Plex Shuts Down Its Cloud Service

Media center app maker Plex informed its users Tuesday that it is shutting down its Plex Cloud service at the end of November. Plex Cloud was meant to simplify the management of personal media collections, but struggled with technical issues and had been in maintenance mode for a few months already.

“We’ve made the difficult decision to shut down the Plex Cloud service on November 30th, 2018,” the company said in an email. “We’ve been actively working on ways to address various issues while keeping costs under control. We hold ourselves to a high standard, and unfortunately, after a lot of investigation and thought, we haven’t found a solution capable of delivering a truly first class Plex experience to Plex Cloud users at a reasonable cost.”

Plex has traditionally relied on users operating their own media server to stream videos, music and more to mobile and TV-connected devices. Plex users often run their server hardware on dedicated computers or network-attached storage drives, but the reliance on such hardware has limited the appeal of the software to more casual users.

To account for this, Plex launched Plex Cloud as a cloud-based media server two years ago. Initially, Plex Cloud was closely tied to Amazon’s consumer cloud storage offering, but the company added support for Google, Microsoft and Dropbox cloud storage soon after as well.

Behind the scenes, Plex was augmenting these storage solutions with its own cloud servers, capable of transcoding media on the fly to stream to a wide variety of devices. However, the company ran into some technical issues, which prompted it to first disable support for Amazon’s cloud storage and then in February halt the creation of new cloud servers.

“While we are super bummed about the impact this will have on our happy Cloud users, ending support for it will allow us to focus on improving core functionality, adding new features and content, and delivering on our mission to provide a world-class product that we can all rely on and enjoy,” the company said Tuesday.

The shuttering of Plex Cloud is also emblematic for a bigger shift for Plex. Initially developed as a solution solely for personal media collections, the company has increasingly focused on incorporating online media sources, including news videos and podcasts. These sources don’t necessarily require users to run their own servers at all, which means that new users adopting Plex may have less incentive to launch their own dedicated server in the cloud.

On the flip side, pulling out of Plex Cloud also limits the types of new services the company could possibly launch in the future. Plex has for some time supported DVR functionality to record broadcast TV from networks like ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, and Plex Cloud could potentially have been a precursor for a full-blown cloud DVR. Without running cloud services for its users, it’s now less likely that the company will go down that route.