Transferring Websites to Amazon

Provisioning of Amazon AWS Services for WordPress

Servers in Australia

Flexible e-mail options

WordPress on VPS Hosting

New Client Strategies

Servers in Australia

Flexible e-mail options

WordPress on VPS Hosting

New Client Strategies

My IT skills developed on Unix platforms while working with ASX listed companies, including IBM Australia. This covered a broad range of technologies, eventually moving into IT Solutions Architecture Design.

I splashed my feet in Amazon waters in 2012 when building hobbyist WordPress sites. Myself, friends and various traders or small business owners expressed real concerns around providers, high pricing, lack of solutions, and even placing designs on hold.

Many tasks web designers do should be straight forward, allowing focus on a total solution instead. Amazon services may become part of one’s overall skills portfolio as it demonstrates value, flexibility, performance, scalability and robustness.

Amazon services have a steep learning curve with higher levels of maintenance when compared to various providers. It is an excellent environment for people with IT skills who like to demonstrate confidence for the client’s benefit. We are basically using Linux services on Virtual Private Servers, leveraging commercial and government data center capacities at extremely low costs. This is not the cPanel platform.

I would be pleased to talk with people about the Amazon AWS environment to help in appreciating and hence evaluating viability, extent of work and scope.

Development of Amazon AWS Technology Skills

Once you own AWS skills, you own them as a tangible asset. No one can simply “have” them without a decision to develop and acquire. This is a rewarding learning curve that yields really good project results.

The following high level points give an idea of scope of works.

Amazon Services

The Amazon AWS Console provides access to all AWS billing and resources.

Billing:
Account creation, invoicing, budgeting alerts, monthly usage.

DNS:
Configure your Domain Name Services – new or existing domain names and registrations. DNS caters for CAAA records.

SMTP e-mail:
Configure the Simple Email Service (SES) for your domain name and then move out of sandbox mode.
DNS entries include DKIM, SPF and DMARC.

Linux:
Installing an EC2 instance and configure the Linux. E.g., Linux2, Linux-2022, Debian etc. for WordPress or other apps.
There are differences between Linux2 and Linux-2022.

Ability to install Debian 10 with Openlitespeed. Note that Linux-2022 is faster than Linux2.

(After testing, I do not use Fedora installations.)

Ability to use SHELL scripts for maintenance or crontab, S3 Bucket storage for standard backups or using website content from S3.

Administration Access:
SSH login and typically FileZilla or equivalent.

Some Other Options:
CDN, IP2location, NFS to S3 Buckets, use of 3rd Party e-mail.

This is a list of the Amazon AWS Services we use:

DNS – registrations and DNS Hosted Zones.

SES, S3, Lambda and Cloudwatch – e-mail configurations for basic or 3rd party use such as Microsoft Exchange.

IAM – security access controls.

EC2 – launching the Linux instance, instance management and connection, Static IP, Reserved Instance discounts, Snapshots.

Certificate Manager and Cloudfront – for optional WordPress CDN service.

Cloudwatch Alarms – Automated monitoring. We may add crontab scripts for additional monitoring.

Comment: There are infrequent events causing downtime, such as exceeding memory capacity from denial of service attacks. Shell scripts are useful.
Larger companies likely make use of load balancing and RAID disk.

Amazon AWS services requires technical skills, developed as a longer-term learning curve. We have a healthy problem solving approach as per normal industry practice and delivery. As these skills improve with yourself or a team, configurations and maintenance become a second language. One may have full confidence in supporting clients. Maintenance costs may be included in client fees.

Amazon provides inexpensive VPS services without instability.

Provisioning of Amazon AWS Services for WordPress

Developing Marketing Value

Amazon AWS Services provides a solid, reliable WordPress hosting platform in Sydney (and later to be in Melbourne) for fast, strict security and performance anywhere in Australia.

Cost savings are potentially large. Even individual clients on lower cost plans can benefit, which they really like.

If you have IT and Unix/Linux based skills in-house, you may develop a significant and beneficial Amazon offering to your clients. These services are commonly available to Corporations but you may leverage this strength for your clients. Clients do not need to remain locked into their current hosting providers.

