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Cloud computing is hot property right now, and one company offering free cloud storage also just happens to be the web's largest retailer - Amazon.
But what is cloud storage and why is it useful to you?
In answering these questions we'll take a look at setting up a free Amazon Web Services (AWS) account and utilising AWS Simple Storage Service (S3) to host and deliver a website's image files.
First, a quick overview of AWS.
In broad terms, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the name given to a group of cloud based infrastructure services (databases, storage etc.), provided by Amazon, which consumers can use to build and host whatever web solution they need (apps, content delivery etc.).
Being 'cloud' based means that unlike traditional hosting setups where all data is stored and processed on one or more static known web servers, and therefore limited by the resources of those servers, cloud computing is dynamically scalable, employing multiple servers to store data and meet whatever processing demands a web solution requires.
In theory then, AWS and other cloud computing providers can deliver limitless dynamically scalable resources.
Another key difference of many cloud computing solutions is that they operate on a pay as you go model. There are no contracts, monthly limits, or overage charges to worry about.
AWS implements this model, and in November 2010 Amazon extended its pricing model with the introduction of a one year free usage tier for new customers.
This tier allows free monthly usage, up to the certain levels, of a number of the main services (including Simple Storage Service (S3) and Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2)).
The S3 free monthly usage levels are:
|Amazon S3 storage||Get requests||Put requests||Bandwidth in||Bandwidth out|
|5 GB||20,000||2,000||15 GB||15 GB|
But what if you sign up for a free account and burst through those levels? No problem - even if users exceed the free monthly levels they simply start paying for any extra usage at the normal AWS S3 pricing rates.
Sound good? Let's get started.
AWS and S3 sign up
Amazon asks that users first sign up for AWS and then sign up separately for each of the services they wish to use (S3, EC2 etc.), the only requirement being that users have a valid credit card.
AWS sign up:
- Go to http://aws.amazon.com/free/ and click the 'Sign Up Now' button. Then either sign up with your existing Amazon account or by creating a new Amazon account.
- Successful sign up results in a thank you screen
and a 'Welcome to Amazon Web Services' email.
S3 sign up:
- Go to http://aws.amazon.com/account/ and sign in to the AWS Management Console (you can also find the main AWS Management Console page at http://aws.amazon.com/console/).
- AWS splits each service (S3, EC2 etc.) into its own console. Consoles can be navigated between by clicking on the menu tabs.
Upon initial sign in we're shown the S3 console and asked to sign up for Amazon S3.
Clicking the 'Sign Up For Amazon S3' button will load the S3 sign up page which lists the full pricing structure for AWS S3. Scroll down to the bottom and enter your credit card details.
Complete the S3 signup process by first, if applicable, supplying your VAT (Value Added Tax) information, then reviewing your S3 selection and clicking 'Complete Sign Up'.
Sign up results in an 'Activating Subscription...' page
and, once your subscription is activated, an 'Amazon Simple Storage Service Sign-Up Confirmation' email.
AWS and S3 sign up complete
That's the sign up done! We now have a free AWS account and S3 ready to go.
In part 2 we'll walk through uploading content to S3 and displaying it on a website.