Three years ago, my friend Rob let me know he was shutting down his personal server, where Two Ideas lived, and that I needed to find somewhere else to host it. (Thanks, Rob, for letting me use your server for so many years!)
I moved to hosting on AWS, for a couple of reasons. First, I knew how to administer Linux systems, and running Linux on AWS was easy. Second, the first year on the “free tier” was absurdly cheap. Third, I didn’t know a whole lot about AWS, and it seemed like a good opportunity to learn.
What did I learn?
Not as much about AWS as I’d intended; it was too easy and reasonable to run my box like any other Linux server. I learned far more about AWS and automation in my one year at Context Relevant than in three years of running this blog in the cloud.
But I did learn some other things.
First, scale matters. At the smallest scale, AWS might not offer meaningful benefits. Other than Route 53 for DNS, I didn’t take advantage of the architectural advantages that AWS offered. Because this is a tiny little blog. I didn’t need those architectural advantages, or even benefit from them. It might have been fun to use Amazon’s database backend for WordPress, instead of just running MySQL. But it wouldn’t have made a difference in end-user performance; I’m just not at that scale.
Just the same, I might have wanted to learn all about the current state-of-the-art in e-mail delivery, but it didn’t really matter. I was moving single-digit numbers of messages every week, so improving my e-mail delivery wouldn’t have delivered any benefits. (That is, not outside of very interesting but essentially abstract learning.)
I did learn that, after the free tier expired, Amazon offered reliable traditional hosting at a fair price, but that it also wasn’t an incredible bargain. And I reinforced my understanding that, it’s hard to overcome inertia when something just works. And for three years, AWS just worked.
Why did I leave? And why WordPress?
Truthfully, I never ended up doing more with my AWS instance than run WordPress. And I had to concede that, as much as I liked having and using a general-purpose server, I just wasn’t taking advantage of those capabilities. All I really needed was WordPress hosting, and the WordPress.com premium package was less than half the cost of my very modest AWS setup, on an annual basis.
Further, with AWS, security was entirely in my hands. Now, so long as I keep good backups, it’s not something I need to worry about. Constant vigilance isn’t necessary for perfect computer security; it’s a requirement for baseline security. Every time I’d go to write a blog post, I’d discover a passel of WordPress updates, then I’d go and check the Ubuntu updates–suddenly, twenty minutes had passed and one of my kids needed something. Now I can just come here and type. (We’ll see if this means I actually write more, or if other tasks suck up my available time.)
Third, annual billing is nice, and keeping it under $100 a year makes it easier to say yes. A monthly charge that varied, and could spike dramatically for reasons I couldn’t always manage to identify without extensive investigation, just didn’t suit me as well.
I’m pleased to have hosted this blog on AWS for a couple of years. It was, in its way, a rewarding experience. But now I’m going to let the hosting get out of the way and, perhaps, spend more time blogging.