Plex Cloud is extremely easy to set up and use, but torrenters will want to be cautious
For those who want the ultimate control over their photos, videos and music, two media servers have come to dominate the landscape: Kodi (formerly XMBC) and Plex, which is itself an offshoot of XBMC. Both have received tremendous support from their user communities, but Plex has emerged as the go-to software for people who prefer simple set-up and ease-of-use over customization and access to third-party plug-ins.
However when we say that Plex is easy to use, what we really mean is that it’s easy compared to Kodi, or in fact any other media serving platforms. It remains a bit daunting for those who need an even easier option — let’s say something as simple as Netflix. With the new
What it does and how it works
The benefits to Plex Cloud are significant: There’s no need to download, install and configure
This shouldn’t be interpreted as carte-blanche for storing and streaming illegal material.
Unlike the Plex Media Server you would install on your home machine,
But even if you need to take the plunge and throw some money at both a Plex Pass and a cloud storage account, the good news is that you’re get a cloud-based media server that works really well. Here’s how our test experience turned out:
A trickle, not a stream
We decided to run our test with Amazon Drive, because at the launch of the Plex Cloud Beta, it was the only supported service. Though you don’t have to upload content to Amazon Drive first, we recommend it. Uploading content to Amazon Drive is easy thanks to the various clients Amazon provides — including a web-based interface — but it’s hardly fast. On a 5 Mbit/s upload connection, a 2.75GB HD movie file ought to take about 30-40 minutes, assuming you get full utilization of that bandwidth. Our tests show that the reality is a lot slower – more on the order of four to five hours. Granted, it’s a one-time operation, which means it’s hardly a show-stopper, but for those used to getting instant access to their files, it’s a different pace. You can create as many folders as you like, keeping in mind that
Sync it all up
The benefits to Plex Cloud are significant.
The next step is to activate your Plex Cloud server online — which involves exactly one click — after which you’ll be asked to sign in to your Amazon Drive account. There’s a brief delay while Plex’s backend processes do what they must to sync things up. You’re then greeted with an empty
Wait out the update
Once the libraries have been added, we found that Plex Cloud is slower at scanning media than its PC-based sibling — it took about 15 minutes to gather the data for six titles. Some users on the
At this point, you’re pretty much done: Simply hit your Apple TV, mobile app or Roku and start browsing and playing your media (assuming it’s finished uploading). We found that most files played perfectly, albeit with the occasional hiccup now and then, again, likely the product of Plex Cloud’s beta status. Even some 4K (UHD) samples we uploaded played smoothly, and with a level of detail and resolution that, when compared to the source file playing locally, appeared virtually identical. On one occasion, the
A couple of drawbacks
While Plex Cloud is a cloud-based instance of
What about legal entanglements?
As clever and convenient as Plex Cloud is, it’s worth pointing out that using it could create a potentially awkward situation, legally speaking. We have no stats on this, but common sense tells us that a lot of
Amazon makes it clear that you and you alone are responsible for making sure the content you put on its servers is free of any legal entanglements, and also makes it clear that they can and will suspend your account if you’re a bad boy or girl. However, Amazon refused to comment when we asked what else might happen if it found copyright violations in a user’s Drive account, or whether the company actually checks files systematically or at random. So we checked with IP and copyright expert, Benjamin Bloom, a lawyer with the firm Minden Gross in Toronto.
“You’re certainly more at risk than with Plex’s current platform,” Bloom tell us, referring to the local server version, “but not to the same extent that you would be on YouTube or other public-facing platform.” He points out that there are several elements that work in a user’s legal favor: First, Plex is not designed for sharing and distributing content the way torrent sites or Kim Dotcom’s MegaUpload do. This could limit the amount of interest from copyright holders. Also, filing a DMCA take-down notice or other type of legal filing could prove difficult without any way of demonstrating that a specific piece of content was in someone’s possession illegally — after all, there’s no way to access a user’s
But this shouldn’t be interpreted as carte-blanche for storing and streaming illegal material. “Whenever you put something in cloud storage,” Bloom says, “you’re subject to jurisdictional issues.” So a Canadian, who has the right to download music from virtually any source online and save it to their Canadian-based PC, could still face a penalty if they stored those songs on Amazon Prime, if Amazon’s server were located in a country with different laws. Another consideration is that both Plex and Amazon make it clear that you must indemnify them if they get taken to court over your illegal files — meaning that they could turn around and go after you for any costs they incur as a result of your copyright-infringing activity, something the average torrent freak likely wouldn’t face.
Is Plex Cloud worth it?
Whether Plex Cloud is worth the cost of a cloud storage subscription (and a
- Easy set-up
- Plex’s cloud infrastructure guaranteed to handle transcoding/streaming requirements
- No need to worry about your home ISP connection or router config for remote access
- No support for channels, DVR, camera uploads or other advanced functions (yet)
- Pricey: You need an active Plex Pass and Amazon Drive “unlimited everything” subscription
- No support for other cloud storage providers (yet)
Article updated on December 1, 2016 to reflect the addition of Google Drive, Dropbox, and Microsoft OneDrive as Plex Cloud-compatible cloud storage services.
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