Tag: aws

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My Faith in Amazon Web Services Has Been Renewed

It wasn’t long ago that I began looking into Amazon S3, an Amazon powered storage engine that serves as part of the larger Amazon Web Services product line.  While it didn’t necessarily apply to my needs I quickly came to appreciate Amazon’s other web solutions such as EC2 as they had gained the reputation of maintaining a solid, stable, and scalable network, and these are the exact features that have made Amazon Web Services a go-to choice for large and demanding websites since its conception in 2002.  And for quite some time Amazon has done an excellent job at maintaining this reputation, gaining the trust of several large sites and services such as Reddit, FourSquare, Heroku, and countless other notable sites.

Towards the end of last month, though, I woke up to find that a great many websites were down.  It turned out Amazon Web Services had experienced an issue in its Virginia data center that caused widespread outages for companies, businesses, and services both small and large.  And as the downtimes continued to grow and quickly exceeded Amazon’s initial estimations it became perfectly evident that the issue was much larger than Amazon had previously relayed.  Now a tad more than a week after all of the issues have been fully resolved, I admit that I too began to second-guess Amazon Web Services; even going as far as to question the data center’s ability to accommodate the needs of its users.

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Amazon Web Services: A Scaling Issue?

The Internet as we know it is home to a gross amount of information and content, where everyone from individuals like you and me to businesses small and large are able to interact on a global scale in ways never before thought possible.  Perhaps more importantly, the global network has changed the way that we as modern-day individuals go about our daily lives and how we express, share, and gain knowledge from ideas.  And in order to orchestrate our Internet lives, online portals and communities serve as the hub for our linked interaction.  After all, what would the Internet be like without social networks such as Facebook and community-driven news websites like Reddit?  But while very few people would venture to challenge the importance of these incredibly revolutionary web services, the question as to how exactly these sites run rarely crosses our minds as Internet-centric users.

Simply put though, the “big” websites that have become everyday aspects of our modern Internet lives have amazingly large infrastructures to back what we as consumers see in the front-end. These ginormous infrastructures only gain in complexity and structure with the growing sizes of growing sites and applications. And while this complexity and scalability of in-house servers used to be one of the biggest things that would cause the CEO’s of large Internet-driven companies to lose sleep at night, “newer” services such as Amazon’s Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2) system have taken the hassle out of such nightmares, making it easy for websites and cloud-based services to scale as their success rises. This is because services like EC2 allow businesses to outsource their server needs and focus their creative efforts more efficiently, all whilst operating on platforms built to be more or less bulletproof; often times at more competitive pricing to boot.

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Amazon, I Want to See a MobileMe Competitor

Previously, BestTechie contributor Adam Landreneau wrote an overview on Apple’s synchronization and data-management service, MobileMe.  While Adam recommended MobileMe for Macintosh and iOS users because of it’s ability to store, synchronize, and share data there were still a number of things that continue to hold MobileMe back to this day.  To start with, the service – while available for Windows as well – is targeted mainly towards users of Apple products, leaving Windows users out in the dust.  Second off, the entry-level price-point of $99/year for a basic individual account makes it a bit difficult to justify the product, regardless of its potential benefit or value.

Even as we’re amidst rumors of Apple potentially unleashing a free MobileMe tier, one has to admit that Apple does indeed have a chokehold on the consumer “cloud” industry.  Sure, there are ways to achieve many of MobileMe’s features using free products such as Google services and Dropbox, but these “hacked together” solutions are not anywhere near as user-friendly as MobileMe and take a much more significant effort to setup.  With this in mind, I’m honestly surprised that we have yet to see someone come up with a more cost-effective yet simple MobileMe alternative that worked just as well for Apple users as it did for non-Apple users.

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Use Amazon CloudFront for Fast Web Hosting at a Low Cost

When maintaining a website, content is always going to be your number one priority.  However, you also need to carefully consider two additional factors in order to ensure your overall success.  First off is cost – simply because no one wants to spend too much on web hosting.  Next off is speed.  In a previous article, Jeff outlined some of the reasons why page load times are so important to a site’s overall success and health.

For a couple of months now, I have been using Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service) to host a handful of files such as screenshots.  More recently I wanted to put together a personal website – nothing fancy; just a couple of HTML documents that would allow me to have a personal online presence.  While I pondered purchasing hosting service, I ultimately decided to use “the cloud” and host my simple site on Amazon S3.  However, I quickly remembered that S3 didn’t allow for “index” files to show up.  So while someone could access my site just fine by going to “www.mysite.com/index.html”, simply going to “www.mysite.com” threw off an error message.

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