Amazon Web Services

January 16, 2014 | sal

At Soldia we are moving more clients everyday into hosting with Amazon Web Services (AWS). There are as always pros and cons but in our opinion the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.

While many hosting companies are today scrambling to launch their own cloud services, AWS is by far the most developed in reliability and pricing.  In 2008 they had downtime reported of about 6 hours on the Simple Storage Service (S3) but since then have been at 100% up time which by any measure is an excellent track record.

So how does it work ?

The concept is that multiple services are all separate and you can move them around very easily when you need to scale, restore a backup, load balance and setup new servers. Hardware, software, data, DNS and backups can all be moved around separately via the administration console.  Following is a description of these individual services:

EC2 – Elastic Compute Cloud Instances are the different server configurations offered.    Once you pick the Instance with the configuration (CPU / RAM) needed and install a server image.  Each Instance configuration has a different cost per hour with multiple options ranging from Small to Quadruple Extra Large.  There are multiple Linux and Windows server images (.iso),  called Amazon Machine Images (AMIs), to chose from and once you’ve setup your Operating System (OS) with all the software needed, you can create your own AMIs to save for later use.  The whole setup of an Instance takes under 5 minutes from the moment it is launched in the AWS Console until one has command line access to the server.

EBS – Elastic Block Storage is the storage space which you can mount as a drive on your EC2 instance.  Having the data separate means you can mount it on another instance very quickly and easily.  EBS is persistent meaning if the Instance is terminated or damaged the data remains.

Snapshots – you can configure how often you want these for backups.    Snapshots are differential backups that are copied to the Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) for easy recovery.

Elastic IPs – These are fixed IPs that you bind to an instance which make moving servers very quick.

Hardware failure, data center blackouts, server crashes are a reality with any hosting provider.  The beauty of AWS is the speed of recovery.  If the servers are monitored remotely and system admins are made aware of downtime immediately, then you can be up and running again with new servers as opposed to having to replace and configure a dedicated machine and copy over the backups.

Other Advantages

In our benchmark tests we found Amazon download speeds as compared to other web hosting was 3 times faster for downloading the same file.  Arguably this is not always going to be the case due to Intermittent Network Conditions but for the speed to register 3 times higher during our test is a significant amount.

While the Instances of CPU & RAM on Amazon perform less than fixed computers working as servers, we found the price differential significantly better on Amazon that it allows the purchase of bigger Instances to compensate for this.  In most cases the difference in performance is about 2 to 1, meaning you need an Instance with twice the CPU / RAM on Amazon to get the same performance as on a fixed dedicated server.

Soldia can analyze your hosting requirements, setup and configure your entire server network on Amazon Web Services to handle all the services required: Web Application Hosting, Virtual Servers, Email, Streaming, snapshot backups all through a Webmin control panel.

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