Amazon Web Services – Getting Started

Hopefully you have already signed up for your Amazon Web Services (AWS) account. It’s simple & straight forward so I won’t be going over that here.

Once you are signed in, you will go to your control panel, shown below.

AWS Full Console
Amazon Web Services console showing all your available AWS options.

Once you can see this screen you are on your way to playing in the cloud.  For this post we will concentrate on EC2 and spinning up an instance.  It’s short & sweet and easy to accomplish. Click on the EC2 link to go into the EC2 console.  It will be from here that we will be launching virtual machines (AWS refers to them as instances).  Clicking on the link will take you to the EC2 specific console.It will take no more than 10 minutes from here to get your first virtual server up and running. As you can see in the screen below, the yellow highlighted area is our starting point.

EC2 Console
EC2 Console

Click on “Launch Instance”.  This will take you to another view that will allow you to choose the type of machine you want to deploy.  You can upload your own virtual machines that can be deployed on EC2, but aren’t covering that in this post.

Selecting your instance (AWS AMI)
Selecting your instance (AWS AMI)

There are 4 items to make note of here:

  1. Naming your instance.  This is actually optional, but a good practice none the less.  Just type in a name that you want to use for your own benefit.
  2. Key Pair.  Since I am assuming this is your first time in, you don’t have a key pair established yet.  You need one in order to later connect to your instance.  So, select “Create New” in order to create your key pair file.  Amazon’s documentation on key pairs can be found here.  In general you want to:
    • Open the Amazon EC2 console
    • Open the Amazon EC2 console at
      Click Key Pairs in the Navigation pane.
    • The console displays a list of key pairs associated with your account.
      Click Create Key Pair.
    • The Key Pair dialog box appears.
      Enter a name for the new key pair in the Key Pair Name field and click Create.
    • You are prompted to download the key file.
      Download the key file and keep it in a safe place. You will need it to access any instances that you launch with this key pair.
  3. Choose the AMI you will be launching.  AMI = Amazon Machine Instance and is how Amazon refers to the virtual machines it provides to its customers. You can choose any AMI you’d like… but I’d stay in the free tier of service by selecting one that is starred & noted as “free tier eligible”.  For this post I’m selecting the Amazon Linux AMI (which I believe is a Debian Linux distribution).  It has a lot of the basics contained within it and it’s easy to add-on to if you want.
  4. Once you have items 1-3 take care of, click “Continue” to start the process of launching your instance (virtual server).

You will be prompted with another screen after clicking “Continue”.

Launching an Amazon AMI
Launching an Amazon AMI

For this post, we’ll just click “Launch” at this point and get the instance running.

AWS Instance starting
AWS Instance starting

You can close this screen.  The instance will spin up quite quickly (if you chose a Windows instance it’ll take longer).  You can now see your instance details by clicking on the left menu, selecting “Instances”.

Selecting your Instance View
Selecting your Instance View


Now there’s plenty more we can do here… but I think that’s plenty for “Getting Started”.  In the next post we’ll connect to the running server and do a few basic checks.  I’ll be running Linux again… so be prepared for a prompt based view.  I may do a separate post on running a Windows instance since you’d use SSH to connect to Linux and RDP to connect to Windows.

Get your free micro instance running and we’ll get connected to it in the next post.  Let me know your thoughts/comments/questions and I’ll do what I can to help you out.

Until next time…



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Amazon Web Services – Take it to the Cloud

Should I use Amazon Web Services (AWS)?

If you don’t have already have an AWS account, now is the time to get one.  New AWS accounts are eligible for one free year of running a micro EC2 instance.  Specifically, it allows you to run one micro instance for 750 hours a month for 12 months.  Will this allow you to run a website that gets 10,000 hits a day everyday?  No.  Will it allow you to test (and break) micro EC2 instances all day every day until you get the hang of using AWS?  YES!


EC2, EC3… whatever it takes…

So what is EC2 and why would I want to use it?  EC2 stands for “Elastic Compute Cloud” and, in general terms, is where you can take a virtualized server and run it in the Amazon Cloud.  Amazon provides many virtulized servers (they call them “instances”) to choose from.  If you are going to take advantage of the free tier of service you will need to look at the available micro instances.  Anything larger than a micro instance you will be charged hourly for.  There are instances available for Windows (server 2008 R2) and Linux (Redhat, Ubuntu, SUSE, etc).  You do have the option of uploading and running your own instance… but that will require configuration to meet the definition of a “micro” instance and is out of scope for this post.


So what’s next?

This is the first of a series of posts on this topic.  To get yourself ready for the next post (finding and starting an instance) go out to AWS and get your account setup.  Go to and click the Sign Up button, as shown below.  Feel free to examine some of the online documentation and familiarize yourself with the AWS console.  In my next post we’ll walk through the console, open up EC2 and start that micro instance.

AWS Signup
Sign Up for Amazon Web Services


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