AWS is the leading cloud technology vendor, with a market share difference in double figures from the second best, that is, Microsoft. As we speak, AWS holds above 30% of market share, as late as February 2020. In this detailed guide, you will get the AWS reference guide, a cheat sheet that you can refer to when wanting to know about or refresh your knowledge about the cloud and its types as well as all the various AWS services in networking, computing, storage, analytics and much more.

This guide is ideal for beginners who want to know the basics of AWS and its services, as well as professionals who are planning to work in the AWS cloud environment and would like to get back at the important topics of AWS. We will also share exam guides for the two most sought after AWS certifications, “AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate” and AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner”.  

Let’s begin with discussing what Cloud Computing is, and what are the common types of cloud organizations adapt as per their business needs.

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing involves remote servers networked to allow data access, storage and management on a cloud environment, that can be reached without the physical limitations in place. All you need is an internet connection to be able to get to the data stored on cloud. As opposed to owning large computer infrastructure or data centers that can cost a fortune, cloud service providers charge a recurring fee to provide virtual data centers to organizations, where the data gets stored, and can be accessed whenever they need.

Today we have cloud computing in our daily lives, playing a strong role in providing a huge variety of various data in shape of applications, multimedia services, entertainment, education, business and personal data management, and the list goes on. Some of the prominent examples include Netflix, Google mail, iCloud, Youtube, Instagram and Facebook among others.

Coming to the business side, almost all the large and even medium-sized organizations have switched to cloud computing, have stored their data with dedicated cloud vendors providing employees an opportunity to access store and manage data from anywhere across the globe. Now it isn’t as simple as this, but the basics are almost covered. Let’s take a look at the types of cloud computing.

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Types of Cloud

Before getting into the types of cloud, understanding cloud computing types will give you an idea how cloud is being used by people, us, in different shapes and fulfilling different purposes.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) are the physical or virtual servers, storage and networking available for businesses to use on a rent basis, in place of their own data centers or infrastructure. A borrowed infrastructure from cloud vendors.

Platform as a Service (PaaS) offers what IaaS does, and some additional features. Along with servers, storage and networking it also provides software and tools for developers to build applications on the cloud.

Software as a Service (SaaS) is the most used form cloud computing used by the end consumer and is a major part of our daily lives’ internet consumption. It is the delivery of various services pertaining to entertainment, socializing, business communication, data management and various other types of services over a public cloud accessible to end consumers with designated credentials. The backend hardware and operating system are irrelevant to users, and is accessed via applications, or web browsers. Some examples include Facebook, YouTube, Dropbox, Instagram and other such platforms.

Let’s see what are the cloud types we have.

Public Cloud: Here, a third-party cloud vendor provides cloud services to a large pool of customers via the Internet, and the reason it is known as public, is that it is shared among all those customers. There is no exclusivity, costs less and is quickly scalable to adapt the growing needs of a business.

Private Cloud: In a private cloud, the resources and services are managed in-house or by third parties, exclusively for the organization. The services are pretty much those of a public cloud, but since it is named as a Private Cloud, it exclusively belongs to the organization choosing this cloud type over public cloud. Organizations can control where the data is stored, as well as build their own infrastructure by giving developers the liberty to use the massive computing power to scale on-demand.

Hybrid Cloud: The name alone can tell the whole story of this cloud type. It is a combination of both public and private cloud types. The decision whether to run the services on public or private depends on some parameters such as the sensitivity of the data and applications, data storage needs, ease in disaster recovery and controlled costs dedicated to cloud among others.

What is AWS

Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers multiple cloud computing services and applications that are flexible, cost-effective, reliable and easy-to-use for businesses to fulfill their cloud computing needs, that can be storing, managing, accessing or even uploading data for employees and customers to access for various purposes.

Instance: An instance is a virtual server for running applications on AWS.

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Types of AWS Services

Auto-scaling: It is a service by EC2 that automatically designs scaling plans as per the user defined policies. It lets the users launch or terminate the EC2 instances in alignment with the policies defined by the business.

Elastic Load Balancing: A load balancer is responsible to distribute traffic that is coming from applications to multiple instances including EC2 instances, IP addresses, Lambda Functions and containers, depending on the availability zones.

Networking Services

VPC: Virtual Private Cloud by Amazon is a virtual data center that provides isolated resources to allow users to launch AWS resources in a virtual cloud.

Direct Connect: When users need to connect their internal network to AWS’s, Direct Connect helps by providing a dedicated network that connects its locations with that of the user.

Route 53: A domain name system (DNS), Route 53 is believed to be highly scalable and available for developers to connect end users with internet applications by providing domain names and mapping them to numeric IP addresses.

Computing Services

EC2: A virtual server responsible to provide a compute capacity on cloud that is resizable. It has an extremely friendly web service interface, making lives easier for cloud experts to obtain and configure capacity with minimal friction.

Elastic Beanstalk: It is used to deploy and manage containers by creating an environment to work with applications. It reduces complexity by being self-sufficient as you only need to upload the application and wait for it to configure and manage all other aspects like load balancing, capacity provisioning, app monitoring and even scaling.

