AWS EC2: Full Guide with Features, Benefits, and Pros and Cons

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AWS EC2: Full Guide with Features, Benefits, and Pros and Cons

EC2 is not an acronym that immediately draws one’s attention. Ok, maybe it’ll sound more appealing once we spell it out: Elastic Compute Cloud. A little more enticing? Maybe not. Nevertheless, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud is a product you should know about. It’ll change the way you run systems and applications for the better. What is it, then? 

AWS EC2 is a cloud computing program that provides high-capacity compute infrastructure to support high-performance computing system applications. EC2 gives those who use it secure, scalable compute capacity that runs on the cloud. In this guide, we give you a detailed over of EC2, its functionality, and how it gives a substantial performance boost to the most demanding software and data projects. 

Taking a careful look under the hood, we concluded that EC2 is a powerful and scalable option you can use to get better computing performance on your systems and applications. If it sounds like you might be interested in giving EC2 a try, read on to learn more about Amazon’s cloud computing service!  

Must-Know Facts About AWS EC2

  • AWS EC2 is an Infrastructure as a Service software that offers several different instance types depending on the scale and computing needs. 
  • Since Amazon launched EC2 in 2008, it has upgraded the service’s underlying platform for expanded capabilities and increased security.  
  • With AWS Nitro, EC2 comes with endlessly customizable building blocks with an ever-growing collection of compute, storage, memory, and networking options. 
  • AWS EC2 distributes and caches data in over 450 Edge locations all over the world. 
  • EC2 allows data science teams to train and deploy machine learning applications with up to 400 Gbps of networking capabilities. 

What is AWS EC2: Explained

Developed by Amazon as a critical component of Amazon Web Services, EC2 is a powerful cloud computing program that enables clients to easily deploy their high-performance computing system applications into Amazon’s cloud infrastructure. Doing so brings a huge boost to people’s storage capacity and network capabilities. 

Top industries utilizing this cloud computing service include healthcare, engineering, aerospace, urban planning, and finance and business. What these disparate sectors have in common is, of course, that they all work with huge amounts of data which, in turn, necessitates high-performance computing. 

Here is a brief video about AWA EC2 for visual reference:

A few examples of specific companies that use EC2 include Expedia, Toyota, and Redfin. They rely on Amazon’s robust cloud infrastructure to gather real-time information on flights and hotels, or to research automated driving with deep learning, or to collect and analyze real estate data all over the country. 

Fortunately, and maybe not surprisingly, Amazon has the global infrastructure to back up these demanding computing initiatives. Their sprawling Global Edge Network includes over 450 servers and several regional caches for an added lift to capacity. This makes Amazon’s one of the biggest cloud capacities available on the market, virtually guaranteeing rapid data delivery and computation no matter the size of your project or where you’re located in the world. 

Amazon’s cloud infrastructure is not only high capacity, but it’s also secure. With EC2, you get AWS Nitro — a platform that accelerates innovation of the latest generation of EC2 instances while providing greater support for computing security. The platform is highly customizable, so you can tinker endlessly with different instance types and firewall rules. Let’s explore some of EC2’s main features in greater detail and consider why you should take time getting to know this service. 

AWS Amazon Web Services
EC2 enables clients to deploy high-performance system applications into Amazon’s cloud infrastructure.

©Casimiro PT/Shutterstock.com

Global Infrastructure  

Pretty much every continent contains several AWS EC2 Edge locations. For further load capacity, the world’s highest traffic areas even come backed with regional caches. Seems like you’re pretty well out of luck if you’re trying to cloud compute in Antarctica, though…

Each of EC2’s 450 and counting Points of Presence communicate with the closest regional cache through a global network of 100GbE parallel fiber. This robust AWS network can handle a gasping number of deployed data, so the cloud computing infrastructure rarely runs into trouble. 


So, it’s unlikely that you’re going to commit all your specialized development projects to EC2 without being confident that your data will be protected in the cloud. Fortunately, it appears that Amazon’s got that part figured out.  

As noted before, EC2 comes pre-loaded with AWS Nitro for bolstered security against malicious attacks and other outside interference. As the underlying platform for EC2, Nitro provides continuous monitoring, verification, and protection of your instance’s hardware and firmware. 

