Moving from AWS EC2 to Lightsail

A short post describing moving the website to Lightsail
published: (updated: )
by Harshvardhan J. Pandit
is part of: hosting website

My website was previously hosted on a t2.micro AWS EC2 instance, which was good enough to host the website and do other basic things like run an API or a database, or even some background jobs. At the start, the instance was free to run because I had a lot of free credits - obtained from events, competitions, and general promotions run by Amazon. In addition, the first year was free as well because of the free tier. Over time, the bills went from nothing to ~7€, which was not worth paying for just hosting a few pages and a small server. I had to look for alternatives.

I evaluated Google Cloud as an alternative, and the main aspect I liked was the cheaper prices and the fact that I could open a SSH connection to the VM directly from the browser. This meant, I could work from anywhere in the world as long as I had access to a browser. The AWS also features a SSH-based browser client, but it works only when Java is installed in the browser. However, recently, Google has increased their price, so that it is no longer as cheap to run a simple instace when compared to AWS. They do offer a free tier, which includes a VM instance - but it has to be located in selected locations in USA. This was a deal-breaker as I want my server to be based in the EU - after all, my research is entirely based on European privacy laws.

So while debating whether I should Github Pages or Netlify to provide a simple static hosting, I came across AWS Lightsail, which is a simple hosting service (backend still based on EC2) but aimed at less tech-savvy users. The interface is simplified, and there isn't much to manage and do. More importantly, it is much cheaper - the starting price is only ~4€ and they include a SSH-client in the browser. So I started an instance to test it out.

It took me only about ~2 hours to get my server up and running on the new VM. Key management was easy as I was provided with a SSH-key immediately on creating the server. Assigning a static IP was also easy - and it took only about ~10mins before I had changed the DNS to point to the new site and I could ssh in.

So far, everything has worked smoothly - the browser ssh client is great. In fact, this post has been written entirely using that. The only concern is whether the billing will be easy and transparent as the rest of the things in Lightsail. Similar offerings are provided by Heroku and Digital Ocean.