Serving Images from Amazon S3

One issue that’s been nagging me as I refactor from a RAD site focused on jQuery Mobile to a properly architected site that just happens to use jQuery Mobile is the way I’ve been storing images on the file system. The file system approach is quick and easy and doesn’t clog the database with lots of BLOB data… but it’s also not at all future proofed for moving to a web farm environment. I don’t want to have to deal with synchronizing files across multiple servers, so what to do?

In the old days (like, maybe last year) I’d probably have bitten the bullet and saved the images into the database. But these days we have so much more choice – and since I’m hosting on Amazon EC2 and using Amazon’s easy mail service, then the obvious step is to use Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service).

S3 isn’t just for images – you can store anything you want – but it makes a natural choice for image hosting. (You can also store your private files there if you want – S3 is private by default). With your images in S3, all your web farm servers are saving to the same place so there’s no longer any need to synchronize between servers – and, as usual with AWS, it’s very cheap.

You need to sign up with AWS to get an account. Then pick S3 from the bewildering array of services available.

amazon AWS services

Once you’ve signed up for S3, you can then create a bucket (don’t pick a name with a dot in it – that just makes life more complicated later on).

creating a bucket

And once the bucket is created, you can use the AWS web interface to upload files.uploading files

So – you have an online storage bucket and you can add and remove files. Now for the next step – doing so programmatically.

The first thing you need is the AWS SDK. The easiest thing to do is install it via NuGet.


The SDK comes with samples, so it’s easy to get up and running. You need to add a reference to the SDK in your project, and then work with the AmazonS3 object, which is created for you by the Amazon.AWSClientFactory.

You can upload files from your hard drive or file streams. In my case, I resize images and create thumbnails from uploaded files so I use the stream approach. Here is my code creating the AmazonS3 object and passing it through to a method that does the actual writing (note the using block – the AmazonS3 object implements IDisposable):

code sample using AmazonS3

And here is the code doing the actual write to amazonS3. (The bucketName variable in the code sample is a private static string variable “cocktailsrus.” The keyName is your unique filename for the new image):

code sample PutObject:

(In order for the above code to work, you will also need to have set up two configuration keys – one for your AwsAccessKey, the other for AwsSecretKey).

So now I have a bucket and I have code to write my images to the cloud. I’m all set, right? Well, almost – because there’s the small issue of the bucket being private by default. I’ll deal with that issue and a few other niceties of setting up S3 to serve images in my next post.

Kevin Rattan

For related information, check out these courses from Learning Tree:

Cloud Computing with Amazon Web Services

Building Web Applications with ASP.NET MVC

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