Lambda: A computing service that responds to events by running code and managing the computing resources.

EC2 Container Service: It lets you easily run and manage Docker containers across a cluster of EC2 instances.

Storage Services

S3: Known as Simple Storage Service, S3 helps storing data objects and flat files in the cloud, well known for its security, durability and scalability.

CloudFront: A Content Delivery Network, CloudFront helps distributing content to users across the internet promising low-latency and high transfer speed, positively impacting the user experience.

Glacier: A data archiving and backup storage service, it offers a cost-effective, long-term solution to storing all the data that is not needed temporarily, but maybe required after some time.

EFS: Fully known as Elastic File System, EFS is used to store files used in EC2 Instances, offering the ability to connect with multiple instances as a common data source.

Snowball: When you need to transfer large sets of data in and out of AWS cloud, Snowball is there to help. It used applications that are secure, transfers data faster results in lower network costs.

Storage Getaway: A disaster recovery and backup service, it fills the purpose of integrating internal IT environments with cloud storage repository.

RDS (Relational Database Service): It allows users of AWS cloud to set-up, operate and scale a relational database within the cloud and offers automation in administration processes so you can focus on the application to provide security, compatibility, availability and performance to make it a success.

DynamoDB: A hosted NoSQL database, DynamoDB is known to be reliable in performance without disappointing even when it scales. You can manage distributed replicas of data and ensure high availability at all times.

ElastiCache: A cache service by AWS, ElastiCache is a fully managed data store that allows retrieval of information from an in-memory cache system. It is a way of caching databases in the cloud.

RedShift: A data warehousing service in the cloud that is fully managed, fast in speed, and delivers cost-effective data analysis using business intelligence tools.

DMS (Data Migration Service): Pretty self-explanatory by the name, it is used to migrate on-premises databases to the cloud. You can also convert databases using DMS by Amazon.


EMR: Amazon Elastic MapReduce assists in big data tasks like data mining, web indexing and log file analysis.

Data Pipeline: Used for frequent data driven workflows, Data Pipeline helps in transfering data from one service to another.

AWS Elasticsearch: It is Amazon’s managed service that eases the process of deploying, operating and scaling Elastisearch, an open source search and analytics engine for analyzing logs, monitoring applications in real time and analyzing click streams.

Kinesis: A data streaming service that helps ehen working with real-time streaming data in AWS. It is scalable and can capture gigabytes of data per second from hundreds of thousands of sources.

AWS Machine Learning: a cloud-based service that helps developers of all levels to build powerful machine learning models with the help of machine learning technology.

AWS QuickSight: A business intelligence service that assists in digging the data to take out meaningful insights

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Security and Identity

IAM: It stands of Identity and Access Management, empowering users to effectively manage secure access to AWS resources and services.

Directory Service: Another service by AWS that provides a managed directory in the cloud.

Inspector: It inspects the application from a security perspective and allows users to identify potential security loopholes.

WAF (Web Application Firewall): It provides web traffic filters to protect web applications from getting attacked by malign hackers.

CloudHSM: Users can generate and use their own encryption keys on CloudHSM, a hardware security model, and is a fully managed service by AWS.

KMS: It stands for Key Management System, and allows users to effectively create, import delete, rotate and manage keys across all the AWS services and your own applications.

Management Tools

CloudWatch: It is used to create different metrics. It provides monitoring for resources and applications.

CloudFormation: It offers businesses, and developers specifically the ability to create a collection of related AWS and third-party resources. Developers can also provision those resources in a streamlined manner.

Cloud Trail: It allows users to govern, carry compliance and audit operations and risks of their AWS accounts. It helps track events and actions taken through AWS SDKs, accounts, Management consoles and other AWS services.

OpsWorks: AWS OpsWorks is DevOps, more specifically configuration management service that offers instances of Chef and Puppet. You can automate server configuration, deployment and management across EC2 instances.

Config: It provides inventory of AWS resources, allows users to audit resource configuration history and lets users know about the changes.

Service Catalog: Businesses can manage approved catalogs of IT resources with Service Catalog.

Trusted Advisor: It analyzes your AWS environment and identifies for you cost saving and performance enhancement opportunities.

Application Services

API Gateway: It helps in the creation, monitoring, maintenance and security of APIs.

AppStream: It helps end users to stream heavy applications and games from cloud to their PCs.

CloudSearch: A managed search service for applications and websites that makes setting up, managing and scaling a search solution easy for users.

Elastic Transcoder: It helps converting media files to cloud at a low and controlled cost.

SES (Simple Email Service): Send and receive emails with SES

SQS (Simple Queue Service): It is a hosted queue to store messages.

SWF (Simple Workflow Service): With SWF you can coordinate all the processing steps with an application.

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Developer Tools

Code commit: It is a managed source control service where secure Git based repositories are hosted. It provides a highly secure and scalable environment to collaborate in code.

Code Deploy: Users can automate code deployment using this service.

