Thursday, August 11, 2011

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Amazon EC2: Moving to the Cloud

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Amazon Web Services Logo
Amazon EC2 is arguably the most robust cloud computing server platform available.  You can start up a cluster of servers tailored to meet your needs in under a couple of minutes and then discard them just as quickly.  This post walks you through how to get started with Amazon EC2.

Amazon EC2 is Amazon's virtual server cloud offering.  When you start up an EC2 server, you are really just starting up a virtual
server complete with the operating system, features and hardware specs that you choose.  To start using Amazon's EC2 service, you must first create an account and give them your credit card.  That's right, this stuff isn't free (although sometimes they do have intro specials for micro instances and the like).  But the good news is that you only pay for what you use when you're using it.  And you can start and stop EC2 instances at the drop of a hat.  For EC2 pricing info, go to

If you go to then there is a link at the top to Create an AWS Account.  Click on that link, setup an account and let the fun begin.  Select the AWS Management Console link to see a view of all your active services in your browser.  From here you can navigate to S3 storage, EC2 and other services.  For our purposes, we only care about EC2.

AWS Management Console: EC2 Tab

If you click on the EC2 tab then you can see all the EC2 instances you currently have running (if you had any running) and you also get the option to create a new EC2 instance.  We'll get into creating an EC2 instance in a bit.  But first we need to do a little setup work.

Before you can login to any EC2 instance, you need to create some access credentials.  To do this, click the link to go into your AWS Account and select Security Credentials.  On the Security Credentials Screen, create an Access Key, a X.509 Certificate and an EC2 Key Pair.  You will need them all eventually.  So, you might as well create them all now.

AWS Account Access Credentials

When you create your EC2 Key Pair, download the private key onto your machine and put it somewhere safe where you will remember it.  If you lose it, you can't get it again.  You will just have to create another one and hope you don't lose it again ;)

I am working on my Linux machine, so I am going to copy my .pem file to my .ssh directory.  You don't have to copy it there.  I just do it because I am going to use the .pem file to SSH into my EC2 server, so I figure why not keep it with my other SSH keys.

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