- Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the world’s largest cloud computing platform, offering a diverse set of products for various industries.
- AWS provides cloud computing power, data storage, data analytics, machine learning models, network hosting, and data protection without the need for physical hardware.
- AWS is known for its ease of use, scalability, availability, reliability, and cost-effectiveness, with a Free Tier available for users.
- Major competitors to AWS include Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform, each with their own unique offerings and advantages.
Most commonly known as AWS, Amazon Web Services is the world’s largest cloud computing platform, offering a comprehensive suite of products to address practically every business or individual need.
Broadly speaking, AWS’ diverse set of products provide cloud computing power, store data, run data analytics and machine learning models, host networks, and protect data and other resources from loss or unwanted intrusion. Best of all, it does all of this without the need for physical hardware or infrastructure.
In addition to being cloud-based, other advantages of using AWS include its relative ease of use, scalability, availability, and reliability. It’s also relatively inexpensive—sometimes even free. Thanks to its Free Tier, everyone can get on the AWS train—provided you have the necessary skills to navigate it.
Here, we’ll go over everything there is to know about using AWS in 2023, including product offerings and capabilities. We’ll also consider the main advantages of using AWS, along with some of the less desirable aspects of it.
Plus, we want to give you some pointers on how to get started with it if you want to learn how to deploy a web app or even get a job as an AWS engineer. It is, after all, the most commonly used platform in the world, so it might be a good idea to have some knowledge and experience with AWS, right?
5 Must-Know Facts About AWS
- Amazon Web Services is a cloud computing platform that offers a wide variety of tech products for businesses and individuals.
- AWS has something useful for just about every industry and every project—including especially cloud computing, data warehousing and analytics, and networking services.
- Its cloud network is one of the most extensive in the world, comprising over 450 Points of Presence and several regional caches.
- Most AWS resources are designed to scale up or down with the needs of your organization, thus ensuring optimal performance and pricing.
- It’s easy to set up an AWS account, and most products are even eligible for the Free Tier.
What Is AWS: Explained
Amazon Web Services is shorthand for a comprehensive set of cloud solution tools. Engineers use it to develop applications, web developers for web hosting and content delivery, data scientists for analytics and machine learning, IT teams for networking and security, and communications professionals for marketing.
Just about every industry can benefit from what AWS offers: down from humble non-profits to multi-billion-dollar enterprises, and everything in between. Scalability and pricing flexibility are the key ingredients that make this broad applicability possible.
For instance, because data storage needs can be scaled up or down as needed, a service like S3 is just as useful for a major healthcare organization as it is for a small business. This same logic of scale holds true for every other relevant AWS product, and unless you’re on an enterprise-level fixed rate, pricing is almost always pay-as-you-go.
Let’s go over some of the main AWS solutions, categorized by technology, so you can get a clearer sense of AWS’ many use cases.
To break it down, this is basically servers on-demand. Need help running a cloud-native, high-performance computing application? Amazon has you covered there with its powerful Elastic Cloud Computing service, otherwise known as EC2.
Think of EC2 as the backbone on which the most demanding computing projects are built. It’s a scalable, flexible juggernaut that guarantees users 99.99% availability of SLA commitment infrastructure. Basically, it’s far more than you would need to host your simple website or portfolio page – it’s for your typical software giant: Netflix, Facebook, etc.
EC2, and Amazon’s related compute services, are geared especially towards industries with high-performance computing needs—such as healthcare, engineering, aerospace, urban planning, and finance. These examples all have in common the tendency to work with huge datasets, real-time data streams, and often complex machine learning models.
Renting out servers to host your applications used to be such a hassle. You had to find the data center, communicate with a tech, and they put in a ticket to change your configuration. All of this was expensive and took a lot of back-and-forth communication.
Amazon’s compute services came along and changed the game. Your app could go from getting very little traffic, to being inundated with traffic overnight, and you can scale accordingly. Known as load balancing, this is the vital ingredient that makes Amazon’s web services such a game changer.
Amazon Web Services also offers best-in-class, fully-managed cloud storage solutions for a variety of data-driven purposes. Amazon S3, or Simple Storage Service, is the robust engine behind this process.
With S3, you can store and protect all your organization’s data on Amazon’s massive, globe-spanning cloud network (more on that network later!). Once you have S3 enabled and running, it’s fairly easy to start creating buckets, specifying appropriate regions, setting access controls, and choosing the right management options for optimal data integrity.
In terms of data durability, Amazon guarantees “11 9s”, or 99.9999999%, durability, which is a very math-nerd way of saying that, once your data is stored in S3, the odds are almost zero that you’ll ever lose a single object of data. Much of that has to do with Amazon’s automated backup options and other built-in data protection features.
As with all AWS products, there’s a lot of flexibility in how you choose to use S3. For instance, to significantly reduce your data storage bill, you can store your business’ archival data on S3 Glacier, a storage class that saves you money by asking you to wait a period of time before retrieving data that doesn’t need to be accessed immediately.
Amazon has arguably the largest, farthest-reaching cloud network in the world. AWS boasts a global Edge network of over 450 Points of Presence as well as a good number of regional caches—at least one for every continent except Antarctica.
It’s probably kind of obvious what such a large network implies, but let’s spell it out anyways: it means exceptional availability no matter where you are in the world, robust backup options in the form of data duplication across different Edge locations, and fast content delivery.
