A Beginners Guide to Using Amazon S3

Setting up Amazon S3

If you do not already have an amazon account you will need to sign up for one here.

Once you have an Amzon account go to aws.amazon.com and sign up for a web services account.

Once you have received the email and confirmed that you have signed up for an AWS account, navigate to Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3). Sign up for this service.

When you have completed signing up for Amazon S3 you will be given two key pieces of information and they are: Your Access Key ID and Your Secret Access Key. Keep these in a safe place. If you should lose them you can click on your AWS account and find them under ‘Your Account’ and then click on ‘Security Credentials’.

That’s it, you have completed the first stage of getting started with Amazon S3.

Using Amazon S3

You will now need some sort of interface as a way of transferring files to your Amazon S3 account.

By far the easiest and most popular way is to use the Firefox Add on ‘S3 Organizer’. You will obviously need the Firefox browser for this.

Once you have downloaded the Firefox add on you will need to set up your details and give your account name, access key id and secret key id.

You will then be presented with a split screen. On the left hand side is your computer files and the right hand side is the Amazon S3 account.

To start transferring files from your computer to your Amazon S3 account, you will need to create a bucket/directory. This is simply a folder in which you will keep certain files.

To create a bucket simply click on the blue icon on the top, right side of the screen. Name the bucket and make sure it is something memorable. Try using your website name and something which describes what you are putting in the folder e.g. LifeSnips-Images.

Uploading Images

uploading-images-amazons3Now it’s time to put some files in your newly created bucket. It’s simply a matter of dragging and dropping the files into the bucket you have just created.

When the files have been transferred, you will see a progress bar at the bottom.  You will now need to allow access for everyone to see the file.

To allow everyone access you can right click on the image file you have just uploaded and click on ‘Edit ACL’. You will want to tick all the boxes in the ‘read’ column, which will allow everyone to view the image file when you have put the link in your website or blog.

Now that you have done all this you will need the address of where the file is stored. To get the address, right click on the image file in your bucket and click ‘copy URL to clipboard’. You now have the url, to make sure it works go to your address bar on your browser and paste in the url you have just copied. When you see the image file that you uploaded to your Amazon S3 account you will know everything is okay.

Now, when you want an image on your website or blog you can use the source of the image file as the url from your Amazon S3 which will look something like http://lifesnips-images.s3.amazonaws.com/Amazon.jpg.

If you are using WordPress you can get a plugin called Amazon S3 Plugin

This is an easy way to transfer all your image files into one bucket straight from your wordpress blog.

Uploading Audio Files

mp3-playerYou can upload audio files in exactly the same way as above, however it will take a little longer to upload.

Once your audio files has been uploaded you will need an audio player for your website or blog.

Again if you are using wordpress you can use the plugin above to store your audio files and a plugin called Audio Player in order to play the files on your blog.

The audio player plugin lets you play audio files straight from your blog.

Uploading Video Files

This is a little trickier however is relatively simple to do.  Record your video as normal. Now, upload the file to your Amazon S3 account. Once it has completed uploading, make sure you change the ACL settings as the details in section ‘uploading an image’ explained.

uploading video to Amazon S3The hardest part is finding a decent player for your video files. However after using four or five players I settled on a great little player called JW FLV Media Player

Upload all the relevant files for JW Player to your own website server and then go to the setup wizard here and put in all the required details there. It is much easier using the wizard. You will be able to see instantly if anything is wrong as JW Player has a preview at the bottom of the page.

Now you are ready to put all the code that was provided into your website or blog.  You might take a few minutes to learn this but is really is worth it as videos can enhance your website a great deal.


This is only a brief rundown of the capabilities of what Amazon S3 can do for you and your website. There are lots of innovative ways developers are using Amazon S3, take a look here at what else it is being used for.

At first glance Amazon S3 can seem complex to the beginner however once you have got the basics and get the simple add on for Firefox, it really is straightforward and will make life so much easier for backing up computer files, and keeping hosting bandwidth costs down.

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  1. Karlil says:

    This is certainly going to be helpful in the future in case my blog ever needs it. I have no idea Amazon provides storage services.Thanks for sharing Steven.

  2. Thanks for this Steve, it’s exactly the information about Amazon S3 I’ve been looking for. I can see I need to go open an account.

  3. Andy says:

    Every Amazon S3 related blog gives you an impression that there is only one Amazon S3 client available – S3 fox. However there are many more freeware clients which are much superior. For instance, S3HUB for Mac (http://s3hub.com) and CloudBerry Explorer for Windows (http://s3explorer.cloudberrylab.com/) .

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