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Amazon S3 review: Everything you need to know

amazons3Amazon S3, or Amazon Simple Storage Service, is not your typical hosting solution as it caters specifically to businesses and app developers.

As far as hosting files for a website, you can only host static websites (HTML, CSS, and/or JavaScript) on Amazon S3 and they price their data plans based on the resources you use, per gigabyte.

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Amazon S3 started getting pretty hot back in 2012.

Here is how they’ve trended over the years:

Features

Amazon S3 has some features that make it one of the more unique hosting solutions out there. Here are a few of them:

1) Scalable After Free Tier: Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service) is initially free, and then it becomes a pay-as-you-go system. On the free tier, you get 5 GB of standard storage, 20,000 Get Requests, 2,000 Put Requests, and 15 GB of data transfer per each month for one year. This free tier expires after the initial year. Afterwards, you only pay for what you use.

Many businesses and individuals enjoy this cost saving solution. You can choose from multiple regions in the U.S. (East and West Coast), EU, Asia Pacific, or South America. Amazon S3 offers three levels of storage classes. Amazon S3 Standard is for general purposes and data that are accessed frequently. Amazon S3 Standard – Infrequent Access (Standard – IA) is for less frequently accessed data. Amazon Glacier is for long-term archive for data that are rarely accessed, but still need to be stored.

2) Host Static Websites: Amazon S3 isn’t exactly a web hosting plan. It’s mostly for storing files. But you can actually host static websites on Amazon S3. What are static websites? Those are websites consisted only of HTML, CSS, and/or JavaScript. There is no dynamic content and no interaction with users. If you want to host server-side scripts like PHP or Rails app, you’d have to look elsewhere.

To host your static websites on Amazon S3, you just need to create a bucket in the management console (similar to a folder), enable the website hosting option, and upload your pages. You can point your own domain or subdomain in your domain’s DNS settings. If you’re mainly experimenting with HTML and don’t want to pay for a full-fledged hosting account, hosting your static websites on Amazon S3 is something you’d want to look into.

3) Simple Monthly Calculator: AWS (Amazon Web Services) has created a JavaScript-based simple monthly calculator to help you figure out your monthly cost. This isn’t terribly useful if you’re a small-time user with just a few files uploaded, but if you’re sharing lots of files that you expect to be downloaded many times, this calculator helps you estimate how much cost you might incur.

Because of the pay-as-you-go nature of Amazon S3, figuring out how much you might owe will prevent any surprises later on. This unique feature will be invaluable to businesses or individuals that need the flexibility of S3 but are also on a tight budget and need some way to plan for usage costs.

Customer Service

Not the best in this category. Support team is only available during certain hours and a lot of reports of slow responses, especially for the free-tier users.

Paid users will get better support, but still, nothing compared to the support teams offered by hosting companies like Siteground and Liquidweb.

Reviews

We looked at several online sources to find out what customers were saying about Amazon S3. We found that customers were positive about the features and site speeds.

One customer happy with speed and value writes: “I really like Amazon S3 because it’s fast, really cheap and has very easy API to work for my projects in every programming language.”

Another reviewer agrees saying: “Amazon S3 is a great hosting service. They are always up, have great speeds, and amazing support. I would recommend it to anyone who needs file hosting of big files.”

Not all reviews were positive however. We found some customers were disappointed with customer support and specific pricing options.

One upset customer writes: “Support is a little slow. I hate their bandwidth pricing. Because when i started getting too much traffic it started taking more money.”

Another frustrated reviewer states: “Customer Support is bad for Free-Tier users & you need to pay to get a prompt response! Although I never had to contact them for S3 until now.”

Pros

1) Uptime Availability: Amazon S3 has a published uptime availability of 99.99% in a given year, making the service highly reliable.

2) Low Cost: The free tier for first 12 months and the pay-as-you-go model make using Amazon S3 extremely low cost for storing large amounts of data. There are no minimum fees or upfront commitments.

3) Secure: Amazon S3 automatically encrypts all your data once it is uploaded, so it can be transferred securely over SSL. You can also configure your own bucket policies and manage permissions, deciding on who gets access to what. You can do this through AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM).

4) Scalable: You can store as much data (including static websites) as you need. You can also decide on the frequency of accessed data, so you can move them to appropriate storage classes (Standard – IA or Glacier) if necessary. You’re in complete control of how much scaling up or down you want to do.

5) Integrated: Amazon S3 works well with other AWS services such as Amazon CloudFront, Amazon EMR, and much more.

Cons

1) Support: The support has limited hours.

2) Only for Static Websites: If you’re using Amazon S3 in lieu of a full-fledged web hosting plan, you can only host static websites and not server-side scripts like PHP.

3) Need to Estimate Usage: Estimating your usage, even with a simple calculator, might be a hassle for some people.

Summary

Amazon S3 is primarily a storage platform, but you can use it host your static websites. This option works great if you don’t anticipate a lot of traffic on your website, you don’t update your website a lot, or you have a small, personal website that you don’t want to pay full hosting for (or VPS or dedicated for that matter).

Amazon S3 for hosting static websites has been highly reviewed by other users online; they like the constant availability, speed, and no-to-low cost.

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About the author: “JP Smooth” is a tech entrepreneur and owner of too many websites lol. He created HostAuthority with 3 other entrepreneurs to prove that web hosting doesn’t have to be complicated.

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