Service overview

Before you dive into the details of Cloudinary's many asset management features and begin adding Cloudinary Programmable Media capabilities to your application, we recommend that you review this page to gain a high-level understanding about the service architecture, asset storage, security, and other details about how the Cloudinary service works.

See also
How to integrate Cloudinary in your app walks you through the steps involved, and the questions you may need to consider at each step, in order to successfully integrate Cloudinary into your application code, from initial account creation and setup and through to delivering transformed and optimized media in production.

Service architecture

Cloudinary's media asset management service includes:

  • High performance servers behind Elastic Load Balancers that support fast upload and download rates.
  • Highly available storage that promises that your assets are always available and safe.
  • High performance media processing servers for generating your requested images and videos.

By default, assets are stored in Amazon S3 buckets that are privately accessed for writing. These can be shared buckets, dedicated buckets or private buckets.

Note
Google Cloud Storage is also available for primary and/or backup storage. This is a premium feature that requires a special setup. For more information, contact customer support.

service architecture

Delivery lifecycle

The asset delivery lifecycle consists of 5 stages: Upload, Storage, Administration, Transformation, and Delivery.

Once the original file has been uploaded to your Cloudinary account, you can administer the asset via secured APIs or the Management Console, and embed dynamic asset URLs in your web page to deliver various versions of the original asset. The dynamic URLs include instructions on how to transform the asset before delivery.

The first time a transformed asset is requested via a dynamic delivery URL:

  1. The asset is requested by the user's browser.
  2. The asset request reaches the closest CDN edge server.
  3. The CDN edge servers checks if the asset is cached - it is not.
  4. The CDN edge server requests the asset from Cloudinary.
  5. Cloudinary generates the transformed asset as per the dynamic URL instructions.
  6. Cloudinary returns the asset to the CDN edge server.
  7. The CDN edge server caches the image and then returns the image to the user's browser.

Subsequent requests for the transformed asset via the same dynamic delivery URL:

  1. The asset is requested by the user's browser.
  2. The asset request reaches the closest CDN edge server.
  3. The CDN edge servers checks if the asset is cached - it is.
  4. The CDN edge server returns the image to the user's browser.

cloud architecture

For a complete reference of possible transformations see the Transformation URL API Reference.

Scaling

Cloudinary’s architecture was built from the ground up to support high load and handle a practically unlimited amount of assets and usage. Cloudinary’s service includes a multitude of powerful cloud-based upload and transformation servers, with each server optimized to handle a very high rate of uploads, downloads, and complex image transformations. Cloudinary’s servers also automatically scale to easily manage large traffic peaks with advanced load balancers that are used to distribute the load between all our servers. Finally, an enterprise-grade content delivery network delivers assets quickly and efficiently through thousands of global delivery servers.

Security

Cloudinary's secure and safe cloud-based solution is accessible via secure and authenticated HTTPS APIs, with flexible access key provisioning. Cloudinary's security features include:

  • Automatic backup of assets to a secondary protected location.
  • Complete asset access control.
  • Restricted access to assets based on specific transformations, file types and referral sites via the Cloudinary Management Console Security settings.
  • Authenticated image access with signed URLs.
  • Access control with multiple user roles and permissions, leveraging two-factor authentication (2FA) via the Cloudinary Management Console User settings.

Storage

Assets uploaded to Cloudinary and all generated assets are safely stored and managed by Cloudinary on high-performance servers that support fast upload and download rates.

By default, Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3) is leveraged for asset management and assets are stored in S3 buckets that are privately accessed for writing. These can be shared buckets, dedicated buckets or private buckets.

Google Cloud Storage is also available for primary and/or backup storage. This is a premium feature that requires a special setup. For more information, contact customer support.

APIs

Cloudinary offers several Programmable Media APIs:

  • Upload API - methods for uploading assets, creating new assets such as text images, ZIP files and sprites, and transforming existing assets.
  • Admin API - A secure API with methods for browsing, deleting, and restoring existing assets, and for managing upload presets, upload mappings, and transformations. This API also includes the Search API and Metadata API.
  • Provisioning API - A secure API that enables account administrators to create and manage their sub-accounts, users and user groups programmatically.
  • URL API - a URL-based API for delivering assets. Includes dynamic asset transformations, fetching remote images, and optimizing delivery of the assets. Asset URLs are dynamically mapped to CDN distributions that forward the requests to Cloudinary servers which generate the transformed asset on-demand and deliver them optimized to users.

URLs and endpoints

The URLs for accessing Cloudinary are based on your cloud name, and you can access your public web assets using dynamic URLs. The full URLs of the images or videos you deliver include various parts including the name of the asset, its version and transformation settings. However, all your delivery URLs use the same base URLs. You can view your base URLs and some sample URLs in the Account Details section in the Management Console.

The base URL will also include your cloud name. For example, if your cloud name is 'demo', the base URLs will be:

  • 'api.cloudinary.com/v1_1/demo/' - the base URL for accessing Cloudinary's secure API.
  • 'https://res.cloudinary.com/demo/' - the base URL for Cloudinary's shared CDN Distribution (all Plans).
  • 'https://demo-res.cloudinary.com/' - the base URL for a private CDN Distribution (Advanced plans and higher only).

Building full URLs for accessing your assets is done automatically if you are using our SDKs. However, you can also build these URLs manually. For example, if your cloud name is 'demo' and you want to deliver the uploaded 'sample.jpg' file, simply point to:

example dynamic URL

This means that in your HTML code you can simply add the following tag:

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<img src="https://res.cloudinary.com/demo/image/upload/sample.jpg" />

For more information and details on constructing dynamic URLs see Delivering images using dynamic URLs.

Management console

Cloudinary's web-based management console is used to administer your Cloudinary account. The console includes the following features:

  • Dashboard: View details about your account and the usage status of assets, transformations, storage, bandwidth and add-ons.
    Watch the Dashboard intro video tutorial to learn more.
  • Media library: Browse and search through your assets, moderate your images, upload new assets, organize and tag your assets, generate transformations, and much more.
    Watch the Media Library intro video tutorial to learn more.
  • Transformations: Manage transformations created for your images (view, create, edit, delete) and enable/disable dynamic application of each transformation (with strict transformations enabled).
  • Reports: Get insight on your assets with usage reports, in-depth analytics and advice.
  • Add-ons: Manage Cloudinary's add-ons for your account.
  • Settings: Manage your account, upload, security and user settings. These settings allow you to control and tweak almost every aspect of your asset pipeline's behavior.

Add-ons

You can enhance your images and videos even further with powerful functionality offered by our vision and image processing partners. The add-ons are simple to use and fully integrated into Cloudinary's image and video management pipeline.

For example, Cloudinary offers add-ons that apply auto-tagging, automated asset moderation or anti-malware protection, AI, deep-learning and other analysis algorithms, face detection or recognition, or a variety of special transformation capabilities.

Nearly all add-ons offer a free tier that you can try regardless of your plan. For details on all available add-ons, see Cloudinary Add-ons.

Transformation counts

Your account's monthly pricing plan is in part dependent on the total number of transformations performed during a 30-day cycle. Transformation counts are impacted by each processing of an asset. For details, see How are transformations counted?.

Additional resources

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