Sometimes it is more of a psychological factor locking people in, or a false sense of thinking how good a service is when it is highly organised to make people feel that way.

Amazon Services

Website pricing increased significantly in the mid-2010’s.

“Aussie” providers present an interface to the public for purchasing and configuring WordPress and e-mail. The “Help Desk” gives a sense of security.
Pretty much everyone is used to managing their website with cPanel.

Some services in my view are over-priced, and various services are not hosted on servers in Australia. There are potential hidden costs such as the now mandatory use of SSL certificates. These behind-the-scenes details become part of decision making for myself and others.

It is easy to go into a long list of historical issues, but I don’t think this helps. I have many stories myself and others have had with providers, but not with Amazon. A website end-to-end delivery service benefits by gaining experience and having confidence in handling such issues. One may always transfer a website from Amazon to a provider with the WordPress database and website files.

Some differences a client will see with Amazon:

USD to AUD exchange rate.
Monthly billing with an annual upfront discount fee.
Familiarisation with the Amazon account/billing console.

Some differences a designer will see:

Several component services requiring configuration, and termination when services are ended, either in global or regional locations.
Use of forums and problem solving skills as we do not pay for a help desk. I would comment that my past experience with help desks were ineffective for critical problems.
Lower costs and faster performance to various other cPanel services.
Web pages edit without freezing, and page displays make use of burst CPU if needed – immediate page displays (of course with caching as well).
If not installing various WordPress slider plugins, I have managed to achieve a 99% rating in GTMETRIX (!!!)
As mentioned, a lot of IT going on and steep learning curves until things are second nature. IT people will love this environment.
Easy to install SSL certificates or to use a free Let’s Encrypt certificate(s).
Subdomains require an additional hosted zone. Each hosted zone is USD 50cents (ex. GST).
One needs to examine the costs each month to understand how pricing works. Budget alerts usually e-mail you several hours after an expense.
The main protection from unwarranted expense is to use standard services and ensure the option for unlimited CPU credit is disabled on an EC2 instance.
We only use t3a.nano or t3a.micro instances on Linux2. If there are lots of photographs, galleries etc., or one has a small business, we use t3a.micro in Sydney.
Linux-2022 will only use t4g.nano or micro, at a slightly lower cost and faster performance to t3.
Linux-2022 does not use php-memcached, but will install memcached itself. It does not install php-apcu either. We also use Snapd to install Let’s Encrypt Certbot certificates.
Linux2 really needs Mariadb to be updated from v5 to v10. It uses php7.4, whereas Linux-2022 uses php8.1.
An installer needs to keep in mind that sometimes an installation problem does not go away unless one does sync;sync;reboot from the shell, and that Certbot does work but is sometimes really messy to sort out.
Amazon provides a snapshot for disaster recovery. One can re-install a service within minutes.

People get caught out with SSL and e-mail costs when comparing services, or using services based overseas. How often does a service give a Gateway error, a database goes down, server response time is too long, or a service is impacted from an overseas disaster event? In my view, it is too high a risk to purchase services with 5 year contracts to obtain good prices, as technology will change during that time frame.

A number of hosting providers advertise features that to me are not part of my decision making. For instance, commercial data centers pay penalties for downtime, so marketing no downtime is not necessarily true from a provider, or, advertising huge amounts of disk space when you only need 8GB anyway. Advertising SEO when they should be normal bread and butter configurations for us. I also consider company practices. I don’t support shooting of animals, providing my drivers license number, or some overseas business practices.

Amazon AWS is a mission critical platform we may leverage.

Overview of Benefits

Amazon AWS Services provides a solid, reliable WordPress hosting platform in Sydney (and later to be in Melbourne) for fast, strict security and performance anywhere in Australia.

Cost savings are potentially large. Even individual clients on lower cost plans can benefit, which they really like.

If you have IT and Unix/Linux based skills in-house, you may develop a significant and beneficial Amazon offering to your clients. These services are commonly available to Corporations but you may leverage this strength for your clients. Clients do not need to remain locked into their current hosting providers.

Providers have well developed marketing strategies. Sometimes it is a psychological factor making people feel they are locked into a service or that the provider cares about them and looks after them really well. As web designers and provisioning delivery one should look past these things.

