Moving from HostGator to Amazon Web Services

I’ve been user of “low cost” shared web hosting for many years. I started with blueHost and I ended with HostGator. The experience has not been fully satisfactory, the control panel is bulky and the work is not really smooth, however my cost analysis concluded that they were the most cost effective.

You can see a snapshot of HostGator control panel. It is a standard cPanel used by many web hosting providers such as HostGator or BlueHost. Well, it does the job… I think the main advantage is that everything is in a single view: file management, domains and DNS control, installation of software packages such as Joomla! or WordPress, database management with phpMyAdmin and others, eMail managment, some sort of security, etc. However, I always found it overcrowded with unnecessary options.

HostGator cPanel

For me a very effective marketing proposal of shared hosting is the appealing technical features of unlimited email accounts, 1 TB of MySQL data, 1 TB of storage, unlimited FTP accounts. Nevertheless, after many years using shared hosting I realised that those numbers are not reachable due to CPU performance and limitation of the standard control panel.

The first catch is the cost of the service. I have the “Baby” plan, if you go to HostGator web site they advertise that the cost is 3.95EUR/month, but this is only for first time clients. The cost of the renewal of the service jumps significantly, from 3.95 to 9.95EUR/month. If you are choosing a web hosting services, consider both cases for a qualified judgement.

Recently I was looking for a more flexible and scalable solution of web hosting and came to my attention Amazon Web Services (AWS). Again I did a cost analysis and turned out that AWS is cheaper than the “low cost” shared hosting such as HostGator.

AWS does not offer control panel shared hosted models like the “low cost” providers. The entry level is Virtual Privet Servers (VPS) in all kind of configurations, up to private servers. VPS is also a shared server model, but the main difference is that you have full control of your instance. You can choose what operation system want to run, how many RAM memory, the size of the storage, etc.

AWS managment console is intimidating, it grants access to hundreds of services. Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) is the core of AWS, it provides a profesional dashboard with many functionalities but well structured. Maybe one of the most shocking features is the extensive scalability of their Amazon Machine Image (AMI) with tenths of available operation systems and hundreds of hardware set ups.

The pricing concept is quite different to HostGator. They offer three models, on-demand, spot instances and reserved instances. On-demand is the most popular, here you pay per hour of AMI utilisation and you can pause the instance any time, the drawback is that it is the most expensive option. Spot instances are up to 90% of on-demands but the availability of the instance is not guaranteed, this option is perfect for testing. Finally, reserved instances are for long-term commitment with a discount up to 75% compared to On-demand instances. Well, at this moment I was getting crazy with so many options of instances and pricing strategies… then I found Amazon Lightsail.

Amazon Lightsail is a very easy way to jump start your web hosting using AWS. It has all you need, the virtual server with the operation system, a simple and clear dashboard, a predictable pricing, installation of the most popular Content Manage System such as WordPress, Drupal or Joomla, DNS zone control, back up, etc. a piece of cake. Any maybe one of the most appealing factors is their very low cost.

In my case I chose the entry level option of 512MB memory, 1 core processor, 20GB SSD disk and 1TB transfer for 3.5USD/month, obviously you always can upgrade if you find the the CPU is overloaded of you need more disk. For me at this point I already realised that AWS with Lightsail was better option than a shared hosting with cPanel from HostGator. On the day of this post, HostGator option is 9.95USD/month with a contract of 3 years and Amazon Lightsail is 3.5USD/month without long term contracts.

You might think that I do not compare apples with apples, well next image depicts HostGator offer for VPS hosting, if we compare the characteristics for 40USD/months we observe:

HostGatorAmazon Lightsail
Memory4 GB8 GB
Processor2 Cores2 Cores
Disk160 GB160 GB SSD
Transfer2 TB5 TB

Amazon Lightsail is superior in memory and transfer data.

I’ve host my personal WordPress blog in Amazon Lightsail and overall I’m very satisfied with the service. I find Lightsail very comprehensive and easy to use. WordPress is packaged in a distribution from Bitnami, witch does the job of install WordPress very easily. Bitnami also provides a solid documentation and a big variety of functionalities.

My next steps with this WordPress web site is to monetize it. I’m working out two directions, from one hand to add Google AsSense advertisements, however Google is very picky with the content and all the time claims that I have scraped content… they will force me to review all my posts. The second pillar will be to ask a very low price (1 EUR) for each of my university assays, projects or source code.

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