Amazon Web Services, or AWS, is a powerful online platform that powers much of the internet’s infrastructure. In fact, when AWS experiences a problem, it can seem like half of the internet doesn’t work! Just a few months ago a major AWS outage took down countless websites, including some resources I use for my own freelance work. But if you are new to the platform, AWS can do almost everything you need online. Here are a few business uses for AWS that any small or midsized startup can take advantage of.
Serving large files
The most obvious and simple use case for Amazon AWS is utilizing S3, short for Simple Storage Service, to share large files online or share smaller files with a very large audience. Sending large volumes of data on the web can be very expensive, and depending on the type of web server your business uses you could find yourself quickly out of resources or shut down by a hosting company.
Amazon S3 takes advantage of cloud storage to offer virtually infinite scalability for file sharing. Whether you want to share a self-hosted video on your company website or offer a free ebook download to a viral audience on the web, S3 can handle the load.
Sending transactional email
Servers can do anything you tell them to, but using a web server for email is not ideal. If your business uses a hosted email service like Gmail or Outlook.com, you can easily manage your employee email accounts. But what about sending a large number of emails from your website. If you plan to operate a consumer facing business where you will send emails to hundreds or thousands of users, sending from your web server doesn’t cut it. Even if you can get the emails out, large email providers like Google and Yahoo might treat the messages as spam.
While you can use services like Mandrill, SendGrid, or MailGun for the task, Amazon’s SES (Simple Email Service) handles all of that just fine and at a fraction of the cost. You have to figure out the integration on your own or follow a guide to setting up SES for transactional email, but once it’s up and running it is cost effective and very reliable.
Adding a CDN
A CDN, or content delivery network, brings web data from a central server to a distributed network of “edge servers” closer to end user locations. This allows website traffic loads to be better distributed, improve load times, and provides an overall better end user experience.
Large CDNs can be very expensive. There are a handful of mid-sized CDN options available, such as MaxCDN, offer lower cost options. But again, the power of AWS allows you to bring everything under one roof with CloudFront. CloudFront is the AWS CDN service and there is no limit to how much it can scale.
Hosting an app or website
Web servers can easily host websites. They can even host many different apps or the infrastructure behind an app. But with AWS you can host everything without worrying about going over your allocated resource usage. Before you go down this path, do check pricing because AWS can be an expensive option for website hosting.
However, it works and scales. It is not as simple as a major hosting company that offers one click installs, but if you can follow directions this guide shows you how to launch a WordPress install hosted on AWS. Launching a static website is even easier.
Create a shared file system for your team
If you have ever worked at an office for a large company, you have seen how computers spread around the world can use one central “drive” to store and share files with others on the team. Whether your team runs out of a central office or works remotely around the world, AWS can host a file sharing system that meets your business needs.
Again, it may not be the simplest solution to deploy, but once you have everything set up it just works and can scale forever. Your drives never run out of space and employees can access them from anywhere in the world. Follow this guide to set it up yourself.
If a computer can do it, so can AWS
Amazon Web Services is on track to become a $10 billion business in its own right and brings in a decent portion of Amazon’s revenue. It reached this size due to its innovative ability to bring virtually any business computing need to the cloud. I use AWS for my solo freelancing business. So do multibillion dollar enterprises and about 1 million users in between.
If you are trying to solve a technology infrastructure challenge, don’t discount to power, affordability, and flexibility of AWS. It’s ability to solve a wide array of common business problems may delightfully surprise you.