Free AWS cloud services: Learning on the cheap

One of the aspects of studying for the AWS Certified Solutions Architect exam is the unknown cost of studying. With the Cisco exams, it’s been easy, buy the hardware and books and then study. However, despite the low cost of running EC2 instances, leaving them running for a long period of time means that the bill will start to rack up. Thankfully, Amazon does offer an easy way to learn the in’s and out’s of AWS, without it breaking the bank.

Free AWS cloud services

That’s right: FREE AWS CLOUD!

Amazon offers a free tier. You can find the details here:

In a nutshell, you can get 750 hours (per month) free EC2 compute resources. They won’t be massively powerful, you are restricted to:

  • 750 hours per month of Linux, RHEL, or SLES t2.micro instance usage
  • 750 hours per month of Windows t2.micro instance usage

This is not bad, considering that there are only 672-744 hours in a month anyway (depending on the month), you can actually leave an instance running all month and not incur any charges.

For other things, like Amazon RDS, we also get:

  • 750 Hours per month of db.t2.micro database usage (applicable DB engines)
  • 20 GB of General Purpose (SSD) database storage
  • 20 GB of storage for database backups and DB Snapshots

That’s enough to play around with some database fun.

If you want to test out some S3 storage, you can do with:

  • 5 GB of Standard Storage
  • 20,000 Get Requests
  • 2,000 Put Requests

Again, not earth-shatteringly large, but enough to do some tests. Along with the above, you can also have 750 hours of an Elastic Load Balancer, 30GB of an Elastic Block Storage, 5GB of an Elastic File System, and 750 hours of ElastiCache. There are more, but these are the ones that stick out as part of the exam syllabus.

All of the above are limited to a 12-month free tier term. There are other services that are not restricted to a 12-month cap. For CloudWatch you can get:

  • 10 Amazon Cloudwatch custom metrics, 10 alarms, and 1,000,000 API requests**
  • 5 GB of Log Data Ingestion
  • 5 GB of Log Data Archive
  • 3 Dashboards with up to 50 metrics each per month

For SQS and SNS you get:

  • 1,000,000 Requests of Amazon Simple Queue Service
  • 1,000,000 Requests, 100,000 HTTP notifications and 1,000 email notifications for Amazon Simple Notification Service

If you need more storage, then you can use Glacier and get 10 GB of Amazon Glacier data retrievals per month for free. The free tier allowance can be used at any time during the month and applies to Standard retrievals. Again, there are more than these, so make sure you check out the AWS free tier link.

The long and short of it is, that, according to what I have found so far, AWS practical studying can be done for free, pretty much 24-7 every month for a year. This is pretty generous in my opinion. I have already discussed the wealth of free resources available on the Amazon Kindle, so, combined, it’s actually pretty easy to get your hands dirty.

So, we have all the free AWS resources at our fingertips, what can we do with them to actually benefit?

Well, although I would do something a little like this:

Free AWS training

It is still a work in progress, but the idea is that we have a login page, which is controlled by the directory service. Some sort of database is read from or written to, and we can do some file retrieval. This could possibly involve retrieving from an archive (Glacier) and using SQL/SNS to notify that the download is ready.

That’s the plan at least. I might need to refresh myself with some web programming to achieve all of this, and it is subject to change as I move forward. It is a good start, nonetheless.