Code Pipeline: Being a continuous delivery service, it enables users to automate the software release and delivery steps, resulting in effective release timelines.

Mobile Services

Mobile Hub: With Mobile Hub users can build, test and monitor the usage of mobile apps on cloud.

Cognito: it is an identity and data sync service that is used to synchronize users’ ‘inside application’ data across multiple devices.

Device Farm: With the help of this service, application developers can test and improve the quality of Android, Fire OS and IOS applications on real phones and tablets.

Amazon Pinpoint: Previously as Mobile Analytics, Pinpoint is a recent and improved version of mobile apps analytics service. It allows users to gather, analyze and export app analytics to measure app usage and revenue.

SNS (Simple Notification Service): It assists when users have to publish notifications or messages to dedicated subscribers or other applications when required.

Enterprise Apps

WorkSpaces: It is a Desktop as a Service solution, a fully managed desktop computing solution.

WorkDocs: It is a fully managed service that allows creation, management, collaboration and storage of content that is stored on AWS and can be access from anywhere across the globe.

WorkMail: It is a business email and calendaring service coming with robust security controls and support for its clients on desktop and mobile. You can easily integrate Microsoft Exchange Server to manage

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AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate (SSA-C02) Exam Guide

Individuals who intent to perform in a Solutions Architect role can take The AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate examination. By taking and passing this exam, you will validate the knowledge and skills to architect and deploy secure and robust applications on AWS technologies.

More clearly, you will be able to:

  • Use architectural design principles to define a solution as per the customer requirements.
  • Guide the organization on implementation in the light of best practices throughout the project.

Recommended AWS Knowledge

  • One year of hands-on experience designing available, cost-effective, fault-tolerant, and scalable distributed systems on AWS.
  • Hands-on experience using compute, networking, storage, and database AWS services.
  • Hands-on experience with AWS deployment and management services.
  • Ability to identify and define technical requirements for an AWS-based application.
  • Ability to identify which AWS services meet a given technical requirement.
  • Knowledge of recommended best practices for building secure and reliable applications on the AWS
  • An understanding of the basic architectural principles of building in the AWS Cloud.
  • An understanding of the AWS global infrastructure.
  • An understanding of network technologies as they relate to AWS.
  • An understanding of security features and tools that AWS provides and how they relate to traditional services.

Exam Content

Question Types

Candidates will be required to answer questions available in two different formats:

  • Multiple choice: A question will have a total of four answers, and only one of those will be correct. Rest of the answers will seem correct but will not be. They are distractors.
  • Multiple response: A question will have five or more answers from which two or more will be correct, and the rest will be incorrect.

You will be required to choose one or more answers that best complete the statement or justifies the question. Distractors, or incorrect answers, are designed to confuse those who have little or incomplete preparation for the exam. However, they are generally plausible responses that fit in the content area defined by the test objective.

If you do not answer a question, it will be marked as incorrect; Wrong answers will not be penalized.

Unscored Content

Your examination may include unscored items that are placed on the test to gather statistical information. These items are not identified on the form and do not affect your score.

Exam Results

The AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate (SAA-C02) examination is a pass or fail exam. AWS professionals are guided by certification industry best practices and guidelines to establish the minimum passing standard on the basis of which the exams are marked.

Highest score is 1000 and the range of scoring is 100-1000, with a minimum passing score of 720. Scaled scoring models are used to equate scores across multiple exam forms that may have slightly different difficulty levels.

You will get to see how you performed in each section in your score report where a table will classify each section separately. This information is designed to provide general feedback concerning your examination performance. You do not have to pass all the individual sections, but only the overall examination. This is called a compensatory scoring model. Each section of the examination has a specific weighting, so some sections have more questions than others. The table contains general information, highlighting your strengths and weaknesses. Exercise caution when interpreting section-level feedback.

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Content Outline

This exam guide includes weightings, test domains, and objectives only. It is not a comprehensive listing of the content on this examination. The table below lists the main content domains and their weightings.

Domain                                                                                               % of Examination

Domain 1: Design Resilient Architectures                                               30%

Domain 2: Design High-Performing Architectures                               28%

Domain 3: Design Secure Applications and Architectures                24%

Domain 4: Design Cost-Optimized Architectures                                 18%

TOTAL                                                                                                                   100%

Domain 1: Design Resilient Architectures

  • Design a multi-tier architecture solution
  • Design highly available and/or fault-tolerant architectures
  • Design decoupling mechanisms using AWS services
  • Choose appropriate resilient storage

Domain 2: Design High-Performing Architectures

  • Identify elastic and scalable compute solutions for a workload
  • Select high-performing and scalable storage solutions for a workload
  • Select high-performing networking solutions for a workload
  • Choose high-performing database solutions for a workload

Domain 3: Design Secure Applications and Architectures

  • Design secure access to AWS resources
  • Design secure application tiers
  • Select appropriate data security options

Domain 4: Design Cost-Optimized Architectures

  • Identify cost-effective storage solutions
  • Identify cost-effective compute and database services
  • Design cost-optimized network architectures

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