  • Best practice WordPress hosting including Apache Server, (or OpenLiteSpeed option)
  • WordPress database ideally located on the same server rather than elsewhere
  • No WordPress pages freezing during editing
  • Safe transition of WordPress to Amazon or back to another provider in the future
  • Develop a new website on Amazon infrastructure or transfer existing site
  • Immediate & highly significant cost savings
  • Lower tiered cost option for a development system
  • Budgeting alerts to protect your account, optionally with MFA authentication
  • Superb fast performance – Linux server with “burst” CPU, Data Center monitoring & uptime
  • Strictest industry security
  • In-Country server located in Sydney
  • Full administration control (non-restricted) – e.g. SSH, PHP configs, disaster backups, security updates
  • Manage new or existing Domain with or via Amazon’s comprehensive DNS functionality
  • Link numerous files into Amazon S3 Bucket storage with fast speed and low cost
  • Virtually free Content Delivery Network (CDN) with geographic control and https:// access
  • Lowest cost Positive SSL Certificates (or higher as required) through Comodo Store
  • Free SSL certificates for Domain Name only via Let’s Encrypt/Certbot
  • Re-direct other Domains to your Domain via Cloudflare or Amazon services
  • Free country IP blocking
  • Virtually free entry level e-mail with industry standard security (Anti-Spam, DKIM etc.)
  • E-mail options for Microsoft Exchange, Amazon WorkMail or Google Business
  • Free e-mail (forwarding only) for small websites using full business e-mail security
  • Advanced Linux options such as use of shell scripts, hooking in PHP commands, or crontab

Pricing

AWS Pricing

Practically, there is no ability to compare technical specifications between providers’ hardware and services – even Amazon will keep various things out of the public realm. We usually create an account and test the service. Over time we gain experience. A client may not see we have such value – but we should have it as part of best practice.

When comparing pricing, we may fairly say a recommended non-Amazon WordPress site varies from $15 to $19 per month excluding SSL and e-mail. There are some services higher than this, or price blowouts from SSL and e-mail.

For Amazon we allow approximately $2.50 to $3.00 per month, which includes sub-components for hard disk space, bandwidth etc., and an assumed annual discounted fee that keeps these costs to this base level, effectively $5.50 per month for a t3a.nano instance, or $8.50 for a t3a.micro instance. This means an Amazon total of roughly $8 to $10 (t3a.nano) or $11 to $14 (t3a.micro) per month. (I have beefed up the prices a little due to exchange rates at time of writing.) t4g instances are slightly less cost.

For e-mail, we may pay for Microsoft products (or Google) directly rather than paying the provider as intermediary. An MS Exchange plan (1) for one user license and multiple aliases and domain names is AUD $66 per year, ex. GST.

Or, for simple systems, we may have a virtually no-cost Amazon SES business email quality service, forwarding emails to your own email account. This free service uses DKIM, SPF, DMARC and Anti-Spam behind it with e-mail monitoring – e.g. manage bounced emails. You may also hook in services to your DNS configurations such as Mailchimp, so the emails are verifiable.

Some sites have free SSL, and others charge, for example, even over $50. These sorts of things can add up. Another example, does the provider allow you to manage your DNS records or charge a fee? Amazon DNS zones only cost USD 50 cents a month (ex GST).

As a rough comparison, using fair costs, you could be paying for a t3a.micro instance with paid SSL for $150 per year instead of $250 per year. Using a three year plan, that could be $90 per year instead of $150. (We can use Free SSL as well if a business name is not certified.) Cost is much less for a t3a.nano instance.

If we move to the next level of a 2CPU/2GB RAM t3a.small VPS system (none of my clients use this higher performance) you could be paying on a three year tenancy, $160 per year versus > $1,000 with another provider as their minimum. Some may charge higher.

Over a five year period these costs are significant, especially if you have multiple clients.

Note too, the prices shown above exclude CDN which is virtually free on Amazon.

Clients may also use S3 buckets for documents or images. I have tested various cloud services and found Amazon performance and cost preferable.

Clients may have incentive to move to Amazon.

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