What Is Amazon Web Services (AWS)? Everything to Know About the AWS Platform
In today’s era, where digital transformation steers the course of business operations, the need for robust and scalable cloud solutions has never been more apparent. With organizations navigating through an increasingly complex technological landscape, Amazon Web Services (AWS) has emerged as a game changer for small and midsize businesses (SMBs), standing out as a beacon of innovation and reliability.
AWS has quickly become a leader in cloud computing, providing a comprehensive suite of services that empower organizations to scale, innovate and ensure business continuity in the face of unforeseen challenges. More and more businesses are making strategic moves to AWS because of its unparalleled flexibility and agility. Organizations are in need of a dynamic infrastructure that can adapt seamlessly to evolving demands. AWS not only meets them but also offers a wide range of services that cater to diverse business needs.
Join us as we deep dive into the world of AWS to explore the basic infrastructure and technologies involved in its operation model, its diverse range of services and the strategic advantages it brings to the business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) process.
What is AWS?
AWS is a comprehensive cloud computing platform powered by Amazon that includes a blend of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and packaged Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings. It offers a broad set of cloud-based products, including compute, storage, databases, analytics, networking, mobile, developer tools, management tools, security and more, which are available in seconds with pay-as-you-go pricing. The ability to rapidly deploy applications, scale resources on demand and enhance overall operational efficiency has positioned AWS as a go-to choice for businesses aiming to thrive in the digital age.
When did AWS start?
Amazon launched its first web services back in 2002 from the internal infrastructure built to handle its online retail operations. Since 2006, it began offering its defining IaaS services. Gradually, it grew into a cloud computing leader, launching services like EC2 and S3 that changed the way developers built mobile apps. Now, AWS has over 200 services at its fingertips — from storage solutions to machine learning (ML) tools.
How does AWS work?
AWS is not a monolithic entity. Rather, it is meticulously separated into a myriad of services, each designed to cater to specific business functions. These services span an extensive range, exceeding 200+ offerings that include compute, databases, infrastructure management, application development and security. The flexibility of AWS through its configuration options allows users to fine-tune each service to meet their exact specifications. Users can look at the individual server maps and gain a comprehensive understanding of how each component contributes to the overall architecture. This versatile approach allows organizations to build, scale and manage their IT infrastructure with precision, laying the foundation for a resilient and agile digital ecosystem.
What are AWS services?
AWS boasts a rich tapestry of services that form the backbone of its cloud computing platform. These common “types” of services, which can be found under the AWS portfolio, are crafted to accomplish functions crucial to modern business operations. Let us look at them in detail.
AWS offers a wide range of storage services that can be provisioned depending on project requirements and use cases. AWS storage services have different provisions for highly confidential data, frequently accessed data and rarely accessed data.
- Amazon S3: This is an object storage service built to store and retrieve any amount of data from anywhere.
- Amazon Storage Gateway: This is a set of hybrid cloud storage services that provide on-premises applications with access to virtually unlimited cloud storage.
- Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS): An easy-to-use, scalable, high-performance block storage service that is designed for Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).
Multiple organizations run diverse workloads on the AWS compute platform. Thanks to AWS, organizations can get the broadest and deepest compute functionality.
- AWS Lambda: A serverless, event-driven compute service that lets an organization run code for any kind of application or backend service without thinking about servers or clusters.
- Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2): Offers over 750 instances and a choice of the latest processor, storage, networking, operating system and different types of pricing models to help organizations match the needs of their workloads.
- Amazon Elastic Beanstalk: This service helps automatically deploy and scale web applications so that enterprises can focus on business operations.
AWS helps improve a developer’s ability by automating the complete application lifecycle. The services involve platform upgrades with maintenance and support for the smooth running of the cloud environment.
- AWS Cloud9: An integrated development environment (IDE) that offers a rich code editing experience and supports several programming languages and runtime debuggers. It contains a set of tools that can be used to code, build, run, test and debug software.
- AWS CodeCommit: A source control service that helps manage and store codes or documents or any other type of files, such as binary files, etc.
- AWS CodePipeline: A continuous delivery service used to model, visualize and automate the steps required to release software.
There is a wide selection of purpose-built databases offered by AWS that can allow businesses to save, grow and innovate faster.
- Amazon RedShift: It provides fast, simple and cost-effective data warehousing with a fully managed, AI-powered architecture.
- Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS): A collection of managed services that makes it easy to set up, operate and scale a relational database in the cloud.
- Amazon DynamoDB: It is a serverless, fully managed database service with millisecond response times at any scale.
With the help of the AWS management services, organizations can adopt AWS at a scale and operate more efficiently and securely. Companies can use proactive, preventative and detective service capabilities to raise their operational bar and reduce security risks.
