I stumbled on the Media Vault plugin yesterday while trying to find a simple and unobtrusive way to protect uploaded content (mostly meeting minutes in .pdf format) on a small nonprofit’s WordPress site.
My favorite feature of Media Vault is how unobtrusive it is. It only changes the behavior of the Media Library enough to add a button for restricting access to the file being uploaded. Because of that the learning curve for using it is very shallow, an important consideration when dealing with non-technical content managers.
Files that are protected get copied to an alternate folder where restrictions are set. A logical link is left behind in the original media folder that alerts visitors that the file is protected.
When combined with plugins like Enhanced Media Library and User Role Editor, Media Vault can provide the basis for a robust yet flexible media management system that only strays from WordPress’s core functionality enough to get the job done.
The only down side to using Media Vault is the fact that it isn’t under active development. That’s something that always concerns me, especially when I find myself relying heavily on a particular plugin as an important part of a site’s software infrastructure. Still, at least for now, I think it’s worth the risk.