Amazon Lightsail aka AWS VPS solution


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I was always impressed how AWS marketing team works and how they evangelize cloud servers. As a fact 80% of our customers are dreaming to host their small sites in the cloud. But in fact 80% of those clients DO NOT need that, because simple VPS works perfectly for all their needs. So what is Amazon Lightsail? Basically it’s a cheaper alternative of AWS EC2 by Amazon Web Services 🙂

In this post I’m going to describe features of AWS Lightsail, try to find some advantages and disadvantages, compare AWS Lightsail with other providers. A good comparison example would be a well known DigitalOcean.

Amazon Lightsail First Instance

As soon as you log to control panel you should see greeting and call to create new instance. At first you might be confused that there is no region selection, but relax – you will be able to select desired one on the next screen.

AWS Lightsail greetings

During creation process of the new instance you will be asked to select location of your VPS:

Amazon Lightsail Region

Select Platform and Apps or OS Only selector:

Amazon Lightsail platform selector

Optionally you can add Launch Script that will be executed at the first start of your instance. This is helpful to install some soft or to call API service or whatever you need in terms of automation or your needs.

Please pay attention to the next step , SSH key pair manager:

Amazon Lightsail SSH manager

You should upload your public ssh key here or download default generated key. I recommend to always use your public key, as who knows who can see default one (paranoid mode enabled). Please keep in mind that SSH key pairs work only per Region, you are not able to use uploaded key for one region in others. If you are familiar with AWS EC2 services, you should know that. And here I found small disadvantage:

Hey, AWS Lightsail Team, where is insert field for my key? I should everytime search it on my laptop. Please add field with key input!

Next step is pricing selection and naming your VPS:

Amazon Lightsail Pricing

Pretty generic pricing line.

Amazon Lightsail features

When I used Amazon VPS I found several cool features that might help you. If you access management console of your VPS from Lightsail dashboard you will see that you can add an additional resources to your server.

Storage

There are several predefined storage configurations that you can allocate and attach to your instance. You can select options from 8GB to 256GB and you can select custom size for you disk.

Metrics

Here you can see some useful metrics on how your instance consumes resources. Graphs show you CPU utilization, Network In and Out and Status check of the Amazon Lightsail instance. Unfortunately there is no option for notification and support reaction if any of these metrics fails.

Luckily our Server Management plans can help you with this! With us your AWS VPS is always under monitoring and in case of failures – our team reacts on incidents immediately.

Networking

In this menu you will find some must-have features for your VPS. Number one feature is Firewall enabled by default. You will find that only two ports (22 SSH and 80 HTTP) are opened by default. I think that 443 should be added to the default list too, but you can add it on your own.

Snapshots

Another cool feature gives you an opportunity to create backups of your system. But I had some issues with creating Lightsail snapshots. When I press “Create snapshot” button, management console gives me an error “Snapshot failed“, but in several minutes I was able to see newly created snapshot in the list. Also I did not find automated solution for this type of snapshots. Resuming backup section of AWS Lightsail, this option does not give me 100% confidence about their backup solution. So I’d better use classic backup solution of my files and DB that are uploaded to S3 bucket.

You can always use our Proactive server management solution that includes backup configuration and its monitoring.

Load Balancer

Another great feature of the Amazon Lightsail is Load Balancer. You can use this feature to spread your traffic across multiple VPS instances and handle traffic spike brought by your marketing campaign. But here are some limitations:

 If you expect your application to consistently manage more than 5 GB/hour of data or consistently have a large number of connections (>400k new connections/hour, >15k active, concurrent connections), we recommend using Amazon EC2 with Application Load Balancing instead.

Amazon Lightsail Comparison

I will compare AWS Lightsail with another providers and with AWS EC2.

AWS Lightsail vs AWS EC2

I think the most popular comparison would be specifying the differences between internal AWS service – EC2 and Lightsail. Why should we use AWS Lightsail and in wich cases it’s better to stick with classic EC2?

The main difference is number of additional features and services you can use in Amazon Lightsail. It is a good solution for a regular site with small amount of visitors, but when it comes to handling a lot of traffic – you may have issues. AWS Lightsail does not include the following services:

Autoscaling – this is a must-have feature when you need to handle traffic spikes. And there is no such feature in AWS Lightsail. You will have to resize your instance manually or programmatically with external solution and you will have downtime during this procedure. However you can use Load Balancer and direct traffic to resized instances, but it is not a simple way.

AMI – you are limited to use Blueprints that AWS Lightsail offers you.

Spot Instances – there is no option to use cheaper instances for your services with AWS Lightsail. You are limited to predefined sizes and prices.

Pricing – you are not able to pay for hours used by Load Balancer and Storage, you will have to prepay for full month.

AWS Lightsail vs DigitalOcean

There are no exclusive features to compare providers, as they all have common services. Not so long ago DigitalOcean added new Droplet types and lowered down prices. I will take three almost identical configurations and compare them.

AWS LightsailDigitalOcean
RAM512 MB2 GB8 GB1 GB4 GB16 GB
Processor1 CPU core1 CPU core1 CPU core1 CPU core2 CPU core6 CPU core
Storage20 GB40 GB80 GB25 GB80 GB320 GB
Transfer1 TB3 TB5 TB1 TB4 TB6 TB
Price per month$5$20$80$5$20$80

You can see that DigitalOcean offers much better pricing, however during updates of the hypervisors we had many troubles with downtimes on DigitalOcean, but now their uptime is pretty good.

Conclusion

Amazon Lightsail is another perfect solution for small sites, but it does not have something special. It would be a good solution to have one billing for all of your services, when you are using AWS. Also you can consider using DigitalOcean for the same size of your site but with better pricing. Hopefully now you can understand what is AWS Lightsail, what services are included there and when to use them. You can always contact our team to get a consultation or if you need monthly server maintanence. Comments and critics are always welcome!

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