An Introduction to AWS

This article is part of a technical content series crafted by AWS Startup Solutions Architects to help guide early stage startups in setting the foundations needed to start building quickly and easily. The series offers a high-level overview of the technical decisions startup founders need to make when getting off the ground, along with which AWS services are best suited to address those decisions.


Establishing your first startup is extremely exciting, and it comes with a lot of challenges. You need to hire skilled people to build, maintain, and operate your products, finalize your next fundraising round, reach and penetrate global markets, and earn your customers’ trust by providing them a great experience, keeping your innovative edge, and securing their data. And you have to do all of that while keeping your costs down.

At AWS, we understand, and a lot of us have firsthand experience with the day-to-day challenges faced by early-stage founders. Since 2006, when AWS first brought cloud infrastructure to the world, we’ve worked alongside hundreds of thousands of founders all over the globe, helping them to build and scale their businesses. Some of them have gone on to revolutionize the world.

There are many advantages for a startup to use AWS, and in this article, we cover how you can leverage AWS to limit your overhead, start building quickly, and focus your time and energy on developing the aspects of your product or service that make your startup shine.

What exactly is cloud computing?

Cloud computing is the on-demand delivery of IT resources over the Internet with pay-as-you-go pricing. That means that instead of buying, owning, and maintaining physical data centers or servers, you can access technology services such as computing power, storage, and databases, on an as-needed basis from a cloud provider.

How does AWS work?

Now that we know what cloud computing is, let's understand a little more about AWS. AWS is the world's most comprehensive and widely adopted cloud platform, with the broadest and deepest set of services. Millions of customers trust AWS to power their infrastructure and applications. Startups and organizations of every type and size are using AWS services to experiment, innovate faster, lower costs, and become more agile.

Because we take care of the heavy lifting for you, you can build and run virtually any type of application, including a social network, a smart city, genomic research, gaming, video streaming, online banking, and many others. You use those services without upfront costs or long-term commitments.

Thanks to the pay-as-you-go model, you are able to experiment with different technologies until you find the ones that fit your needs and shorten your time to market. That way, startups finish building their product and features faster while keeping their cost minimal.

AWS services come in different shapes and forms, from infrastructure technologies like compute, storage and databases to emerging technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, data lakes and analytics, Internet of Things, and many more.

Some services give you full control while AWS manages the infrastructure and underlying resources. For other services, AWS is responsible for the operation and security of the entire stack so all that is left for you to do is use it. We call this the shared responsibility model.

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When using AWS services, you decide how much of the heavy lifting (if any) you would like take on yourself.

AWS in Action: A Relational Database for an E-Commerce Startup

Let’s say you are working on your e-commerce startup and you need a relational data store for your application. After experimenting with different relational databases, you choose MySQL.

You can choose to install it on a service like Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), which is basically a secure and resizable virtual server. AWS manages the infrastructure all the way to the hypervisor. Everything above that is your responsibility, like managing the guest operating system, the MySQL engine, or the data in it.

Your e-commerce startup is responsible for updates and security patches, scaling, backups, failovers, and more. Those tasks usually have nothing to do with your main business. A more convenient option would be to use Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS). In a few clicks in the AWS Management Console, you have a running relational DB of your choice in a very short time. RDS is a managed service. That means it takes care of time-consuming database administration tasks for you such as provisioning, patching, backup, recovery, failure detection, and repair. This frees you up to focus on your application, data, and business.

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A Global Footprint

Once you build your product and need to grow to global markets and extend your reach, the global footprint of AWS becomes handy. The global AWS infrastructure is built from Availability Zones, Regions, and Edge locations.

AWS data centers are clustered together using private and redundant fiber links into what’s called an Availability Zone. There are multiple Availability Zones within a geographic Region, such as Oregon, Ireland, Tokyo, and so on. These Availability Zones are likewise geographically distant from each other across natural disaster zones and flood plains, with independent utilities and other isolations in place. Leveraging multiple Availability Zones makes it easy to design and operate workloads that are scalable, fault tolerant, and highly available.

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It’s important to note that Regions in AWS operate independently from each other, which means different Regions will have different pricing and services available. We recommend building in a Region that gives you the best end-user latency and service selection for the lowest price, while adhering to any data locality laws applicable to your business. AWS Edge Locations extend your global reach even further. They allow you to cache and serve content, run your code, use security services, connect to the AWS network backbone, and even reach-out to space from all over the globe and closer to your clients.

All this massive global infrastructure is interconnected via a purpose-built, highly available, and low-latency private network infrastructure that crosses oceans and continents. It’s hard to grasp the magnitude of this, but we are now working on the trans-pacific cable that connects New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii, and Oregon that spans 14K kilometers.

Highest Standards for Privacy and Data Security

Our infrastructure and services are built to satisfy the security standards of the most risk-sensitive organizations, and the same features are offered to everyone.

The security experts who monitor and secure our infrastructure also build and maintain our broad selection of innovative security services, which help you simplify meeting your own security, compliance, and regulatory requirements.

To let you experiment, AWS provides a Free Tier for many services. Check out what kind of resources you can run and for how long under the Free Tier, and see if you can orient your workloads to maximize them. You may also qualify for our AWS Activate program, providing credits, support, and training all free of charge. Visit our Activate page to check your eligibility and apply.

Every journey starts with a first step. Now that you are familiar with cloud computing and basic AWS concepts such as Regions, Availability Zones, and services, the real fun begins.

Have fun, and build on!