Setting Up an Amazon AWS Account

Amazon AWS (Amazon Web Service) is an amazingly cool tool for anyone in technology. They offer servers (Linux and Windows), databases (relational and NoSQL), online storage (SSD!), and, well, a mess of other things. And they’re free. That’s right, free (for 12 months, using the lowest level of services). Beyond the free stuff everyone gets, they offer grants to academics and students.

However, this stuff isn’t trivial to manage. You need a certain amount of expertise, and even a student in CS or IS doesn’t necessarily have all of the background she needs to set up and configure everything.

I’m planning on using AWS in some of my courses, so I put together a document describing how to set everything up. Right now, the document will take you from just past creating your account (which you can do on your own, and is pretty easy) to setting up a server instance (Linux) and a database instance (MySQL). The document is in a draft stage, is not pretty, but is linked from this post. The document is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, and is available here in two formats: PDF and Word .docx. The PDF is probably easier for most purposes, but the Word file is available for a few reasons: first, if you want to improve it under the terms of the CC license I want to enable that, and second, PDFs are notoriously hard for accessibility software like screen readers to use.

A few caveats:

  • You don’t need to know Linux/UNIX at all to follow these instructions, but you’ll be somewhat stuck until you learn more
  • The same is true for relational databases/MySQL
  • Did I mention the document is a draft, and an ugly one at that?
  • The security setup is perfectly fine for a testbed. Do not use these security settings for anything important
  • I have yet to add backup configuration
  • The SQL files to build the database(s) and load them with data are not ready yet. When they are, they will be posted here. They will be released under some open source license, and will likely be available from Github, too
  • Seriously, this security setup is not good for anything important, sensitive, mission-critical, real-world, etc.

If you have any problems, please document them as clearly and completely as you can and inform me at Feel free to ask for help, too; if I can give it, I will. If you find this useful, let me know so that my ego can get a nice little boost. If you modify it, improve it, redistribute it, etc., please let me know.

Instructions for Setting Up AWS (PDF)

Instructions for Setting Up AWS (Microsoft Word)

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