Machine Learning

AWS EC2 makes it easy for data scientists to start using the platform for complex machine learning projects. With the power of the cloud, specialists can train and deploy ML applications with up to 400 Gbps of networking capabilities and huge storage capacity for optimal performance of the most demanding ML projects. 

Popular examples of rigorous ML projects include an automated screening of the stock market, gathering and interpreting data on customers (or patients, if in the healthcare industry), or even developing systems for autonomous driving


If ever your cloud computing projects become too difficult to handle on your own, AWS has you covered. With AWS Support, users have the option to purchase premium support to get access to personalized guidance from Amazon’s team of experts. The support team can offer best practices on working in the cloud, troubleshoot tough challenges, and provide guidance on configuration. 

Cloud Support Engineers are highly trained engineers with expert knowledge in areas of development, such as DevOps technologies, automation, infrastructure orchestration, configuration management, and continuous integration. They can help you get the most out of the cloud network’s security features and help you launch your projects faster.  

How to Use AWS EC2

By now, we hope you’re practically on cloud nine with excitement about the power of AWS EC2 and how it can give your high-performance computing projects an extra boost. Now that you’re interested, you need to know how to use the thing. Let’s go over the basics. 

The first step is to ensure you have an Amazon root account. After you set up your account and you’re logged in, Amazon provides built-in directions for you to follow to set up EC2. 

Next, identify an instance that’s suited to your capacity and networking needs. From there, you can configure your instance with security — either by choosing the default VPC security group or by creating your own firewall rules. 

From there, you’re ready to connect to your instance. Choose “Connect,” and a window will open showing you the instance you’ve just launched. You’re ready to go! 

At this point, you’ve got everything you need to get up and running with EC2. The next part of the process involves experimenting with and getting to know EC2, taking a deeper dive into EC2’s entire suite of features, and getting acquainted with different use cases. This way, you can create a computing experience that matches your needs. 

Of course, this phase is a virtually never-ending process that varies based on individual goals and concerns. There are a lot of different areas to explore, so in the following section we’ll summarize some options for learning AWS EC2. 

How to Learn AWS EC2

Now, you may have a high level of technical competency, but if you don’t, making full use of AWS EC2’s features may be a little daunting. Rather than striving to master EC2’s abundant set of tools, we recommend jumping into the programs that pique your curiosity the most.

Luckily, Amazon’s tutorials and documentation make it easy for you to dive in and learn more about whatever tools they favor the most. The AWS EC2 documentation is a detailed guide for all facets of computing with the cloud infrastructure. It offers loads of detailed tutorials and even examples you can pull from to customize your deployments.  

Again, we don’t think it’d be wise to waste time going through each and every tutorial with a fine-tooth comb. It’s better to consider carefully what you want to get out of your system or application from the outset, then refer to the resources that will show you how to accomplish that goal. 

For example, a data scientist and a software developer will have very different objectives in their cloud computing. The former will want to spend time learning how to use EC2 for machine learning, while the latter will be more interested in the development applications of EC2. 

In addition to providing sample deployments in their documentation, AWS EC2 also has an optional easy-to-use tool called Lightsail. Built for novices or more casual users, Lightsail is a cloud platform with built-in sample workloads and deployments. 

AWS EC2: When Is it Not the Best Choice?

AWS EC2 is a powerful service that we’re confident will optimize your system’s computing capabilities. Nevertheless, it isn’t the right tool for everyone. Let’s weigh the drawbacks and go over some alternatives for cloud computing. 

Before you jump in with EC2, you might want to consider you or your team’s level of comfort with cloud computing software. If you can predict needing a lot of support to get going, but you don’t have the budget to pay for support specialists, this service may not be an ideal fit for you. 

For one thing, AWS EC2 comes with an almost overwhelming number of features so that it can offer a wide array of use cases and customization. This will undoubtedly leave some users at a loss as to where to start. And though Amazon does provide support, you will likely have to pay for it. 

