my 2 cents worth.
WP Cloud plugins
For the purpose of this exercise (offloading our media and freeing up storage space), this set of plugins are not for you.
They are great in their own right, but they do not integrate with the WordPress Media Library whatsoever. I really hoped they could and I even had a nice chat with the owner and developer…but unfortunately they confirmed my suspicion.
It simply won’t do.