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Hosting WordPress on Amazon AWS EC2 (this website)

This website is built with the WordPress content management system (CMS). The site is hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS). The purpose of this post is to review this solution specifically for those interested in creating a personal website for their creative work, small business or whatever. Hosting WordPress on AWS is not a popular choice. I believe there are some misconceptions about this. My goal here is to share my experience with it and shed some light on the details.

Criticism #1: It’s Very Technical

This solution is widely viewed as requiring a high level of technical skill. Because this statement is relative and subjective, it is important to define exactly what makes this more technical than other approaches.

When you host WordPress on AWS you renting a Virtual Private Server (VPS). This means that you are getting more than an instance of WordPress. You are getting a virtual Linux server. Having a VPS has advantages when compared to other hosting options. These are extensively covered elsewhere on the web, so I won’t get into that.

The idea of having to manage a Linux server is understandably intimidating. However, it is important to note that the amount of tasks required on the server is very limited. Additionally, the Linux command line knowledge to complete these tasks is minimal. During my initial setup of this website, I logged onto the server to perform one task, removing the Bitnami banner from WordPress. Later, I had to log onto the server to install a Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate. On going, I have to log on every 90 days to renew that certificate. I know, I should probably just automate that.

If what I have described is considered very technical, that’s fine. Others may not consider it a big deal. Again, having details will help inform better decisions.

Criticism #2: It’s Very Costly

There seems to be a belief that a VPS on AWS or just a VPS in general is more expensive than shared hosting. Generally, this may be true. However, the details are important. The other problem here is that the calculator that AWS provides to estimate costs is very challenging to use and a bit overwhelming. I will share my monthly charges to help shed some light on this.

AWS Bill For October 2018

In short, I am paying a grand total of approximately $10.00 per month. Because I am using a free SSL certificate from Let’s Encrypt, there’s no additional cost for that. The only other charge is the domain name which is $12.00 per year through Google Domains.

The AWS charges are determined by usage. Specifically computing resources, data transfer and storage. It is important to note that my site does not get a lot of traffic. If traffic to my site dramatically increased, my charges would increase.  I don’t have detailed numbers on what this actually looks like. I think it is safe to say that my website traffic is typically of a personal website or website that supports creative work. Like other musicians and creatives, my social media accounts are serving as the place where people check out my work.

Also, important to note is that because of AWS’s Free Tier, my charges were $0.00 for the first year. In other words, I only started paying monthly after the first year.

In summary, using AWS to host WordPress is a good option to consider. It may be better for the more DIY-minded types who don’t mind researching how to do a few things. The goal here was not to convince anyone that they should choose this solution. However, claims that it is costly and requires a lot of technical skill should be closely analyzed.

An advantage of using AWS that is not mentioned anywhere in the linked articles above is the strength and size of Amazon. By this, I mean that Amazon is not going anywhere anytime soon. So, you probably don’t need to worry about your website hosting provider being bought out or folding. In addition, AWS is an enormously powerful and widely used cloud computing service. It certainly doesn’t hurt to gain some knowledge of the platform. That knowledge could be handy in the future for something else.

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