26 Mar 2011

AWS - The Amazon Cloud

For the majority of organisations data backup is a full time job. As a former I.T Service Manager I was once responsible for ensuring a digitised archive was backed up, a lengthy and laborious process involving a multi-site system of networked tape libraries with accompanying software and a regimented physical routine for changing tapes and/or rotating them to off-site storage.

At the time I recall wondering why data couldn’t just be streamed up and across the virtual landscape of the emerging internet rather than held on site-based devices sat sucking up power and a whole string of other related resources. Well, today my musings have become a reality and I.A.A.S (Infrastructure as a service) or “Cloud Computing” (its user friendly name) is the increasing norm around enterprise I.T with offerings from web giants such as Google and Amazon happy to manage our off-site data and redeliver it with increasing ease. I’ve previously pushed the simplicity and cost bonuses of Google Apps however Amazon’s Web Services (AWS) are also worth exploring as they offer a whole range of products and services aimed at a deeper systems expanse. Let’s break them down and take a quick look at what’s on offer.

  • S3 – Basically, S3 offers expandable storage space in the Amazon cloud. You can specify zones in the UK, US and far East or opt for their “Cloud Front” which mirrors your content around edge locations for speedier delivery dependent on the access client. It’s cheap too, for example a static 10GB archive is going to drop in at around £10 a year, which is incredibly reasonable. S3 will also link data from and to your website infrastructure either statically or via configured API’s for functioned data usability, you can specify individually applied public or secured links for distributed download and (most recently) take advantage of their streaming media services.
  • EC2 – The “Elastic Cloud”. This is a platform for dynamic or fixed virtual servers. AMI’s (Amazon Machine Instances) can be fired up and configured at will or automated in response to load parameters. Offering elastic IP’s and load balanced content delivery with snapshots for volume backups you can quite literally have a virtual server farm running in a matter of minutes.
  • Amazon VPC – The “Virtual Private Cloud” securely extends your business network offsite into an easily managed accessible platform offering all the benefits of expandable on-demand cloud based infrastructure. Integration is through a regular VPN connection with charges following the same model as other AWS resources.

      Overall the AWS platform is a superbly scalable and cost effective solution for any sized business looking at a virtual platform and we’ll be publishing a selection of specific AWS How-To’s in future posts, watch this space if you’re interested (Or sign up to our RSS update feed).

      *UPDATE* - Amazon are now offering their "Cloud Drive", 5GB of completely free online virtual space, not bad. Check it out - https://www.amazon.com/clouddrive/learnmore

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