When starting a new online service, businesses can find many benefits from using some of Amazon’s AWS platforms. As an experienced developer, I have used several of these services and can recommend them to others starting online services or dynamic websites.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) began in 2002, leveraging the infrastructure already in place by one of the largest electronic retailers on the Internet. AWS provides a range of web services that can form what is now popularly known as the “cloud.”
AWS currently offers approximately 20 web services for use in the cloud. The most popular to date are Elastic Cloud Compute and Simple Storage Service, respectively known as EC2 and S3.
Perhaps the service that existing website owners can take advantage of the fastest is Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3). S3 is an online file storage system with high built-in redundancy and infinite scalability. Amazon uses server pools around the world to guarantee up to 99.999999999% retention and 99.99% uptime for any data you upload to S3.
Any existing file (up to 5GB in size per file) from a website can be easily migrated to S3, allowing it to be used as a content delivery network (CDN). Amazon’s AWS infrastructure resides on super-fast internet backbones, which means that content will generally be served much faster than if it were delivered from cheap shared hosting accounts. For the relatively low price per GB of storage and data transfer, many website owners currently using web hosting with limited storage and bandwidth can see instant cost reductions when migrating to S3 for content delivery.
For large websites and online services that provide massive amounts of data, the cost performance of Amazon’s S3 can be very high and in some cases a necessary tool when other services cannot store such large amounts of data.
For a business considering starting a heavy content or online file sharing service, such as a photo or video sharing site, Amazon S3 offers many benefits and performance that would otherwise require a large upfront cost outlay.
Amazon’s Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2) is to server hosting what S3 is to file storage: infinitely scalable and cost-effective.
With EC2, you can configure your own cluster of virtual servers that run on Amazon’s cloud of servers. You can choose to run a single low-power virtual server or a group of thousands of high-performance virtual servers and anything in between. Each server you run is called an “instance” and you can choose to use one instance for as little as one billable hour.
Being able to choose how long to use an instance, along with its power, allows start-ups to test a powerful new web application without the need to provision expensive hardware initially. This alleviates much of the risk often encountered with web start-ups, who must calculate how much capacity they will need once the site becomes popular. Underestimating capacity can mean a service interruption, overestimating will make the service less profitable.
The EC2 platform is also fully programmable, meaning that companies can build intelligent systems that will scale as capacity limits are encountered per instance. When the server load is high, for example, more instances can be turned on and share the system load. When the load decreases, unnecessary instances can be shut down, keeping costs and efficiency constant.
Currently, there are several Windows and Linux Amazon Machine Instances (AMIs) available for users to use as a starting point when customizing their virtual servers. User-contributed AMIs are also available, with specially designed server configurations available.
EC2 and S3 pairing
For startups and existing web services looking to migrate, a combination of EC2 and S3 server hosting as a content delivery network can be an ideal solution. For those who can use both services, there is an added benefit in the fact that inter-network traffic between your EC2 and S3 accounts will generally be free of bandwidth costs.
For detailed information on EC2, S3, and a variety of other Amazon web services, visit:
Amazon web services