Starting this November, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is offering a few of its most popular services for web application hosting, including 5 GB of Amazon S3 storage, one Amazon E2 Micro Instance, 30 GB of AWS data transfer and others bundled into a free package for new customers. They’re calling it the AWS Free Usage Tier, but I call it a free trial. Here’s why:
For one, this offer is only available to new AWS customers. And all of the free goodness expires after 12 months or if you exceed the free usage tier. That’s not quite free in the same way that 10 GB of free cloud storage from Dropbox is free or 25 GB of online storage from Windows Live Skydrive is free (read: forever). But really, we’re comparing apples and oranges here—except for Dropbox for Teams, the other two options are mainly geared for personal use and some light to moderate collaboration. AWS, on the other hand, is for web developers looking to host and run web applications (fun fact: Dropbox uses Amazon S3 for its cloud storage). So, if you have a web app that you want to pilot or beta test, then this may be your golden opportunity to do so on the cheap.
With the AWS Free Usage Tier, you get all of the features listed below for a full year. Thereafter, or if you exceed the usage allotments in the free usage tier, you’ll be charged the normal pay-as-you-go rate. That’s more than enough time to see if your new web service or app is a keeper. Here’s what you get per month with the AWS Free Usage Tier:
- 5 GB of Amazon S3 Storage, including 20,000 Get Requests and 2,000 Put Requests
- 30 GB of monthly Internet data transfer (15 GB in/15 GB out)
- Enough hours to run one Amazon EC2 Linux Micro Instance (32-bit or 54-bit) continuously for a month (750 hours).
- 750 hours of Elastic Load Balancer plus 15 GB data processing
- 10 GB of Amazon Elastic Block Storage, including 1 million I/Os, 1 GB of snapshot storage, 10,000 snapshot Get Requests and 1,000 snapshot Put Requests
As for the usage allotments, these do not rollover month-to-month—so, if you only use 15 GB of data transfer in February, you don’t get 45 GB in March.
A lot of those interested in taking Amazon up on its offer are a little bit leery, since you do have to have a valid credit card on file in order to sign up for the AWS Free Usage Tier. I guess we’ve all seen too many free credit report scams in our day. But it seems like you don’t have to worry too much about getting blindsided by additional charges. The standard pricing for AWS is a pay-as-you-go scheme, rated per GB or 1,000 requests or whatever is appropriate.
It’s not even like cell phone minutes, where going over your limit activates some punitive overage rate. For example, the incoming data transfer is priced at $0.10 per GB. So, if you accidentally slip up and go over the 30 GB included in the AWS Free Usage Tier, you’ll probably only be on the hook for a few bucks. And if your web app goes viral or something and you don’t notice that you’re spiking at 1 TB a day, then, well, that’s your own fault—you can monitor your usage via the Account Activity page and pull the plug if you’re nearing the threshold.
Also, in addition to the above list, the AWS Free Usage Tier includes the following features that do not expire after 12 months:
- 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
If any of these bullet points mean anything to you, and you’re not already an AWS customer, then the AWS Free Usage Tier is worth a shot. If you saw “5 GB of Free Storage” in the title of this post and thought, “Well, gee, that won’t even store half of my digital collection of lossless Meatloaf bootlegs,” then stick with Dropbox, Skydrive, Mozy or SugarSync.