When I first rolled out Atomic Supergeek I put it on Weebly. Although I could have rolled it out on a web server and built everything by hand, one of my cardinal rules is to find the most efficient way to do things. I still love Weebly and how they have put together their hosting. For smaller organizations hosting on Weebly totally makes sense. Recently I have felt somewhat constrained for what I wanted to do however. Also, I am now starting to work on learning the new world of cloud services, and specifically Amazon Web Services (AWS). It took some time before I made the decision to come kicking and screaming into the new world. But now that I have made the decision to learn it I am jumping in with both feet.
So first, why AWS for hosting the site? One of the things I was really surprised with was how inexpensive it is to host a virtual server on AWS. You can set up the most basic Linux EC2 instance for just $5 a month. You can scale larger, and the costs go up accordingly. However, even for the larger virtual servers the price is incredibly inexpensive. You can also set up Windows servers. On top of that, you don’t pay a monthly cost. You pay only for the time that your servers are running. In the case of the ASG website it will be up 24×7 so I pay for the whole month. But let’s say I need a server just for like 4 hours to test out something. I can start up that server, do my work, and then shut it down and only pay for those 4 hours. Now I can get a machine for pennies or nickles.
Here is something to think about if you want to grow a career say as a systems administrator. Maybe you need a Windows server to practice some new skills to prepare for your MCSE test. Or you need to test out some new skill with Active Directory. You can fire up a basic Windows server on AWS EC2 and do your testing or practice. Then when you are done just delete the instance. Now you get a Windows server for less than a dollar or two for the month. This is even better than creating virtual servers on your workstation. First, the instance will initialize within minutes. Second, you don’t have to pay for a Windows server license. If you need three or four Windows servers so you can set up a more complicated environment you have all the power needed. This is the same with learning Linux. You can spin up a Linux server, go through your labs or lessons, then remove the instance again. And on top of learning Windows or Linux system administration, you are also learning skills on AWS. AWS is a very highly marketable skill now.
So the first step was to roll out a new Linux server in an EC2 instance. Once the Linux server was installed I still needed to get WordPress and all the associated components with it to get the site to run. It is possible to hand install each of the items needed. However, that is a lot of work. The nice thing is it is possible to leverage the work of others. In this case I used the Bitnami service. They have a lot of different applications that they have wrapped up into packages. So they have done all the hard work of figuring out the bits and bobs to get it all working. Also, they make sure the system is using the latest packages. With Amazon Web Services when you create an EC2 instance you have a number of options for the Amazon Machine Image (AMI) to base your computer on. There are a number of AMIs that are based on Bitnami setups. So you create the EC2 instance and it is already preloaded with the particular application set you are looking for. In my example I used a WordPress AMI. So as soon as the server came up I already had a functioning WordPress site. I just had to go in and configure it for my specifics.
You will often hear of things being “as a Service”. So you might hear of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), or Software as a Service (SaaS), etc. The idea is that it is possible to make these as a commodity. The basic setup is easy to wrap up and then it takes just a small amount of additional work to customize, which saves immense amounts of time and effort. This way you can leverage the skills and experience of people that do specific things and then concentrate on what you do best. I know some geeks scoff at the idea. They think it is lame to not build it all oneself. But in my mind it is being smart. Although I can build it all out myself, I can leverage the work of others for some of the more mundane tasks and then focus on things that I am better at, enjoy more, and need my effort specifically.
So that is the story of the start of the redesigned Atomic Supergeek website. I hope you enjoy the new home of geekness.