Why I Ditched AWS (Sort Of)
My journey to Netlify and why I made the switch
I have been using AWS for years for all sorts of applications. A few EC2 instances here and there. Maybe one or two databases. Most frequently, I used it for hosting websites and DNS registrations/routing. My typical workflow would be to take an S3 bucket, drop a website in there, register the DNS to point to the bucket, and were done. It worked great for what I needed to do, but over the last few months, I pondered if AWS was really the right solution for me 🤔. I just always thought that AWS offered too much, but how can this be a problem?
As a web developer, AWS just felt like overkill. Like I was hammering a nail with a sledgehammer. I have been at multiple companies, all using AWS, so it was all I knew. I felt comfortable in the management console. AWS was what I always turned to.
Why the Switch?
One day I was trying to configure an S3 bucket for a site with a special configuration. As usual, I turned to Google for the answer. Article after article made this configuration sound overly complicated. I needed to add this, then change this, etc. etc. If you have ever used AWS, you are well aware of the state of their documentation. It is a never-ending rabbit hole. What should be a simple setting, is never that simple. All of this is great if you’re a large company needing advanced setup or configuration, but for your typical developer, this is a nightmare. So I began looking for hosting solutions elsewhere.
Where to Look?
I have been using Google’s Firebase for a number of years. Mostly for app authentication and data storage via Firestore. It’s a great service, I love it! I then discovered that Firebase also offers hosting 😮. I set up the CLI, registered my application, ran a simple command, and 💥, my app is now live on the web. Amazing. Minimal configurations. No never-ending docs. Less than five minutes and I was in business. SSL included 😉.
But There is an Even Better Option
Lately, I have been seeing a lot of hype around Netlify. This platform promises a streamlined deployment workflow, connected directly to your code repository. That’s right, it will pick up code changes, build your site, then deploy based on your settings. Keep in mind that there are other platforms that will do something similar. Over the weekend I decided to give this a try. Setting up an account was easy. It authenticated with my Github account. Once in I gave it permission to connect with the repository I was wanting to deploy. Netlify automatically detected my build system. This application was started via Create React App. This prefilled the build command and output directory. I confirmed this was correct, and the build and deployment pipeline was queued up.
Minutes later I saw that the build had finished and I clicked on the link the site was assigned. My site is there, fully functioning, and I had done nothing locally to get it there. No local builds, no CLI or GUI to upload the app. To test things out, I pushed a commit to master. Another build kicked off and those changes were live within minutes. My mind was blown. After pointing my DNS to this newly deployed site, I clicked a button and my new SSL certificate began to provision. In a matter of minutes, my site was now secured. You can also bring your own certificate if you’d like. Netlify also has other options and configurations that are available, but the out of the box setup was perfect for me. Overall I am very impressed. Out with the hours of DevOps work deploying and maintaining websites that I was spending.
No More AWS… (Sort Of)
After moving all my sites over to Netlify and deleting their old S3 buckets, I still have my domains sitting in AWS. I see that at this time, Netlify has DNS (currently in Beta). Once this feature is out of Beta and assuming there is an easy DNS transfer flow, I plan on fulling moving off of AWS. They aren’t hurting anything sitting on AWS at the moment. I just like the feeling of having one consolidated solution 😄.
AWS is great. I haven’t looked at the numbers, but I’m sure they’re the top-grossing cloud provider in the world. Many companies and users rely on them. If they go down, I’m sure the whole internet would break and I know that Netlify even uses them under the hood. My conclusion is that AWS was just too much for me. Too many, never-ending docs. Too many settings and levers to pull. Too many services, 90% of which I had no clue how to use! I’m just a humble web developer. Let me build a website and have it released into the wild. I want to be focusing on building amazing apps, not worrying about how to deploy them 🚀. My conclusion, switching to Netlify was very positive for me. I would recommend it to anyone looking for the hosting solution that is right for them.