Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cloud Computing : Who Should Use Amazon Ec2?

Who Should Use Amazon Ec2?

Author:Zach Dexter

Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud, or EC2 for short, is a network of Amazon’s server hardware that customers may access as a web service.  EC2 geographically distributes the resources needed to serve your application, and it is capable of rapidly bringing new server instances online.  Customers only pay for bandwidth and space that they actually use; this, Amazon says, is more cost-effective for customers of in-house or hosted servers.  Amazon’s foray into cloud computing may seem like a blessing for customers and a breakthrough in the web hosting industry.  The technology is certainly impressive.  But for the average small business or personal website, traditional non-cloud web hosting is less time-consuming and more economical.

[caption id="attachment_188" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Cloud Computing Australia : Cloud Computing - Who Should Use Amazon Ec2 ?"]Cloud Computing Australia : Cloud Computing - Who Should Use Amazon Ec2 ?[/caption]

EC2 works by creating multiple instances of an Amazon Machine Image - essentially, the files that comprise a web application - from a base copy that resides on Amazon’s Simple Storage Service.  Via API or one of the prebuilt API implementations available from, users may create huge numbers of instances of the original Amazon Machine Image.  Each instance runs on a different server.  These servers are based on multiple locations around the world so that your application does not go down in the event of a natural disaster or other crippling event at a single location.

These features are ideal for high-demand web applications with many thousands of users.  Business-critical applications and high-traffic web sites may find significant cost savings in EC2 because it reduces overhead.  Instead of physically setting up new servers in the company datacenter or coordinating the physical installation of new servers at a remote datacenter, companies signed up for EC2 simply ask an employee to log on and press a few buttons via an API implementation - such as the EC2 extension for Mozilla Firefox.  Check out this screencast on YouTube that shows just how easy it is to bring a new Linux instance online (opens in a new window):

But say that you’re a small business with one employee in charge of managing your servers.  In this case, you should not use EC2 unless your application is extremely large.  What overhead will you really eliminate?  Dedicated server providers like SoftLayer already make it easy enough to bring a new server online in an hour or two.  Small businesses can usually scale up at a slower rate without losing revenue.  Most significantly, however, bandwidth charges at EC2 actually exceed those of many dedicated hosting companies, though disk space is reasonably priced.

See for yourself at Amazon's website:  calculate whether you would save money with Amazon’s EC2 (opens in a new window).

If you run a moderately-trafficked website, you will likely find that EC2 actually costs more - and that signing up will not do much to reduce your overhead.  If you run a simple business about-us site or a personal portfolio, you will probably end up with a tiny charge - a dollar or even less - per month.  But EC2 doesn’t come with the friendly control panels and easy site-management tools that shared hosts have.  You would also have to purchase extra software (like cPanel or DirectAdmin if you want a control panel), download an API implementation, and go through the hassle of learning to properly configure network settings and work with the quirks of virtual computing.

In the end, the best value for small and medium-sized web applications is a virtual private server or a physical dedicated server.  Unless you are familiar with configuring web servers, the best value for personal pages and portfolios is shared hosting.  And for the big companies, business-critical applications and very large websites, the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud will likely save money in the long term by reducing overhead and increasing reliability and scalability.

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