What is AWS?
If you haven’t heard of AWS, you’ve certainly encountered it. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the most comprehensive and widely used cloud platform in the world.1 In the second quarter of 2021, AWS’s revenue increased 37 percent, earning $14.81 billion in that quarter alone.2
With millions of customers, AWS helps to power top companies including BP, Netflix, Expedia, GE, Kellog’s, and countless more.3
Businesses of all sizes can benefit from the over 200 services offered by the AWS platform.1 To help you learn how AWS might benefit your company and its overall Amazon marketing strategy, we’ve compiled a complete guide to the world of cloud computing and AWS.
AWS and Cloud Computing
To understand what is AWS, you first need to understand cloud computing. With cloud computing, organizations can access on-demand IT resources over the internet and pay for these services as needed.
The traditional alternative would be to buy or maintain physical data centers and servers.4
To understand how cloud computing has changed the world of IT, let’s travel back in history to the early 1900s. During that time, if a factory needed electricity, they would have to build their own power plant. Eventually, however, electricity became a public utility for purchase, phasing out expensive private electric plants.
That is how Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos describes AWS. Just as public utility companies replaced private electric plants, AWS is replacing traditional physical computing technology. Also, like a utility company, Amazon’s customers only pay for what they need when it comes to storage and computing power.
The on-demand model is a solution to the previous inefficiencies in which a company would have to overpay and buy more than they need or risk not having enough computing power during periods of growth. This was especially significant in seasonal industries. Tax accountants, for example, don’t use the same amount of computing power all year long.5
The initial complexity of cloud computing might seem intimidating, but it is appropriate for organizations of every size and in every industry that have technological needs. Common uses of the cloud service include:4
- Data backup
- Disaster recovery
- Virtual desktops
- Software development
- Software testing
- Big data analytics
- Customer-facing web applications
AWS’s immense capabilities have allowed it to become the preeminent cloud computing provider, owning a third of the market alone. AWS also has servers all over the world, allowing 245 countries and territories to utilize its services.
To enable this feat, AWS has servers in 76 availability zones. On top of being able to offer their services to so many countries, these 76 availability zones also ensure that:5
- Companies can place geographical limits on their services
- Companies can know that their data is safe because it’s held in multiple physical locations
Hopefully, you’re beginning to better understand how cloud computing works. Now, we can look more closely at the functionality of AWS. As we mentioned earlier, AWS houses over 200 services that fall into the categories of:5
- Remote computing
- Mobile development
AWS has three main products that encompass all of these services:
- EC2 – A virtual machine service for businesses that allows users to modify the size and capacity of their cloud provider
- Glacier – A low-cost cloud storage service with longer retrieval times that provides storage for data archives and cold data backup
- S3 – A storage system for the internet that’s designed to make web-scale computing more efficient
Each of these products is designed to meet specific needs provided by cloud computing. To help potential customers and AWS users understand AWS in action, Amazon offers three examples:4
- Healthcare companies – A healthcare company could AWS to create more personalized treatment plans for patients.
- Financial services companies – A financial services company could use AWS to constantly detect and prevent fraud.
- Video game companies – A video game maker could use AWS to allow millions of people to play its games online at the same time.
Basically, cloud computing and AWS, which is the leading cloud computing service, are limitless.
Types of Cloud Computing
As you dive deeper into the world of cloud computing and even consider becoming a user, there are three key types of cloud computing that you might use: IaaS, PaaS, Saas.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
If DNA is the building block of the human body, the IaaS is the building block of cloud IT. Out of the different forms of cloud computing, it is the most similar to traditional IT resources, which makes it easy for businesses to transition to the cloud. It also provides the most flexibility and control. With IaaS, you can access:
- Networking features
- Data storage
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
PaaS emphasizes efficiency, eliminating the necessity of underlying infrastructure including hardware and operating systems. Instead, PaaS allows its users to focus on:
- Resource acquisition
- Capacity planning
- Software maintenance
Software as a Service (SaaS)
SaaS is perhaps the most comprehensive yet simple option for you as the end-user because it is entirely managed by the service provider. Rather than putting any resources or time towards maintaining the software, you can focus on your business needs and how the software fulfills them.4
Benefits of AWS
AWS’s success is obvious. However, the technical complexity of its services can make it difficult to comprehend all of its benefits. At the most basic level, the key benefits of AWS include:
- Flexibility – AWS allows businesses to scale their resources based on current needs.
- Agility – With AWS, companies can access and implement a wide range of technological infrastructure and services within minutes.