Although Amazon’s publicly-used cloud is quite well protected, you can also opt to pay extra for a Virtual Private Cloud. Having a VPC means you have all the advantages of AWS’ networking capabilities, just on a dedicated cloud that only your organization has access to.
Plus, if you want to reduce latency on your website and ensure that site visitors all over the world have quick access to your site content, you can use Amazon’s Content Delivery Network: CloudFront.
CloudFront boosts site performance by storing copies of site content in different servers all over the world; it also allows you to set up authentication credentials for visitors to your site.
Security and Identity Services
AWS uses programs like Nitro and Shield to protect data and code libraries from malicious actors. Data stored on S3 or elsewhere is also always automatically encrypted. Amazon rounds out this best-in-class security with automated cloud backup capabilities, so you never lose critical data even in the event of a cybersecurity attack.
There’s also an AWS tool—free to use—that allows IT administrators to manage how users within the organization can access data. It’s called Identity and Access Management (IAM), and it allows for a wide variety of fine-grained policies to control how, and under what parameters, individual users and teams can view and manipulate data.
We’ve mentioned before that you can store data through S3, but that wouldn’t be very helpful if you didn’t also have tools at your disposal to run analytics on that data. Fortunately, Amazon has that covered as well, with tools like Kinesis and Athena.
AWS Kinesis is a powerful data streaming service that allows users to ingest and view data in real-time. Kinesis comes equipped with the components necessary to power the stream of data, and also has its own analytics tool so that you can start gathering insights on data the minute they become available. Should you desire, you can also use Kinesis to funnel your data streams to other analytics and machine learning tools.
Amazon also has a proprietary query tool, known as Athena. If you know how to write SQL, then you already know how to use Athena. Wondering if you can use Athena in conjunction with Kinesis? You bet!
How to Use AWS
We just gave you several different reasons to be excited about using Amazon Web Services, but now you need to know how to begin.
Not to worry, getting started with AWS is easy!
You just need to sign up for an account, which is free, and then choose which products you want to start using. If you’re concerned about how much you might have to pay for each service, keep in mind that most AWS products come in the Free Tier. Furthermore, most AWS products are pay-as-you-go.
How to Learn AWS
Getting started with AWS is a breeze, but learning how to use all the different resources effectively is not quite as simple. Obviously, different products have varying levels of user-friendliness. Using the CloudFront CDN is far more straightforward than setting up an entire data architecture with S3 and related tools—just as one example.
Now, this isn’t to say that AWS is needlessly complex. In fact, all of their tools are as simple as they can be, it’s just that some projects—and the tools that you use to execute on them—have a steeper learning curve.
That being said, Amazon has extensive resources for helping you navigate and learn about all things AWS. The most important of these resources is the documentation, but many AWS products also have tutorials to go along with them. Amazon even has training programs to get you or your teams AWS certified.
For starting off with simple web projects, AWS Lightsail is often a great choice for beginners.
AWS: When Is It Not the Best Choice?
Let’s be honest, not every product is perfect, and AWS is no exception. And while we feel pretty confident that you’re not going to find a perfect alternative to AWS out there, you may find something else that suits your needs better.
Before we start going into the disadvantages of using AWS, let’s consider again the many benefits. To summarize, these include: ease of use, scalability, flexibility, reliability, and huge global availability.
Some gripe that AWS is too expensive, but we find that hard to believe given that industry experts regularly laud, or throw their hands in disbelief at, AWS for being so inexpensive. You just need to make sure you’re provisioning resources appropriately so that you don’t get hit with unforeseen costs.
But if you want an alternative, there is good news. It’s not the only player in the game. Two other significant alternatives are Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform. Both of these platforms offer a wide range of services that compete with AWS on various fronts.
Microsoft Azure, for instance, is known for its seamless integration with other Microsoft products, making it a go-to choice for organizations heavily invested in the Microsoft ecosystem. It also boasts a robust set of offerings in areas like AI and machine learning, IoT, and analytics.
On the other hand, Google Cloud Platform shines with its deep expertise in big data and machine learning, thanks to Google’s pioneering work in these areas. They offer a sizable repertoire of similar services.
Amazon Web Services: Release History
AWS began to germinate as a concept in the early 2000s. While the company was still just getting started as an e-commerce platform, certain founding members began considering ways in which Amazon could develop their own APIs for running their website better.
In 2004, AWS released its first official infrastructure-as-a-service product. Known as SQS, this was a simple messaging service that would plant the seeds for things to come. The following year, AWS made a more influential release with the March 14th launch of S3, the storage service now used widely around the world. Amazon EC2 followed S3 later that year.
Since Google Cloud did not become available until 2008, we can safely say that AWS was the first cloud computing platform of its kind.
Fast forward to 2023, and Amazon remains a formidable leader in the tech landscape. With the ever-increasing need for Big Data and demanding computing infrastructure, AWS is now more relevant than ever.
|Compute Services||Amazon EC2|
|Storage Services||Amazon S3|
|Networking Services||Amazon VPC, CloudFront|
|Security and Identity Services||Nitro, Shield, IAM|
|Analytics Services||AWS Kinesis, Athena|
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Sundry Photography/Shutterstock.com.