Amazon Web Services AWS in Plain English

Post by Michael A Picture of Michael A
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Amazon released a web service creatively named “Amazon Web Service”, often affectionately known as AWS, back in 2006. It has been continuously developed since with additional capabilities added as it evolved.

It's described as ‘the world’s most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud platform’ which actually offers over 175 features. AWS makes it easy to create highly flexible, scalable, and cost-effective directories with powerful data and relationship management, flexible schema management, fully-managed infrastructure and built-in data encryption.

However, we found AWS to be the world’s most confusing cloud platform with a mountain of acronyms or jargon, so we decided to dissect the language they’ve used throughout their platform. We’ve picked out just a few obscurely named services and explained their functions in a simpler, short manner.

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Website Hosting Services

If you’re setting up a web app, then these definitions will be a helping hand to help better understanding the services that Amazon are providing to you...

  • SES - A transactional email system enabling you to send emails from your application with the advantage of coming from trusted sources so your legitimate emails and newsletters are less likely to be marked as spam
  • Elastic Transcoder - A service providing the ability to convert finished videos into multiple formats suitable for use across multiple devices such as mobile optimised video
  • WAF - This is just a firewall protecting applications, allowing you to filter and block requests against common attack methods such as SQL Injection attacks and application-specific attacks
  • Amazon EC2 / Elastic Compute Cloud - This provides scalable computing capacity. It eliminates your need to invest in hardware up front, so you can develop and deploy applications faster
  • Lightsail - A budget option for simple server requirements, this application is a Virtual Server, similar to Amazon EC2 instances but with limited functionality. It’s most suitable for infrastructure requiring a single server that is not resource-intensive
  • S3 - A scalable storage service which provides a place to store files for public or private usage. A great option for serving downloadable content on your site such as PDF documents or large files
  • Aurora - A scalable Database service offering MySQL and PostgreSQL which is ideal for datasets that grow rapidly. Storage can scale up to 64TB without the need for restarting. As well as this, the function provides fault-tolerant replication for reliability and point-in-time data recovery in the event of a disaster
  • RDS - The overall Amazon Database service comprising all the individual database service offered by Amazon. Offering a range of SQL services including Amazon Aurora, Microsoft SQL and Oracle Database
  • ROUTE53 - This should’ve been more simply called a Domain Name System (DNS) Manager because essentially you are buying a new domain and pointing it at a server somewhere

By the end of 2020, it’s predicted that over 90% of enterprises will use multiple cloud services and platforms.

Alex Bordei
Alex Bordei
VP of Product at Bigstep

AWS Management Service

With 2020 already here and the increasing adoption of multiple public cloud platforms among businesses, as well as office workloads, IT departments are facing battles with their management of multi-cloud environments. This is put down to the constant need to up-skill and invest in resources to manage different clouds.

Amazon has come up with some management tools to ease your stress so 2020 doesn’t seem so daunting

  • CloudTrail  A service providing a logging solution to your AWS estate. Enabling you to record account activity such as changes to services. This allows you to comply with whatever governance and compliance systems you have in place.
  • ConFig  Simply put it inspects your resources on AWS. It’s an application that will help you greatly if you have a large AWS set up as it monitors and tracks what is happening/changing on your platform
  • OpsWork  OpsWork is a service providing managed Puppet and Chef configuration management services. These are tools which enable you to automatically configure your servers and manage changes to them
  • CloudFormation - This is a service allowing you to create repeatable infrastructure. Rather than manually provisioning a server CloudFormation allows you to create a configuration file detailing all the required services you want which you can then spin up with the click of a button

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated


Enterprise Services

These services will be useful for business and networks. Amazon say AWS can grow new revenue streams, increase operational efficiency and lower business risk with their services and is the best method to achieve business goals. Some features to look out for which would be useful include

  • Workspaces A Desktop in the cloud, a computer that you can log in to from anywhere, from any computer and continue where you left off. Automatically backed up and secure. It means that if you are on a mac you can use a windows machine
  • Storage Gateway  To use this, stop buying more storage to keep your team’s Word documents on. Instead, automate getting files into S3 from your corporate network easier. We think this should’ve been called S3 pretending it's part of your corporate network
  • Directory Service  Have to hand it to them this time, it’s a pretty spot on name for what it does: ties together all apps that need Microsoft Active Directory to control them
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We hope these short explanations help you to understand the services that you could be using and benefiting from with AWS. It goes without a doubt that the platform is an extremely useful tool and has proven really successful for businesses across the world -  McDonald's is the world’s largest restaurant company with 37,000 locations serving 64 million people per day. Using AWS, McDonalds built their Home Delivery platform to scale to 20,000 orders per second with less than 100-millisecond latency. 

This is for anyone who needs a quick guide to understanding the overwhelming acronyms and obscurely named features AWS has to offer - so hopefully it has helped you to utilise AWS better for your business!

Still confused by Amazon Web Services? Our team of hosting experts know their CloudTrails from their CloudFormations and what your business requires. Contact our team to discuss your business' hosting requirements.


Michael A

Systems Engineer

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