Migrating to Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), worth the move?

Quality usually trumps cost when I’m shopping. I’m willing to spend a little more on a well made product that I like and know will last. My former hosting provider was relatively affordable and the return of value was ok. Making the switch to Amazon Web Services improved quality dramatically while reducing my hosting costs 100%. There’s a reason Amazon’s stock price is where it is today.

It’s worth considering Amazon Web Services for the 12 months of free hosting alone, but it’s certainly not the only reason to try it.

Scalable Incentives

Plenty of hosting providers offer good incentives. When I started my website I took advantage of the free domain offered alongside fastdomain’s basic plan. It’s a good incentive but nowhere near as valuable as Amazon’s scalable Elastic Cloud Compute hosting. Above all it’s free for the first 12 months with their Windows t2.micro instance, and as low as $3.65 a month thereafter using the 3 Yr Partial Upfront Reserved option. To take advantage of these cost-incentives, however, there is a significant time-investment setting it up.

Launching EC2 and Installing WordPress

After searching through various online guides One Page Zen’s youtube tutorial was the easiest to follow. While I installed a WordPress Multisite on an EC2 instance for my two domains, most of One Page Zen’s tutorial were still relevant. Be sure to skip the export WordPress section of the video if you’re also installing a WP Multisite. Refer to the Multisite Setup Documentation instead.

Here are the following tutorials I used (starting with One Page Zen) for the initial Amazon EC2 setup, and the follow-up WordPress Setup documentation sites from Bitnami.

AWS Setup Tutorial

WordPress Instructions and Documentation

If all you’re looking for is a working WordPress site on Amazon’s free 12 month hosting plan, these guides, and some additional Googling, should get you there.

I went two steps further and set up free SSL certificates for my domains using Let’s Encrypt, and also leveraged Amazon’s Lambda forwarding feature (also free with the t2.micro instance). The Lambda feature allowed me to setup an email address using one of my domains and manage it within GMail for free.

Setting up SSL Certificates

Among all the available SSL Certificate providers I chose Let’s Encrypt because it’s free, secure, and open.

Why pay for the same service when it’s provided by a trusted and legitimate source?

As with Amazon Web Services, the cost incentive was worth the time spent researching and setting it up. I used two video tutorials, which I admittedly had to re-watch a number of times. While there may be easier ones to follow the two below get the job done. Please note, some of the folder paths referred to in the below tutorials will be different if you are installing the SSL Certificate on an Amazon hosted WordPress Bitnami site. The web root folder path on a WordPress Bitnami stack will be something like, /opt/bitnami/apache2/, and the httpd-ssl.conf file will be located in /opt/bitnami/apache2/conf/extra. There is also the matter of file permissions, which you’ll need to apply on your WordPress Bitnami stack to properly execute some of the Command Line Prompts.

SSL Tutorials

File Permissions

Use GMail with your own domain for free

Lastly, I really wanted to continue using a custom email address. I like and have a personal gmail account but it’s generally more professional to reply to clients using an official company email. Amazon’s SES and Lambda services enabled me to continue using my company email after migrating away from Fastdomain. Once it is set up you can manage your company email within GMail’s platform–which is the best part! The article by Daniel López Azaña (below) was easy to follow and was my primary source. I used other sources to cross-reference these instructions. Keep Google handy throughout the setup process.

Being able to manage things in a one-stop shop clears clutter and improves productivity.

Setting up Amazon SES & Lambda

There are a few common threads among all of these resources. They’re free, reliable, scalable, and require significant time investment. If you’re willing to put in the time the results do payout overtime. I will be saving about $200 dollars the first year, about $320 the second, and so on.

If you like researching and building things yourself Amazon’s web services will be a good fit.

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