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 doesn’t 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..

Is Your Awesome Site Mobile Friendly Too?

Image - mobile friendly sitesToday is the day when Google has started implementing mobile friendliness as a search engine ranking factor. The actual announcement in this regard was done two months ago in the official WebMasterCentral blog. It also started showing a tiny warning in the official blog since then. If you use WordPress and if your site is not mobile friendly, yet, there are options to convert it (for free) to fit into mobiles nicely.

Continue reading “Is Your Awesome Site Mobile Friendly Too?”

W3 Total Cache configuration for Nginx-Apache server stack

During the past 24 hours, there were two people had the following situation and were looking for a solution. Their use-case is…

I’m currently using a Nginx frontend / Apache backend setup. The W3 Total Cache plugin detects Apache and will only show me the Apache rewrite rules.

Here’s another quote from the other person who was looking for a similar solution…

The nginx.conf file does not exist. W3 Total Cache plugin detects that Apache is running – thus gives me the rewrites for that webserver instead. I am using Nignx in front of Apache – not a Nginx/PHP-FPM solution

Interesting, but not uncommon. So, I dived in and modified my existing Nginx rules for WP Super Cache plugin and provided a unique solution. Continue reading “W3 Total Cache configuration for Nginx-Apache server stack”

W3 Total Cache 1.0? – Sneak Peek!

Banner of W3 Total Cache pluginUpdate (Feb 5, 2013): The beta version that I tested, has been released as version 0.9.2.6 with more features than mentioned below. So, this post is void as of February 5, 2013 (in less than 2 weeks of publishing it). :(-

W3 Total Cache is back in active development, nearly after a year. I’m one of the lucky people who got the opportunity to test the beta version of the upcoming release, probably 1.0.0.0! It brings a few new features, including a more-intuitive troubleshooter. Continue reading “W3 Total Cache 1.0? – Sneak Peek!”

Implementation is everything

Image #1 for QA series - Check out more posts tagged as NginxThere was an interesting question in the Nginx mailing list regarding replacing Varnish with Nginx as a load balancer. Let me quote the question directly here…

The question:

We are using Varnish in front of 3 load balanced web servers running apache.  We had migrated from one hosting platform where we had 1 app server and 1 database server using Varnish (Drupal 6.x) and had no issues.  Now that we are running in a load balanced environment (3 load balanced apache web servers, a Varnish server, and 1 database server) we are seeing mulitple examples of cacheing issues. (Pages not displaying correctly… style issues, data input staying cached and used on another page, etc).

We think we can just replace the Varnish server and use a NGinx server.  I don’t want to necessarily remove all the apache servers, but we have to get this cacheing issue corrected….

any thoughts…?

Continue reading “Implementation is everything”

What Do You Do For A Day When Your Web Hosting Service Crashes?

Image for the post "what do you do when your web host crashes?"There were two major outages on many sites during the past few weeks.

  1. Amazon AWS EBS degradation
  2. Outage due to Hurricane Sandy

Both these incidents affected many sites hosted in US East. Specifically, there were multiple sites that went offline during the recent Amazon AWS EBS degradation (nice alternative for downtime). Most sites waited helplessly until Amazon fixed it or waited until the after-effects of Sandy to go off. Others did the smartest thing. Moving the entire site to the US West coast. Continue reading “What Do You Do For A Day When Your Web Hosting Service Crashes?”

MySQL Server Crashed – My Site was still online!

MySQL logoYou don’t hear this often… MySQL server crashed and the sites hosted in that server went offline for hours together. But, when a similar thing happened to my VPS, it wasn’t the case. My site was still online, while I was troubleshooting the issue with MySQL server. Ultimately, I could not figure out the issue and I had to purge the entire MySQL installation. However, I was still cool during the entire process. You may ask how. Here is what happened and how you can prevent the same for your own VPS too… Continue reading “MySQL Server Crashed – My Site was still online!”