The idea of the cloud can be mystifying to the average person. When Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced that their cloud services are scalable, a whole new concept was introduced to even the tech savvy. So why is AWS so great?

Lets focus on only three of the dozens of services AWS is now offering and why you might consider joining:

1. Simple Storage Service aka Amazon S3

Its hard to miss the TV and radio ads everyday from different companies offering storage in the cloud. From Mozy to Dropbox hundreds of millions of people are signed up for these services – even Google launched their version of cloud storage called “Google Drive”. S3 is another form of content storage and delivery in the cloud – Its like having your own hard drive online.

Out of all these storage services, Amazon is currently the only provider offering a pay-as-you-go model. At only $.095 per gigabyte used Amazon should have their competition on the run. Unfortunately for Amazon, they designed these tools primarily for web developers and programmers.

This can make things a little difficult for the average person to setup and configure the services Amazon provides. In spite of the technical hurdles in place, more and more people are beginning to see the power of these tools and how well they work together.

Amazon Web Services2. CloudFront

When a video is uploaded to your Amazon S3 bucket (bucket is a fancy Amazon word for special folder) that video can be made available to anyone on the internet to either stream in a video player or be downloaded and watched locally. When that video is uploaded, it “physically” lives in a specific location.

What I mean by this is that If the S3 server’s hard drive is located in Atlanta, then thats where people will connect to see or download your media. The farther people live from the location of your media, the  longer it takes to download.

For most content on the internet the difference in speed of a small file from across the country is nearly negligible with how fast our connections are these days. The difference is really felt in lager file sizes. When a 500 megabyte file is being downloaded from across the country it will take much longer than if that person where in the same city as the server’s hard drive. The problem becomes exponentially worse when we start introducing the concept of international content delivery.

Amazon answered this problem with CloudFront. In the US Amazon has 18 server farms they call “edge locations”. Across the globe Amazon has 40 edge locations and they reside in 16 strategic countries. The CloudFront service enables you to cache a copy of your media as many or as few of these servers as you’d like.

With CloudFront, when someone accesses that same 500MB file in Atlanta from Sydney Australia, they are being served a file that has been cached locally in Sydney. This makes supplying your content across the country or across the globe as easy as setting up a CloudFront account.

 3. Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud aka Amazon EC2

In the same way storage and distribution is pay-as-you-go, Amazon offers a service that gives you processing power on the same model. Lets say you wanted to install a streaming server in the cloud but have no idea what hardware you need to make it run EC2 is essentially just that, an entire server in the cloud that adjusts its hardware based on the demands of the software. So when you install this streaming server and you’re not streaming-you don’t get charged. Conversely, if you end up with a giant spike in traffic to your server EC2 will automatically adjust its hardware allotment to handle the traffic demands. This way your server never crashes and you’re only charged for what you need when you need it.

Has anyone used a different service offered by AWS? Describe your experience in the comments below!

Tommy Scully

With a gift for church audio, Tommy Scully has served churches on staff and now consults with church nationwide to improve their church sound. His  mission to support ministry with technology has lead him to develop his own church sound training video series available at ChurchAudioTraining.com.