Amazon Lightsail Review

Amazon Lightsail by Amazon Web Services is targeted towards new webmasters, server admins, DIY enthusiasts among others. It provides much more predictable pricing than EC2 based servers where the pricing is calculated as a cumulative cost of individual components (server, disk, bandwidth, etc).

Predictive pricing?

Predictive pricing doesn’t mean fixed-price. Let’s get things straight. No VPS provider (that I know of) provides fixed-price. Not even Linode or DigitalOcean. There is always a condition attached to the pricing. Both DigitalOcean and Linode charge 2 cents per GB beyond the bandwidth provided in each of their packages. So, does Amazon Lightsail.

For a long time, Linode’s pricing page contained the following text…

No Calculator Required
CPU, transfer, storage, and RAM bundled into one simple price.

For DigitalOcean, it is…

Simple, transparent pricing
Always know what you’ll pay per month.

Now, the above statements are true for Amazon Lightsail services as well. No more jokes on going broke running websites on Amazon Web Services.

Security

Security is always the primary concerns for most businesses of any size. Amazon Web Services and Amazon Lightsail have been keeping security as their primary concern on their own services and for anyone who uses their services. For example, Amazon Lightsail disables password based authentication, by default, and enables only SSH key based authentication. As mentioned earlier, the targeted users are mostly system admins and DIY enthusiasts. Most of them are either aware of how to use SSH key based authentication or they can acquire that knowledge in no time. Amazon Lightsail creates a default SSH key pair automatically, keeps the public key in (any) server that it creates, and only make the private key available for us to download. Of course, we can use our own keys too. Or we could create multiple keys attached to different servers.

The availability of Amazon Linux (AMI) is another tiny step towards having better security. Amazon Linux is available exclusively on Amazon servers (EC2 or Lightsail). It is based on CentOS and is tweaked to worked only with Amazon. The hackers usually target the largest user base (I am looking at you Ubuntu), rather than going for a small-set of users. Also, here’s what Amazon has to say about the security policy on their Amazon Linux AMI…

The configuration of the Amazon Linux AMI enhances security by focusing on two main security goals: limiting access and reducing software vulnerabilities. The Amazon Linux AMI limits remote access capabilities by using SSH key pairs and by disabling remote root login. Additionally, the Amazon Linux AMI reduces the number of non-critical packages which are installed on your instance, limiting your exposure to potential security vulnerabilities. Security updates rated “critical” or “important” are automatically applied on the initial boot of the AMI. Upon login, the Message of the Day (/etc/motd) indicates whether or not any additional updates are available.

Advantages

  • Better integration with other Amazon services (I use S3 heavily)
  • Better security

Disadvantages

Note: The following disadvantages or cons do not necessarily reflects the current situation. There were just true as of this writing.

  • No IPv6 (yet)
  • Available only in US East region (for now)
  • Bandwidth beyond threshold limit is too high for generic web masters (at 9 cents per GB)
  • Limited set of Operating Systems (only Amazon Linux and Ubuntu 16.04 are available as of this writing)
  • Limited CPU and memory compared to other traditional VPS providers

Final thoughts

I highly recommend Amazon Lightsail for US based small businesses. For everyone else, I recommend EC2 (within Amazon eco system). Of course, you may decide based on vetting the differences between Lightsail and EC2.

Here’s the slideshow from Amazon that explains a bit more than what I mentioned…

Note: The slide may not work for now due to a bug from Slideshare’s own API! Click the link below to go through the slides directly from Slideshare!

Feel free to share your thoughts on Amazon Lightsail..

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