- Cost – The on-demand cost is key to how AWS operates, allowing companies to save significantly on major capital expenses such as data centers and servers and reducing variable expenses.
- Global capabilities – Companies using AWS can expand to almost anywhere in the world within minutes using Amazon’s existing infrastructure.
- Customer experience – Similarly, the ability to use physical locations closer to the end-users of your product or services provides them a better user experience by decreasing latency.4
- Security – Amazon’s data centers have rigorous security and are diversified through multiple locations in case of disasters.
- Reliability – Through this diversification, Amazon can prevent service outages from ever reaching your end-user.4
- Simplicity – AWS is built to be easy to use by anyone, regardless of their technological expertise. This is a result of the AWS console, which allows you to easily access AWS.
- Limitless capacity – Considering AWS supports some of the largest corporations in the world, its capacity limits are virtually nonexistent, particularly for smaller to medium-sized businesses.6
Disadvantages of AWS
AWS might have a limitless capacity, but some of its cloud computing services do have their own limitations. Be warned, however, that the basis for these disadvantages is more technically complex in comparison to its easier-to-understand benefits. Key drawbacks include:
- Changing costs – Returning to the metaphor of a utility company, your electricity bill isn’t the same each month. While this can be a benefit because of the flexibility, some companies may dislike the constant price variations which are affected not just by your own usage but by the cost of land, fiber, electricity, and even taxes.
- Size – Size is another benefit that can also become a disadvantage. Although the immense size of AWS has advantages such as geographic scope and diversification, it can also introduce temporary problems as millions of people access the same servers at one time.7
- Default limits – AWS automatically limits resources in each of its regions to ensure it can meet everyone’s needs. If you have greater capacity requirements, this might become an issue. You can request to increase your limit, but AWS provides no guarantees.
- Cost of technical support – Although you can access immediate support from AWS whenever necessary, Amazon does charge an additional technical support fee for this service.
- Transitioning – When you first transition to the cloud, you might experience initial issues including downtime and a lack of backup protection, but these potential problems will be quickly resolved.6
Getting Started with AWS
Amazon knows that AWS and cloud computing in general are complex topics. To help users become masters, they offer countless training sessions and certifications so you can become an AWS expert. Users can choose from:
- Digital Training
- Classroom Training
Users can use these training sessions to simply increase their knowledge or to become fully certified in some of the services AWS offers. Amazon hopes to help 29 million people develop their technical skills through their free cloud computing training modules for professionals, which include:
- Cloud Practitioner
- Data Analytics
- Machine Learning
Amazon also offers numerous courses, including:
- Migrating to AWS
- The Machine Learning Pipeline on AWS
- AWS Technical Essentials
- Building Data Lakes on AWS
- Developing Serverless Solutions on AWS
Amazon sees cloud computing, and by extension AWS, as the way of the future. As such, its free education offerings are incredibly comprehensive and a great place for anyone to start.8
AWS Offers Stratospheric Possibilities, But It’s Not Alone
In twenty years, the idea of companies using their own physical servers might seem as antiquated and absurd as imagining a business building their own power plant to keep the lights on.
As with its e-commerce ventures, Amazon is able to use its enormous size to support smaller companies that could never achieve the same economies of scale.
Transitioning to cloud computing will help your business keep pace with the future of technology, but AWS is not your only option. Major competitors include:
- Microsoft Azure
- Google Cloud
Smaller companies can also offer cloud computing, albeit without all of the luxuries giants such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Google offer.5 Whichever you choose, familiarizing yourself with the sky-high world of cloud computing will likely pay off for your business down the line.
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- Amazon. Cloud computing with AWS. https://aws.amazon.com/what-is-aws/
- CNBC. Amazon cloud revenue growth accelerates to 37% in Q2. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/07/29/aws-earnings-q2-2021.html
- Amazon. Cloud Computing Services. https://aws.amazon.com/
- Amazon. What is cloud computing? https://aws.amazon.com/what-is-cloud-computing/
- Investopedia. What Is Amazon Web Services and Why Is It so Successful? https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/011316/what-amazon-web-services-and-why-it-so-successful.asp
- DataFlair. AWS Advantages & Disadvantages. https://data-flair.training/blogs/aws-advantages/
- Intellipaat. Top 7 Benefits of AWS – Advantages and Disadvantages of Amazon Web Services. https://intellipaat.com/blog/aws-benefits-and-drawbacks/
- AWS. Training and Certification. https://aws.amazon.com/training/