AWS Lightsail

A Beginner’s Guide to AWS Lightsail — Pros, Cons & Use Cases

Lightsail is an easy-to-use alternative to EC2, offering everything you need to build websites and simple web applications.

Manish Manalath
Dec 22, 2019 · 5 min read

AWS Lightsail is a simpler alternative to EC2 that offers all the tools you need to build websites and small scale web applications. Lightsail was introduced by Amazon to help new users get started quickly with AWS since EC2 required considerable effort and expertise for setup and configuration.

The core selling points of Lightsail are its monthly pricing model and an easy-to-use interface. If you have used EC2 before, you might be aware that EC2 prices can spiral out of control (if you are not careful). Lightsail offers a fixed pricing model along with other options like managed databases and static IP addresses.

In this article, we will dive deep into the pros, cons and a few use cases of AWS Lightsail.

PROS

A server with a fixed pricing model was a game-changer for AWS since customers often complained of unexpected EC2 bills even in their development environments. In EC2, all it takes is some bad code that can use up substantial computing power and surprise you with a $1000 bill.

Lightsail Monthly Pricing Options
Lightsail Monthly Pricing Options
Lightsail Monthly Pricing

Lightsail eliminates this problem by presenting you with a fixed monthly cost for the resources that your application can consume. Pricing ranges from $3.5 to $160 per month where the latter offers 32 gigs of ram and 640 GB SSD. You can also attach more storage space in addition to the capacity available in your chosen monthly plan.

A fixed pricing model is also helpful for startups and individual developers working on MPVs to keep costs under control.

Fixed monthly pricing does not mean fixed computing power. Lightsail instances can be moved up or down, thanks to the option to migrate between instances. As your blog or application grows and starts consuming more resources, you can switch between the Lightsail plans and upgrade to higher RAMs and storage capacity.

Even though this is not a one-click seamless operation, Lightsail still allows you to move your application to a larger / smaller instance without any loss of data.

Lightsail also offers the option to move your instance to EC2, if your application outgrows a Lightsail instance. Your existing instance can be ported to a larger EC2 instance where you can use higher computing power and custom environment configurations.

If you have ever created a virtual server on EC2 or any other cloud provider, chances are, you will love the user interface of Lightsail.

Lightsail User Interface
Lightsail User Interface
Lightsail User Interface

Lightsail offers all core configuration options as simple clickable choices that usually take hours for a developer or system administrator to set up. This is an important value proposition, especially for beginners and startups who cannot afford a professional to help them create and configure a server for their application.

Unlike EC2, all it takes is a few clicks to get a server up and running in AWS Lightsail.

Setting up proper networking is a challenge by itself, especially when it comes to static IPs and DNS configurations. Thanks to Lightsail, those configurations can be modified with a few clicks within the Lightsail dashboard.

Lightsail Network Options
Lightsail Network Options
Lightsail Network Options

Static IPs can be created and attached to your Lightsail instances from the ‘Networking’ tab. You can also configure custom domains to your static IPs within the Lightsail dashboard.

Lightsail also provides managed databases that you can attach to your instances. Unlike databases created within your Lightsail server, managed databases provide automatic backups and scaling.

Lightsail managed databases
Lightsail managed databases
Lightsail managed databases

You can add and configure a managed database from the Lightsail dashboard under the ‘Databases’ tab. Lightsail offers different versions of MySQL and PostgreSQL databases that you can connect to your website/app.

If you are a fan of DynamoDB, you can connect your application to your DynamoDB database using the AWS SDK.

Cons

With the ease of use comes a few trade-offs. Lightsail is perfect for websites and small scale applications, but it is not recommended for enterprise-level workloads.

Unlike EC2 or AWS lambda which can scale based on incoming requests, Lightsail can only work with the computing power that you have purchased. Even though you have the option to move to a larger instance on Lightsail, it does not happen automatically.

Use Lightsail only for applications where you can afford downtime. If your application is used by thousands of users on a regular basis, it is recommended that you stick to EC2.

Use Cases

Pre-configured WordPress blog on Lightsail
Pre-configured WordPress blog on Lightsail
Pre-configured WordPress blog on Lightsail

Lightsail instances are great for running a blog, especially a WordPress blog. Lightsail gives you pre-configured WordPress instances which you can create with a few clicks. Here is a great tutorial from the AWS team on how you can create a WordPress blog using Lightsail.

Lightsail is a great choice for setting up a DevOps pipeline where you can build your staging servers using Lightsail. Staging / Test servers don't require the same compute capacity as a production instance, so you can let your team play with new features of your products on your staging instance before deploying it live.

Website stacks on Lightsail
Website stacks on Lightsail
Website stacks on Lightsail

Lightsail is not recommended for large scale applications, but you can certainly build smaller apps on your Lightsail instances. Lightsail also comes with pre-configured stacks like the MEAN stack and content management systems like Drupal and Joomla. You can also use Lightsail to host your RESTful APIs by choosing to install just Node.js.

Conclusion

AWS Lightsail is a brilliant service from Amazon that helps you get started with the AWS infrastructure quickly. Lightsail offers servers at a fixed monthly price along with networking and managed database options embedded into an easy to use interface.

Lightsail is not recommended for enterprise-level workloads due to its lack of auto-scaling capabilities, but it is definitely a great choice for hosting WordPress blogs, API servers, and staging environments.

Resources


Hope you enjoyed the article. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments. You can also signup for my newsletter to receive a summary of articles once a week.

AWS Tutor

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Manish Manalath

Written by

10 years as a Digital Nomad. Writes on Tech (http://awstutor.io) and Productivity. Connect with me on Linkedin (linkedin.com/in/manishmshiva)

AWS Tutor

AWS Tutor

Articles, How-Tos and Use Cases on AWS Tools and Services

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