Would you like a free server for a year?

The best things in life are free. While this may not always hold true, I think you will be thoroughly pleased with this freebie. This is not new and has been around for a while now, but from talking with people both new and experienced with servers I’ve found few people who are aware of this important piece of information.

You may have heard about Amazon Web Services (AWS), or more specifically their Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). Have you heard about the free usage tier though? I’m sure this is supposed to be like a gateway drug where you try out AWS and you are hooked.  Just check out what all you can get for free (for a year) below!

  • 750 hours of Amazon EC2 Linux Micro Instance usage (613 MB of memory and 32-bit and 64-bit platform support) – enough hours to run continuously each month*
  • 750 hours of Amazon EC2 Microsoft Windows Server Micro Instance usage (613 MB of memory and 32-bit and 64-bit platform support) – enough hours to run continuously each month*
  • 750 hours of an Elastic Load Balancer plus 15 GB data processing*
  • 30 GB of Amazon Elastic Block Storage, plus 2 million I/Os and 1 GB of snapshot storage*
  • 5 GB of Amazon S3 standard storage, 20,000 Get Requests, and 2,000 Put Requests*
  • 100 MB of storage, 5 units of write capacity, and 10 units of read capacity for Amazon DynamoDB.**
  • 15 GB of bandwidth out aggregated across all AWS services*
  • 25 Amazon SimpleDB Machine Hours and 1 GB of Storage**
  • 100,000 Requests of Amazon Simple Queue Service**
  • 100,000 Requests, 100,000 HTTP notifications and 1,000 email notifications for Amazon Simple Notification Service**
  • 10 Amazon Cloudwatch metrics, 10 alarms, and 1,000,000 API requests**

As of January 18, 2012 (http://aws.amazon.com/free/).

Now to redeem your free servers (yes, plural — notice both Linux AND Microsoft above) all you need to do is click here and sign up. Now this will require both a credit card on file as well as going through an automated phone verification process. This is painless enough and even though some people are unhappy with it if you are a legitimate user you should not have any problems with getting through registration in a few minutes, and I just spun up both a Windows and Linux server both ready to go in less than 60 seconds.

In the coming future there will be many new articles on how to setup your own servers and different things you can use a server for over shared hosting. This would be a great (free/cheap) way to try out some ideas. Amazon AWS may or may not be right for you in the long run, and coming soon I will go over how to choose a good hosting provider. For now… enjoy the free ride!

15 Responses

    • New Recruit


      * These free tiers are only available to new AWS customers, and are available for 12 months following your AWS sign-up date. When your free usage expires or if your application use exceeds the free usage tiers, you simply pay standard, pay-as-you-go service rates (see each service page for full pricing details). Restrictions apply; see offer terms for more details.

      ** These free tiers do not expire after 12 months and are available to both existing and new AWS customers indefinitely.

  • I have started to study this possibility a few days ago, and I find all these terms to be very confusing.

    I do have a couple of questions:
    There is a service called BitNami (http://bitnami.org/stack/wordpress) that provides installers for the EC2. What I wanted to understand is whether this type of installation allows me to later on use FTP to access the files.
    Is it possible to install more than one WordPress, with more than one domain, as a standalone installation, not as Multisite, in the same free account?

    • New Recruit

      Yes you are able to. The free usage tier gives you full access to the virtual server. Within this you can install anything you want. If you want to use FTP you will need to install an FTP server, if you want multiple (separate) WordPress installs just install it multiple times, but this may require configuring the web server (probably Apache).

      This is where the big differences between shared hosting and VPS hosting start coming to light. Shared hosting you get some credentials and you are going, VPS hosting you actually have to set everything up manually.

      You may want to opt for “CentOS” as your operating system for your Linux server and follow this guide: https://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/how-to-setup-a-web-server-with-three-commands/

      • Thanks, Patrick for the quick reply. I have a couple more questions:

        1. I understand that VPS works similarly to a dedicated server – httpd.conf, ssh and so on. Is that right?
        2. What about IPs. I Install more than one WordPress, will they all get the same IP address?
        3. Is it possible to install an SSL certificate for each of the sites?
        4. Are you familiar with BitNami? Do you recommend it for WordPress installation?