- AWS CloudFormation: It helps to model and set up AWS resources so that enterprises can spend less time managing resources and invest more time on applications running in AWS.
- AWS Config: A service that helps assess, audit and evaluate the configurations of AWS resources of an organization.
- AWS CloudTrail: This helps enterprises enable operational and risk auditing, governance and compliance of their AWS account. Actions taken by a user, role or an AWS service are saved as events in CloudTrail.
The security services under the AWS portfolio can be used to identify potential security issues or findings. They send alerts when and where there is possible unauthorized access or suspicious behavior in the AWS deployment.
- AWS Web Application Firewall (WAF): It helps protect the business against common web exploits or bots that can compromise security.
- AWS Macie: Available in most regions, Macie discovers sensitive data by using ML and pattern matching. Thus, it provides visibility into data security risks and enables automated protection against those risks.
- AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM): It helps to control access to AWS resources securely. With IAM, businesses can centrally manage permissions that control which AWS resources can be accessed by users.
With the help of the migration services under the AWS portfolio, enterprises can move their data from on-premises infrastructure to the cloud.
- AWS Snowball: This is a petabyte-scale data migration solution that uses devices that are secure to transfer large amounts of data into and out of the AWS Cloud.
- AWS Server Migration Service (SMS): It helps migrate on-premises servers, virtual machines or cloud servers to AWS.
- AWS Database Migration Service (DMS): As a managed migration and replication service, this helps move database and analytics workloads to AWS quickly and securely.
- Amazon Cognito: This service helps to implement customer identity and access management (CIAM) into web and mobile applications effortlessly. Thanks to Cognito, organizations can quickly add user authentication and access control to applications in minutes.
- AWS AppSync: With the help of AppSync, developers can connect their applications and services to data and events with secure, serverless and high-performing GraphSQL and Pub/Sub APIs.
- AWS Device Farm: This application testing service helps improve the quality of web and mobile apps by testing them across an extensive range of desktop browsers and mobile devices.
The application services of AWS are a bundle of ready-to-run services that can help enterprises build robust applications.
- AWS Step Functions: As a serverless orchestration service, Step Functions helps enterprises integrate with AWS Lambda and other AWS services to build critical applications.
- Amazon Simple Notification Service (SNS): This web service helps to send messages from an application to other applications or subscribers.
- Amazon Simple Queue Service (SQS): It facilitates the decoupling and scaling of microservices, distributed systems and serverless applications, allowing organizations to exchange and store messages between software components.
AWS analytics services use proven ML and natural language capabilities to gain deeper and faster insights into organizational data.
- Amazon Athena: This is an interactive query service that makes it easy to analyze data directly in Amazon S3 using standard SQL.
- Amazon Elastic Map Reduce: It simplifies running big data frameworks on AWS to process and analyze huge amounts of data.
- Amazon QuickSight: It is a business intelligence (BI) service that companies can use to deliver insights to the people they work with, irrespective of their location.
What is AWS used for?
Since its inception, AWS has been widely accepted by corporations from multiple domains — from IT companies to government sectors, including military, banking, etc. Let us take a look at some of the common applications of the AWS services we talked about earlier.
- Artificial intelligence (AI) and ML: Thanks to AWS, organizations can innovate faster with the most comprehensive set of AI and ML services. AI solutions powered by AWS can help enhance customer experiences, enable faster and better decision making and optimize business operations.
- Data management: As a global data management platform, AWS can help build a modern data strategy. It helps enterprises choose the right purpose-built database, achieve performance at scale, run fully managed databases and rely on availability and security.
- Backup and archiving: For any cloud computing service, backup and archiving are crucial. AWS provides reliable storage services to store large-scale data while offering backup services to back up data that is stored in other AWS services. Data in AWS is stored in three different availability zones so that if one fails, enterprises can still access the data — making AWS storage reliable and easily accessible.
- Content delivery: AWS takes care of the content delivery with the help of Amazon CloudFront and offers high performance, security and developer convenience. As a result, organizations get to run applications and every workload on a secure and reliable network.
- Customer engagement: With the help of the technologies and the tactics implemented by AWS to engage with customers, enterprises can create the best possible customer experience across their customer lifecycle. Services like Amazon Connect and Amazon Pinpoint can help them establish cloud-based contact centers and multichannel marketing communications that automate natural conversations and real-time data.
- Gaming: AWS serves many gaming studios. Integrating Amazon S3 and EC2 services with CloudFront allows the websites to deliver high-quality gaming experiences to customers globally.
