Amazon VPC: Full Guide with Features, Benefits, and Pros and Cons

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Amazon VPC: Full Guide with Features, Benefits, and Pros and Cons

What if you could get all the benefits of a cloud data infrastructure without having to share server space with other users? What if you could have a cloud that’s totally private? 

Well, if you’ve got the nerve to try to make your own private cloud, no one’s stopping you. It might be easier, though, to just buy private cloud space from a company that’s already figured out how to do it. That’s what you get with Amazon Virtual Private Cloud — VPC, for short. 

With VPC, Amazon has taken the cloud computing advantages of EC2 and the data storage capabilities of S3 and packaged those elements into a private environment unique to your organization. With VPC, all your instances are run on servers that are totally private — not shared. 

If you’re not yet sold on the benefits of using VPC over similar cloud services, don’t worry. We took a deep dive into the service and confirmed that VPC is a highly secure and scalable cloud infrastructure for you to store and host data across private virtual networks. Thinking you might want to move your cloud computing to a private platform? Let’s go over the details below and find out if VPC is the right fit for your needs. 

Must-Know Facts About Amazon VPC

  • With VPC, your instances run in a virtual private cloud — contrary to Elastic Cloud Computing’s public, shared model. 
  • VPC allows a wide variety of customization options. This includes IP address management, adding subnets for increased network agility, configuring route tables, and so on. 
  • In your virtual private cloud, you control the inbound and outbound flow of traffic between instances. 
  • Users can customize security groups and create network Access Control Lists to strengthen security and privacy in their cloud infrastructure. 
  • VPC enables you to run instances on single-tenant hardware rather than shared hardware. 

What is Amazon VPC: Explained

Run by Amazon as part of Amazon Web Services, VPC is a fully private and endlessly customizable alternative to EC2-Classic. Instead of running in a single, flat network that you share with other users, with Amazon VPC your instances run in a virtual cloud setting that is exclusive to your AWS account. 

With a VPC, users can specify an IP address range for their private cloud network and add subnets. These are basically a range of IP addresses into which specific resources are launched. A VPC also enables you to configure your own security groups and route tables. 

Utilizing a VPC has similar advantages to using Amazon Elastic Cloud Computing (EC2). If you’re working with vast amounts of data and on projects that require massive computing power, it makes sense to tap into Amazon’s huge global cloud infrastructure. It’s a Global Edge Network comprised of over 450 Edge servers as well as several regional caches. 

Though VPC has many advantages similar to EC2, it also has its own unique advantages that center on privacy and customization. Using a VPC allows you to assign static private IP addresses, or multiple ones, to your instances running on your private cloud. For added privacy, you can also control the traffic into and out of your instances (ingress and egress filtering). 

There are also added layers of security to using this service. For one, your instances run on single-tenant hardware rather than shared hardware. For another, you get to customize security group membership for your instances and create network Access Control Lists. This allows only certain members to have access to your instances. Let’s peruse some of VPC’s main components in more detail to get a better idea of the benefits.

With Amazon VPC, all of your instances run in a virtual private cloud.

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IP Addressing

AWS VPC comes with a tool called the IP Address Manager. The IPAM allows you to plan, track, and monitor IP addresses associated with your private cloud. It also automates IP address assignments to your VPC and shows IP usage across all of your accounts and VPCs in a streamlined view. 

Amazon VPC supports IPv4 and IPv6 protocols, allowing you to create v4-only, dual-stack, and v6-only subnets. You can utilize standard IP addresses provided by Amazon, or otherwise introduce your own addresses and assign them to your instances. 

Security Groups

Running a private cloud with its own IP Address Manager wouldn’t do you much good if it wasn’t also secure. Well, fortunately, Amazon put security at the forefront when they rolled out VPC.  Not only does the VPC provide the same security features associated with other AWS products — it also comes with the ability to create custom security groups. 

These security groups act as a firewall controlling inbound and outbound traffic between instances. Every time you launch a new instance, you decide which user-created security group(s) you want it assigned to. 

If you’re feeling lazy and choose not to assign any security groups to the instance, don’t fret. Amazon will automatically associate that instance with your VPC’s default security group. 

Flow Logs and Reachability Analyzer

Amazon makes it painless for you to monitor how well your virtual private cloud is performing. With the Flow Logs feature, you can monitor network dependencies and traffic patterns. This will bring any anomalies to the surface and prevent data leakage. You can also troubleshoot network connectivity and any configuration issues you might encounter. 

With the Reachability Analyzer, you get a static configuration analysis tool to easily analyze and debug network reachability between resources in your VPC. The analysis tool shows granular detail about the virtual flow of data between two points. This shows what happens when the connection is working properly and what the blocker might be when the connection fails. 

How to Use Amazon VPC

At this point, we hope you’ve gotten a good enough impression of AWS VPC to understand how using this service presents a significant value-add to your cloud networking activity. So, how do you start using the service? The process is fairly straightforward.  

First, you need to make sure you have an AWS account. Signing up is free and relatively painless. Once you’ve set that up and logged into your account, your AWS resources will automatically be set up for a ready-to-use default VPC. 

With this VPC in hand, you can add or remove subnets, attach network gateways, change the default route table, and modify the network Access Control Lists to customize it.

If you’re part of an especially large organization in need of additional VPCs, Amazon makes it easy to add those as needed. All you do is navigate to the AWS Management Console in your account and select the “Start VPC Wizard” button. 

Once inside the setup wizard, you’ll be given four basic network topologies to choose from. After you’ve picked one that matches your needs, hit the “Create VPC” button. Now, you can start launching instances to that VPC. 

