Is Plex still relevant in 2021?
With more and more of our digital lives moving to subscriptions and streaming services, does building a local digital library still make sense? Here are my thoughts!
TL;DR… yes. Hear me out…
This article assumes prior knowledge about Plex and the features/capabilities it provides.
It seems every service and app these days pushes for its users to take on a recurring payment. It’s getting tougher to find good quality products / apps / services that unlock all features and capabilities up front with a single purchase. As annoying as this is, it does make sense. Subscriptions help the business / developer make money, and in turn invest that money into their products which, over time, hopefully improves that product’s quality. This isn’t just the case for things like Netflix or iPhone apps – it’s happening more and more in the Enterprise as well. However for the average Joe, it creates some challenges.
When was the last time you reviewed your bank statement and counted up all the recurring monthly subscriptions for digital services? If you’re anything like me, it may surprise you just how many there are. A few dollars here and there compounded up over several services every month adds up fast. We are forced to weigh the value we receive from these services. Do I watch Netflix or Disney+ more… Do I need both Apple Fitness + and Peloton subscriptions… which Cloud storage solution do I use most?
As we all know, these conveniences come with a cost.
So many parts of our lives have succumbed to subscriptions. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s interesting to think on the implications. It used to be that you built your physical collection, and proudly put them on display. Whether that was BluRays, DVDs, CDs, Tapes, VHS tapes, Records, etc. You had your personal collection and these things took up space. But they were yours, and you likely paid for them just once. Now days, many people don’t want the physical collection for various reasons. Physical collections take up physical space you may not have in your home. Physical collections tend to cause clutter. It’s more stuff to potentially break, lose, get stolen, etc. The idea of digital content entices us because it eradicates these issues. No longer do you have to find a place to put the DVDs. No longer do you need to buy an extra book shelf or CD Binder to store your albums. As we all know, these conveniences come with a cost.
So it makes sense why subscriptions exist. They appear to ‘free’ us from physical ties, but we soon realize the financial strings attached. At any rate, subscriptions aren’t going anywhere and are a normal part of modern life. So with the digital world being heavily streaming focused, how does something like Plex, a home media server solution, fit into the picture? Here are a few reasons why I think Plex is not only relevant, but a necessity.
I’ve bought a lot of movies and CDs over the years. Not every movie or CD is a blockbuster hit that finds its way onto a streaming service. Plex allows for an archive of content that guarantees you access. Not only for movies and music, but for home videos too. I have an entire section of Plex dedicated to old home videos my parents filmed in the 80s and 90s, as well as other special events like band concerts and competitions from growing up. Same thing with studio or demo audio recordings that never made their way to full production. These videos and files aren’t lost to some thumb drive or old computer somewhere. They’re included in my always accessible library of content. How cool is that?
💨 Disappearing acts
How many times have you gone to find a movie on Netflix, which you knew was there at one time, only to find that it’s no longer available? This can be so frustrating! Now you’re trying to research where the movie is that you can stream it, hoping it’s included in the other streaming services you have, only to find it’s on Hulu which you canceled 2 months ago. This type of situation has happened to me time and time again. With Plex, there are no disappearing acts. If I put content on Plex, I know it’s going to be available for as long as I tell it to be available.
One great feature of Plex is being able to enjoy Extra footage of movies. Whether it’s outtakes, deleted scenes, additional trailers, etc. I’ve often missed this type of content when streaming a movie from a service. Plex includes some of these automatically for certain library items. For others, you can easily add your own folders of extra content that your DVD or BluRay included and Plex pleasantly displays the extra content.
⬇️ Syncing Content
My family and I frequently go on road trips, often times to places that don’t have wifi or consistent cellular service. This is one place where Plex shines. The ability to sync my content locally to my devices and my kids devices is in invaluable feature. Yes, more and more streaming services are allowing for offline access (THANK YOU D+!!!!), but often times not all content is available for downloading, or the file sizes are quite large with no ability for you to adjust. Plex allows me to convert content to the quality that I specify. This is especially useful with the kids’ devices. Slightly lower video quality means more videos can be synced!
Obviously streaming services can be shared with friends and family, but who likes giving out their passwords? One way Plex offers convenience here is by allowing friends and family access to the content you specify on your Plex server. They manage their own account, and you simply manage their access. You also have the ability to control bitrate quality, syncing capabilities, ratings access, and more.
There are many more reasons Plex deserves to be included in today’s Streaming Wars. From including its own freely available content, to DVR integration, Photo backup, etc, Plex has so much to offer. To unlock its full potential, you certainly can pay a monthly payment. However if you plan to have it for the long haul as well as maximize your use of what it offers, the lifetime purchase is a steal.