• The cloud is an on-demand, elastic IT infrastructure that enables companies to lower costs and innovate faster.
  • With over 200 services, Amazon Web Services (AWS) provides a service for almost everything a company needs.
  • You can achieve a better security posture with AWS than your on premises IT environment ever can.

With 32% global market share, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the most popular cloud platform for business. And for good reason – with global data centers, high availability and security built in at every point, AWS has given companies a more affordable way to experiment and innovate.

One of the things I appreciate most about AWS Cloud is the extra resilience and abilities for your IT infrastructure. It’s always good to be thinking: What’s Plan B? What if our site goes down? What happens to our business continuity?

And AWS has the services to answer these questions and much more. So, let’s make sure you can get started on the right path with AWS in 2022.

Cloud Basics: What is cloud?

First, let’s start with some basics.

When I first start teaching an AWS course, I always ask my students: What is the cloud? When you ask a group of technical people for their opinions on a topic like Cloud, you’re going to have a lot of different answers because everybody has their individual frame of reference. Everybody has their own perspective. Eventually, after the answers pour in, we notice a few topic clusters around Cloud, including AWS, security and pay-as-you-go consumption models. Let’s dive into these topics below.

What is the Cloud? (TL;DR: It’s someone else’s computer.)

If cloud is basically someone else’s computer, this should immediately trigger questions about security:

  • What is happening with my workloads and intellectual property?
  • Who has access to our data in the cloud?
  • How do we secure it?

The good news is AWS also considers security above everything and has security baked into every level of its infrastructure and services. We’ll dive deeper into security later in this blog.

Diagram: IaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS
When you move to cloud, you manage fewer services than you than you do on premises IT.

What is AWS?

AWS defines itself as follows:

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the world’s most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud platform, offering over 200 fully featured services from data centers globally. Millions of customers – including the fastest-growing startups, largest enterprises, and leading government agencies – are using AWS to lower costs, become more agile, and innovate faster.

This sounds like a whole lot of buzzwords. Let’s unpack what’s in the bold text. 

So, what is a Cloud Platform?

  • An on-demand and elastic IT infrastructure
  • Pay as you go invoicing
  • Network accessible

The term on-demand requires a big change in mindset. “On-demand” changes everything that you can do with your technology platform. It moves us away from a capital-intensive model to a ‘pay as you go model. This means your infrastructure is scalable.

As you grow (or shrink), you can scale your services up or down as needed and only pay for what you use. No longer does a company have to invest in a full stack of expensive infrastructure up front and be forced to stick with it if mistakes were made in over or under provisioning capacity. Cloud provides an on-demand infrastructure that you pay for as you go, thus freeing your business to be more agile and experimental in your deployments.

AWS offers over 200 fully featured services, which means there’s a service for almost everything a business needs. This is a positive benefit for businesses. If there is something you need to do with a technology, AWS likely has an answer so you don’t have to build from scratch.

Mind you, 200 fully featured services can be overwhelming. Despite being an AWS instructor and fan, I don’t feel it addresses new customers very well in terms of guiding them towards the services that they need. Side note: if you are new to AWS, please check out the official AWS community or even Cloud Institute as your go-to resource for AWS.

Having data centers globally is also a big deal. Most companies don’t have the ability to implement data centers across the globe on their own. Despite all the disaster recovery and business continuity (BFCP) plans, a single enterprise will never exceed the geographical footprint of AWS – we are talking about hundreds of geographic regions around the world, each with thousands and possibly millions of servers.

This means your business continues to operate even if there are disruptions due to bad weather, loss of power, or by rehoming your services to another geographic region.

Lastly, lower costs … innovate faster. I’ll break this one down in the next section.

What makes AWS so good

There are some key things I think AWS does better than other cloud providers that are big benefits to your business. If you like to dive deeper into specific customer success stories check out AWS customer case studies.

Cloud security

Security is our most important concern when moving to and choosing a cloud platform. It may sound counter-intuitive, but the AWS cloud is super secure. Despite the fact you’re running on somebody else’s computer, you’ll be able to achieve a better security posture than you ever could with your on premises IT environment. This is because security is at the top of the list for AWS. It offers the largest number of overall features; in fact, it outranks other features specific to performance and high availability.

If you work for a large enterprise, take the number of dedicated security personnel in your organization. Now, add two zeros to it and that’s the number of dedicated security folks that AWS employs.

This rule of thumb applies to all cloud hosting providers, too. In fact, the largest cloud hosting providers all have enormous security teams because it’s their number one priority to protect the security of their ecosystem so that customer data and workloads are always protected against threats.

Higher resilience

Resilience in IT refers to the ability to maintain service when there is a disruption to business systems, applications and networks.

If you can easily improve the recoverability and resilience for your workloads in the cloud given the rich set of capabilities available to you in the cloud. Think about struggle for hardware refresh of your hardware vs on AWS. The hoops you must jump through change requests and getting the hardware shipped etc. All of that disappears when you switch to Cloud.

In fact, AWS has their Well-Architected Framework which provide guidelines on how to build secure, high-performing, resilient, and efficient infrastructure for a variety of your application and workloads in the cloud. Increased agility In my opinion, this is number reason for using AWS. In AWS, your team doesn’t need to learn every single component. Rather, they need to know what to use and when. Just as an auto mechanic doesn’t rebuild an entire car when it won’t start because it only needs a new starter, or IT teams can mirror their entire production environment by spinning up resources in the AWS Cloud in minutes for just quality assurance (QA) testing and even shut them down once testing is complete. This kind of increased agility gives IT teams the ability to experiment and fail quickly!

Lower Costs – kind of

The reason most cloud migrations kick off is to lower costs. I say AWS ‘kind of’ lowers costs because you don’t have hire someone to bring a crash cart into a data center when a server dies. In fact, you don’t have to do any disaster recovery in the data center once you go to the cloud. In the end, you ultimately save a lot of time – that is really where the lower cost discussion comes in. Operating in AWS saves you time and we all know time is money, so yeah – lower costs.

But let’s table the headcount debate. You’re not going to get rid of headcount overnight. What happens is jobs will change and your IT team can perform higher order tasks instead on doing software updates. Your teams will need to get trained up to work on automation and figure out how to mitigate problems before they happen with preventive maintenance.

This is the cool stuff. Thanks to the cloud, all your technology folks are now part of the increased agility discussion in your company, whereas before cloud they really weren’t.

Awesome!

To summarize: Cloud is somebody else’s computer where security is the most important concern. Cloud hosting providers like AWS have you covered. In fact, migrating workloads and applications to the cloud will increase your agility and amplify your company’s digital transformation journey.

Now that we understand the basics of cloud and AWS, it’s time to learn about AWS design principles and building blocks, as well as some key differences between AWS and other cloud platforms.

Continue learning. Read Getting Started with AWS in 2002: Design & Building Blocks.