- Internet of Things: The presence of AWS IoT Core allows connected devices to interact with cloud applications and other devices easily and securely. It can support billions of devices and an equal number of messages. So, organizations can use it to process and route a bulk number of messages to AWS endpoints and to other devices reliably and securely. Also, with the AWS IoT Application Kit, developers can build rich, interactive web applications leveraging data from AWS IoT SiteWise.
- Messaging and notifications: AWS provides organizations the facility to create an app in their desired programming language. For the better performance of those apps, in-app messaging channels to send targeted messages to users should be fully functional. AWS Amplify is used by organizations to seamlessly integrate the in-app messaging capabilities of Amazon Pinpoint into the apps.
- Networking: Networking is essential for businesses in the present-day scenario, and it is easier with AWS. Organizations use services like AWS social networking engine to help them build a suitable networking site and gain profits.
- Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR): AWS offers AR and VR tools via Babylon.js and AWS Simplify. The former lets users create AR and VR applications without any programming knowledge and allows users to test and publish applications in-browser. AWS Simplify allows developers to host and deploy their AR and VR applications.
Who uses AWS?
According to a Synergy Research Group report, Amazon’s share in the worldwide cloud infrastructure market was at 32% in the second quarter of 2023. As the most famous cloud computing platform, AWS is embraced by many popular companies for various applications. The top players from industries such as media and entertainment, science and technology, healthcare, banking and more are using AWS. Some of the big names using AWS are Capital One, Airbnb, McDonald’s, Adobe, Netflix, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Twitch, Verizon, Salesforce, Dropbox, FOX and Epic Games.
What are the benefits of AWS?
Popular companies around the world are favoring AWS as their cloud provider because of the multiple benefits it provides. Here are some of the top advantages of using AWS:
- User-friendly nature: AWS comes with a user-friendly programming model that can provide quick and secure access to data. Users can modify their data at their convenience. Starting with AWS as a cloud provider is much easier for most companies than using other providers.
- Flexibility: Many companies prefer AWS because of its flexibility. It allows organizations to select the operating system, programming language, web application platform, database and other required services. They can also build a virtual environment by setting up preferable operating systems and applications. AWS can also ease the migration process and allow organizations to work on new solutions simultaneously.
- Security: This is one of the best benefits of AWS cloud computing and follows different layers of data surveillance for the purpose. AWS utilizes an end-to-end approach for securing and hardening the infrastructure (physical, operational and software). As a result, companies don’t need to worry about confidentiality and can focus on business development.
- Cost-effectiveness: When using AWS, companies need to pay only for the tools and services they are using, thanks to the pay-as-you-go pricing method. This makes the AWS services unique and cheaper than the traditional computing method. Moreover, it is a no-commitment service. So, you can start or stop using it anytime without much hassle.
- Reliability: Amazon is a trustworthy name among its customers and clients all around the world. AWS carries out its tasks accurately when required, and most of its services can automatically recover from failure.
- Scalability and elasticity: With tools like AWS Auto Scaling and Elastic Load Balancing, a particular application of an enterprise can scale up or down based on demand. Spinning up new servers is easy at AWS, and organizations can add more servers and start using them in minutes.
What are the challenges of using AWS?
On the flip side, there are a few disadvantages of using AWS. The limitations regarding Amazon EC2 and security are the most common ones. Companies using AWS have default resources to use. However, the default resource limits vary from region to region. Many companies see this as a challenge.
AWS is the latest invention with complex infrastructure, with only a few professionals skilled in it. This lack of expertise in the market puts AWS in a disadvantageous position. Another limitation is the price variation. AWS comes with supportive paid packages for immediate response, which users might have to pay extra money for.
Lastly comes the general cloud computing issues, like unplanned downtime or inadequate backup protection, that arise during cloud migration. There is a common misconception when backing up data to a cloud server like AWS that the cloud provider will be responsible for data safety. However, it follows the shared responsibility model, which means a reliable backup and recovery solution is required to safeguard AWS data.
Embrace cloud computing with Unitrends
With Unitrends Backup software (virtual appliances), organizations like yours can leverage AWS to protect data in two ways — off-site backup copy (replicating a copy of local backups to an appliance deployed in AWS for safekeeping) and backup for production AWS workloads. In both cases, you save time with frictionless deployment and centralized management via the easy-to-use Unitrends dashboard.
You can also pair your on-prem backup appliance with an AWS storage bucket (S3 and/or S3-IA) for off-site, long-term retention and archiving. Offsite backup copies are a critical aspect of a business continuity and you can leverage AWS for a layer of redundancy, security and peace of mind that your data is secure and can be readily recovered in case of any unfortunate data loss incident.
Curious to find out how Unitrends Backup virtual appliances deployed in AWS can safeguard your data and workloads? Book a call with us today.