Cloud computing technology has matured significantly over the years, and now offers a compelling list of advantages over on-site deployments, especially for small businesses and start-ups that may not have the capital to purchase servers and other hardware appliances.
Cost aside, the public cloud delivers well-established capabilities such as scalability and elasticity. Even more importantly, businesses can leverage the public cloud to quickly set up infrastructure in a timeframe that is measurable in minutes as opposed to the weeks or months required to set up physical infrastructure.
We take a closer look at Amazon Web Services (AWS), one of the most popular cloud services today, in order to examine how it can be leveraged to benefit small businesses.
The AWS ecosystem and basic prerequisites
It's worth noting that while setting up a cloud deployment isn't rocket science at the basic level, anyway it does require an IT background or a certain level of technical competency in order to configure everything correctly. For establishing a CMS or PHP-based website, for example, someone who's already familiar with setting up the LAMP (Linux Apache MySQL PHP) stack would probably be a good candidate.
For all its widespread appeal, AWS is a proprietary cloud implementation, when all is said and done. So while some concepts could be similar across different cloud offerings, specific expertise working on AWS is typically not transferrable to Microsoft's Azure or Google's Compute Engine, and is unlikely to be easily replicated in an on-premises deployment.
AWS does offer a number of ways to help businesses quickly get up and running with common deployment scenarios; indeed, there's often more than one way to implement a particular solution. In order to help you make sense of the AWS cloud, though, it makes sense to start from a short list of the most heavily used components.
Some key components for Web hosting
EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) virtual servers make up the backbone of a cloud deployment on AWS. These virtual servers are available in a variety of configurations, each with differing amount of CPUs, memory, storage and network performance, and are billed based on an hourly rate. Note that some older instance types may get retired over time
S3 (Simple Storage Service) is an object storage system that can store up to 5TB in a single object, and are accessible anywhere on the Web through the requisite command line operators, API calls or even desktop apps that are designed to work with it.
EBS (Elastic Block Store) offers traditional file system capabilities and is more expensive. Attached to a server, EBS volumes function like a disk drive, and like a storage drive, persist even after a compute instance have been shut down. (Note that EC2 instances can be configured to delete EBS volumes on shutdown.)
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