If you’re wondering how much this is going to cost, keep in mind there’s no cost to create a VPC. Most of AWS’s resources are structured so that you pay as you go. So you’ll only start to see charges based on your data usage. To get a sense of what those charges might be, consult the pricing calculator

How to Learn Amazon VPC

Now, you’ve laid the groundwork. The next step in the process involves learning more about your VPC’s capabilities and use cases so that you can get the most out of using the service.  

Competent network administrators likely won’t have too many issues getting started with AWS VPC’s features. Though there may not be a significant learning curve for this service, there are a lot of different directions you can start with. It’s important not to get too overwhelmed. 

Instead of attempting to master AWS VPC’s features and tools right away, we advise simply starting with the features and capabilities that interest you the most. 

The incredibly comprehensive AWS VPC documentation provides an accessible way for users to learn about all the possible ways of networking with the cloud infrastructure. There you will find plenty of detailed instructions. You will even find examples that showcase how to customize your IPs, route tables, security groups, and more. 

As previously noted, it doesn’t make much sense to go over every single tutorial in lock step. To avoid getting overwhelmed, decide what you really want to accomplish with your virtual private cloud on day one, and then consult the materials that will help you get there. 

For example, if you’re a big security guru, you may be interested in learning more about how to set up custom rules for your security groups. This way, you can control the inbound and outbound flow of traffic for your instances. By the same token, you may also be interested in checking out internet gateways and network ACLs. 

For developer-specific resources, you can also consult Amazon’s developer tutorials and sample codes for inspiration. Additionally, Free Code Camp offers a comprehensive learning resource for free.

Amazon VPC: When Is it Not the Best Choice?

AWS VPC is a powerful and relatively easy-to-use cloud infrastructure that allows organizations to run their instances through a private system of networks. However, it might not be the best choice for every user. Let’s consider whether the pros outweigh the cons. If they don’t, we’ll look at alternative options for cloud networking. 

Before getting started with AWS VPC, you may wish to consider your organization’s budget. Because Amazon is setting you up with a private cloud, you have to pay more in rent for private space than you would if you were sharing cloud space with other users. While it doesn’t necessarily cost anything to set up a VPC, the data usage fees can add up quickly. 

In addition to the expense, you also need to consider to what extent you want to be locked into the AWS suite of products. Because when you opt for one Amazon service, you usually end up having to integrate it with other Amazon products as well. 

If you determine that it’s cost prohibitive or think your organization would benefit from greater vendor flexibility, you may want to explore some alternatives. There’s an endless supply of VPCs out there, but here’s some top-rated examples.  


OpenStack is another cloud computing system that offers a large variety of computing, storage, and networking capabilities. All of these features are managed through a user-friendly dashboard that enables administrators to customize on a similar scale to that of Amazon’s VPC. 

An intriguing feature of OpenStack is that it’s an open-source platform. This means that it pools virtual resources to build and maintain both public and private clouds. Being open-source carries with it another major advantage: it’s free. 

Because it’s open source, though, the power of its cloud infrastructure rests on the power of user input. Using this free service will therefore require greater competency on the user’s part to customize cloud storage and security options. It’ll likely not be for the faint of heart. 


Tailscale allows you to get your private cloud network up and running through WireGuard. WireGuard is its proprietary software that controls the secure network between your organization’s servers, hardware, and instances. 

This VPC option could be a great choice for those who want an easy-to-use app that gets you going right away with private cloud storage and robust security. It also prices in lower than AWS VPC and integrates with a wide variety of tools and operating systems. 

Amazon VPC: Release History

AWS VPC shares a common history with its public counterpart, EC2, which launched as a beta in August 2006 before being released to the broader public in 2008. EC2 boasted global network capacity from the start and super-fast, scalable networking.  

In August 2009, Amazon announced the addition of VPC to EC2 as a private option. It emerged in response to enterprise demand for private cloud computing. With VPC came the promise that organizations would have an even greater set of options to customize their cloud infrastructures. 

For a long while, EC2 and VPC relied exclusively upon Xen virtualization as its underlying platform. In November 2017, however, Amazon added a new class of instance types under Nitro, which gave a significant boost to customizability and security. 

More recently still, in 2019, Amazon added updated, higher-performing instances for both public and private cloud computing. These were General Purpose, Compute Optimized, Memory Optimized, Accelerated Computing, and Storage Optimized. 

Amazon VPC: Full Guide with Features, Benefits, and Pros and Cons FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is a VPC?

A VPC, or “virtual private cloud,” is a virtual network that is isolated from your other virtual networks in your AWS cloud environment. With an Amazon VPC, you can specific subnets, gateways, and unique IP addresses.

Does a VPC have an IP address?

Since a VPC comes with an internet gateway, every instance that you launch will come with its own private and public IPv4 address.

What is the difference between EC2 and VPC?

Amazon EC2 provides scalable computing capacity in the cloud, while Amazon VPC allows users to create a virtual network in the AWS cloud, providing complete control over their virtual networking environment. In other words, this means that EC2 allows users to rent virtual servers in the cloud, while VPC provides a way to create a custom network in the AWS cloud with full control over its configuration, including IP address range, subnets, and routing tables, and EC2 instances can be launched within that virtual network for added security and isolation.

Can I have an EC2 without VPC?

Yes, it is possible to launch an Amazon EC2 instance without using Amazon VPC. However, by default, when you launch an EC2 instance, it is launched in the default VPC provided by AWS. The only way to launch an EC2 instance without a VPC is if you have been using an AWS account since pre-2013 and have grandfathered-in support for EC2-classic.

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