Welcome to Cloud Computing and AWS

Natasha Ong
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4 min read

In a nutshell:

Cloud computing is like renting a computer or software over the internet. You use it when you need it and only pay for what you use. It's a flexible and cost-effective way to access technology resources.
Amazon Web Services (AWS), is a cloud platform or cloud computing provider. Think of AWS as a massive toolbox with all the tools you need to build and maintain digital things, without having to physically own or store the tools yourself. For example, Netflix stores all of their movies and shows on AWS, so they don't have to buy and maintain any physical storage.

Have you ever wondered where all the pictures or messages in your apps get stored? Or how websites run and update without having a physical computer somewhere that you can point to? Well, say hello to cloud computing.

Psst... and who’s one of the major wizards behind this magic? It’s AWS!

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud Computing is like having a powerful computer on the internet. You can use it to store data, run apps, build cool things or do anything you’d usually do on a computer.

Let's break down this concept with a few examples.

Streaming music and videos

  • You open apps like Spotify, Netflix, or YouTube to listen to music or watch videos. The content plays seamlessly without you needing to download it first.
  • These platforms use storage and computers that run on the cloud. Instead of making you download libraries of songs or movies on your device, you access and stream them directly from the internet in real-time.

Online collaboration

  • You and your team edit a document at the same time on Google Docs, seeing each other's changes in real-time.
  • These collaboration apps manage documents in the cloud. We can access and edit the same file at the same time, thanks to cloud technologies’ ability to sync up different versions and show changes live.

Mobile banking and finance

  • You check your bank balance, transfer money, or even invest in stocks from your phone.
  • Many of these banks and investing/savings apps use cloud services for secure data storage, transaction processing, and even AI-driven financial tips that are personalised to you.

Amazon Web Services (AWS), is one of the most popular cloud computing platforms in the world. It’s like a big virtual toolshed that allows you to rent anything from storage spaces to powerful computing machines.

Why is it a big deal?

Traditionally, businesses had to use physical hardware to run computer tasks. This use of physical hardware is called traditional infrastructure. It’s different from cloud computing, as cloud computing also runs computer tasks, but over the internet – without needing physical servers*.

Cloud computing is cheaper, more reliable, faster, and easier than owning and managing all the hardware yourself. Let's break down the differences:

Traditional Infrastructure Cloud Computing
Location of Resources Physical; on-premise Internet
Cost Structure High price, high maintenance, long contracts Pay-as-you-go, usage-based pricing
Scalability and Flexibility Physically purchase, install, and configure new hardware or software Click a button and scale up or down
Maintenance and Management Experts need to physically be there in person The cloud provider (e.g., Azure) handles most of it! The rest is done à la internet

* What is a server? Imagine you have a big, powerful computer. This computer isn't like the one you might have on your desk - it’s designed to run all day, every day, and with lots of power to run many things at the same time. This special computer is what we called a server.

  • We don't see them, but servers are the reason we can make and use software stored in the Cloud!
  • Servers are always ready and waiting to take your request (our computers, the apps we use and Google Chrome or Safari would be clients), be it sending an email, loading a webpage, or playing a game online.
  • For example, suppose that a computer loads a news article or a funny video. What's actually happening in the background is a client (the computer) sending a request (wanting to load the news article/video) to the server. The server fulfils the request by returning information to the client. In this case, the server is sending the news article/video to your computer so it starts loading! All in milliseconds.
  • Servers live in places called data  centres, which are big, super-secure houses full of servers.

What is AWS?

AWS stands for Amazon Web Services. It's like an enormous digital toolshed owned by Amazon where businesses (and people like you and me!) can rent space and resources. Instead of buying and maintaining costly hardware, AWS allows you to use its servers, storage, and other services on a pay-as-you-go basis. These products are delivered over the internet.

From its origin in 2006, AWS transformed Amazon’s business models and changed how other businesses, large and small, operate. AWS offers over 200 fully featured services from data centres globally - from infrastructure technologies like compute, storage, and databases–to emerging technologies, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, data lakes and analytics, and Internet of Things.

AWS introduced the concept of cloud computing and continues to be the leader today, with 32% of all cloud computing customers in the world using AWS. AWS services are trusted by millions of active customers to lower costs, become more agile, and innovate faster.

Popular AWS services

To make things more tangible, let’s talk about the two most popular AWS services:

  1. Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service): This is a vast digital storage box where you can store photos, videos, files, and more. It's like renting a storage unit for digital things.
  2. Amazon EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud): Imagine this as a customisable computer that runs online. It’s where many websites and apps live and get ‘hosted’, which means making it available on the internet for anyone that wants to use it. The game changer with EC2 is that users can now add or remove computing power as they need it - saving them heaps of money, as they only pay for what they use!

What do people use AWS for?

AWS offers a broad spectrum of services that cater to different needs. Here's a simple breakdown of AWS' service categories. We'll be diving into the 'how' of these categories later on!

AWS Categories Purpose
Compute Run applications and tasks on a computer in the cloud.
Storage Store all kinds of data.
Database Sort and retrieve data efficiently.
Networking & Content Delivery Connect or isolate the things you build, create ways to deliver your content to others easily.
Developer Tools Build, release and manage applications.
Security, Identity & Compliance Secure your resources and manage who has access.
Analytics Analyze and visualize data.
Machine Learning Add artificial intelligence and extra magic to your applications.
Application Integration Connect your AWS applications and data with tools that don’t live in the AWS ecosystem.
Management & Governance Manage and monitor who’s using your AWS resources.
Migration & Transfer Move applications, data and more into AWS.

*It's easy to think applications (or 'apps' for short) are just what's on our phones -  Facebook or WhatsApp - but those are only one type of application. Apps are a bunch of code that run on computers, phones and other devices. They're designed to perform specific tasks, like loading nextwork.org on the internet, sending messages, playing games, or managing your calendar.