        • New Recruit

          1. Think of a VPS as a dedicated server with a control panel. You get almost the same options as a dedicated server but you can reboot it, do reinstalls with a few clicks, much more flexibility than an actual dedicated server. Most Dedi’s you have to contact support for any of this and resolutions may take an hour or more on a good day. Few hosts actually have panels for reboots and reinstalls on dedi’s.

          2. Usually you get 1 IP with a VPS, more can be bought but usually just 1 to start. You can run as many sites as you want from one IP, you will point your domains A record to the IP and when your web server is setup, you’ll tie domains to vhosts. The vhost tells the web server that when a certain domain is used on that IP to serve the files from directory XYZ. If the domain is not configured then depending on your settings you get a default page or get redirected to a “main” site.

          3. Yes, you can run SSL on each site all on one server. However this touches on IP’s as well. Apache CAN support multiple SSL enabled sites on one IP, web browsers do not all support it (most modern ones do). Most modern web servers CAN support this, I prefer Nginx myself, but it does usually require some extra setup or configuration. For best compatability, you could always get an extra IP and just run each site off it’s own IP. If you have 10 SSL enabled sites you can run all 10 from unique IP’s on one server. With IP’s becoming more rare the usual price of $1/mo/ip may be going up though.

          4. I am not familiar with Bitnami, but I know of the concept. Similar to Turnkey Linux though which I have used: http://www.turnkeylinux.org/. That will configure one single website, but when you add more you will end up needing to do some more setup. The extra setup is usually fairly easy though (relative to other tasks).

          Kinda lengthy but hope it helps!

        • New Recruit

          PS: Watch for fees on companies that offer “preconfigured” EC2 instances and things like this. I know that Turnkey Linux has a monthly fee on top of AWS, which is fine with me — but if you are expecting free and you get charged just don’t want you to be surprised. Turnkey Linux has it to support the development of their Hub and help pay for their costs, others probably for the same reason

    • New Recruit

      Here is pricing info: http://aws.amazon.com/ec2/pricing/

      Here is a pricing calculator (for monthly prices just do 100% utilization or 24 hours/day): http://calculator.s3.amazonaws.com/calc5.html

      Free usage tier offers Micro sized EC2 instances. Micro for a full month your looking at $15-$20/mo

      Small is the default size, which your looking at $60-$70/mo.

      If you pay upfront you can get “reserved instances” where you are saying you basically you are going to keep the instances for a while and by doing this get a flat rate rather than per hour rate. Looking at ~$100/yr for Small, ~$25 for Micro. Now I don’t have all the information on extra costs here (ie. bandwidth) but still looks like a good deal!

      Feature wise, AWS is one of the most user un-friendly panels. It is not really intuitive for new users, especially those trying to learn VPS. Probably the most features and options but each will rack up a bill with an hourly rate. You have Amazon backing it so you know it is “reliable” in the sense the hosting company is there to stay. However bang for buck wasn’t there for me to stay personally. You won’t find a free usage tier at other companies but I currently use Rackspace Cloud Servers for my own hosting and websites. VPS in general it isn’t so much the host that gives you features as you install what you want on the server, you want to pay attention to price, performance, and support.


  • Looking forward to ALL WordPress + AWS stuff. Please comment back here when you get a separate category or follow-up blog post or something I can continue reading about.

    Thank you.

  • Patrick,

    I am starting to get the idea, but I have a couple more questions.

    1. How is the technical support at Amazon. It’s a critical point, in my opinion. Right now I am hosting at Rackspace Cloud, which has an excellent technical support.
    2. If I install the server in a certain Data center (region), does it automatically serves as a CDN if someone from another region, say, South America access my site.

    Thanks again

    • New Recruit

      1. If tech support is important for you, stay at rackspace. You have a forum, I think that’s about it… not very well monitored from past experiences either.

      2. If you setup your server in Region A it will only be in Region A. Even S3 is not a CDN it stays in your region. Unlike Rackspace Cloudfiles which can sync to Akamai.

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