If you’re discouraged by the added customer support costs or the complexity of the tool, you might want to consider alternatives. There are an untold number of other services out there, so we’re going to give you a small sampling:

Microsoft Azure

A major competitor to Amazon, Azure’s cloud architecture is highly ranked for increased performance it provides users, its ease of deployment, and the intricacy of customizability. It receives bonus points, too, for high compatibility with Linux systems. 

On top of that, Azure is potentially a lot more friendly to novices than Amazon EC2. It comes with a wizard-drive setup and is preloaded with ready-to-run server applications and configurations. It’s also, of course, integrated with other Windows products. So if your organization is already using a lot of Microsoft products, setting up Azure would be a seamless process. 

Having said that, Microsoft Azure does cost a good deal more than AWS. Whereas AWS costs a little over $6,000 on average, Microsoft averages at $14,000. 

Microsoft Azure
Microsoft Azure is preloaded with ready-to-run server applications and configurations.



Perhaps Rackspace presents a happy medium in terms of pricing: $10,000 instead of close to $15,000 for Microsoft. Rackspace’s infrastructure service offers more than just competitive pricing, though. It boasts high computing performance and storage capacity — albeit not as much capacity as Amazon’s sprawling Global Edge Network. 

The set-up process is also extremely entry-level. The average user can configure and launch an instance within ten minutes of starting the program. If you hit any obstacles, Rackspace has an amazing customer service team to help you, according to several user reviews. If you’re a small business with less demanding data requirements, Rackspace could be a great option for you. 

AWS EC2: Release History

Amazon launched EC2 in August 2006 in beta form before they released it to the wider public in 2008. EC2 touted global network capacity from the outset and quicker, easily scalable deployment of applications than had previously been possible.  

In 2008, AWS added a total of twelve new instance types to provide varying options to consumers based on performance needs. That same year, Amazon also added static IP addresses, availability zones, and user-selectable kernels. 

For a long while, EC2 solely relied on Xen virtualization. In November 2017, however, Amazon added a new class of instance types under Nitro. This gave a significant boost to the platform’s customizability. Amazon has been steadily adding new instances since the service’s inception. AWS EC2 instance timeline shows you a great visualization of the lengthy release history.

Here is a step-by-step video that explains how to create a AWS EC2 Instance for further reference:

AWS EC2: Full Guide with Features, Benefits, and Pros and Cons FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is EC2?

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, also known as EC2, is a comprehensive cloud computing solution, where you can run your own applications and get all the computing power you need without having to worry about the hardware.

What is the purpose of EC2 in Amazon Web Services?

The purpose of EC2 in AWS is to provide a flexible, scalable, and affordable computing infrastructure that can help businesses of all sizes to build and run their applications in the cloud.

What are the different types of EC2 instances offered by AWS?

AWS offers different types of EC2 instances, including General Purpose, Compute Optimized, Memory Optimized, Accelerated Computing, and Storage Optimized, each with their own unique benefits and features.

What are some of the features added to EC2 over time?

EC2 has evolved over time, and Amazon has added various features to it, including cloud monitoring services, load balancing, Microsoft SQL Server, autoscaling, static IP addresses, availability zones, and user-selectable kernels.

How does AWS EC2 work?

EC2 works by providing you with virtual servers, known as instances, that run on physical servers in Amazon’s data centers. The instances can be configured with different operating systems, software packages, and capabilities. Your EC2 instances can be launched, stopped, and terminated on demand, so you can adjust resources depending on your application’s needs.

Who developed Amazon EC2?

Chris Pinkham led the development team that created Amazon EC2 in Cape Town, South Africa.

Is EC2 just a VM?

Not exactly. EC2 is the service that you would use to run a VM in the AWS cloud.

Is EC2 and S3 the same thing?

No. EC2 is a web service that provides scalable computing capacity in the cloud, allowing users to run applications and services, while S3 is a cloud-based storage service that provides scalable, durable, and highly available object storage for data backup, archival, and analysis purposes.

Is there a free tier for EC2 on AWS?

Yes! AWS offers a free tier for EC2, so you can try out the service and get a feel for how it works without having to spend any money. It provides new account holders with a bundle of free resource credits to run a “micro” sized server, storage, and bandwidth for one year.

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