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AWS Cheatsheet: The Top 5 Things to Learn First When Getting Started with Amazon Web Services

AWS has taken the tech community by storm. It is easily sold as one of the most reliable service providers with a huge list of services from a simple storage to machine learning.


It can easily be overwhelming for someone new to the cloud. Where should you start when trying to learn the AWS?

  1. Object Storage with AWS S3.

  2. Host and deploy a static website with AWS S3 and cloud front.

  3. Create a server less function with AWS lambda.

  4. Spin up a manage server with AWS EC2.

  5. Learn the AWS acronyms...... (serously).

Object Storage with AWS S3

S3 is AWS' solution for object storage. From a really simple point of view, S3 buckets are kind of like a hard drive in the cloud for static files. This means while you can upload pretty much anything to S3, once it’s there, you can’t really do anything with it except download it or write over it.


But S3 is cheap and storage is a service that pretty much every website needs. This makes S3 a really valuable service that is a de facto part of any modern architecture.


Have some simple images you want to store? Dump them in an S3 bucket. Have some PDFs that you generate for reports? Store and access them from an S3 bucket.


While you can’t execute the code, browsers work by downloading files like JavaScript and then executing those files on its own, so it’s a perfect combo for static web assets or photos.


Resources for learning

  • Amazon S3 (aws.amazon.com)

  • How do I upload files and folders to an S3 bucket? (docs.aws.amazon.com)


Host and deploy a static website with AWS S3 and cloud front.

Let's take what we just learned about AWS S3 a little bit further. Since browsers ultimately download files to use them, we can use S3 as a way to host static websites with a simple check of a box!


S3 offers a configuration option that allows us to serve a website from a simple bucket. It sets up the bucket to allow HTTP requests that the browser can recognize, which makes that Gatsby app you just compiled or even a single HTML file a perfect candidate for S3.


CloudFront comes in at the tail end and provides the CDN (or content delivery network) for our website. Where S3 allows us to host the website in a bucket, CloudFront sits in front of the bucket as a cached distributed network layer that allows our website to get to our visitor’s browsers quicker than straight from S3.


Resources for learning

  • Amazon S3 (aws.amazon.com)

  • Amazon CloudFront (aws.amazon.com)

  • How to host and deploy a static website or JAMstack app to AWS S3 and CloudFront (freecodecamp.org)

  • How to host and deploy a static website or JAMstack app on AWS S3 & CloudFront (youtube.com)

  • Hosting a static website on Amazon S3 (docs.aws.amazon.com)

Create a serverless function with AWS Lambda

If you’re new to the serverless world, the idea isn’t that there are literally no servers. It's just that as a customer, you don't have to manage those servers.

Most cloud providers have some kind of solution for serverless services, but one of the most popular is using Lambda functions from AWS.


Lambdas functions are what they sound like, a function, but they run in the cloud. You don’t have to worry about any of the resources that make that function run, just the environment you want to write in such as node or python.


This is powerful and cheap! It helps abstract logic into a single function in a cloud that can be scaled as much as you want (given any 3rd party services it reaches out to can scale that much).


What can you do with Lambda? Here are just a few examples:

  • Read and write data to S3 or a database

  • Process data with complex logic

  • Create a web application using Express

Resources for learning

  • AWS Lambda (aws.amazon.com)

  • Learn AWS Lambda from Scratch (egghead.io)

  • Cron Job AWS Lambda Functions Tutorial – How to Schedule Tasks (freecodecamp.org)

Spin up a managed server with AWS EC2

One of the big selling points of AWS is that we can do all of our computing in our cloud. And that goes for anything!


At the core of AWS is Amazon EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) which is at its simplest a server in the cloud.


Using EC2, you can spin up a server with a variety of available configurations where you can pretty much do whatever you want. You can start small if you only want to do simple operations or you can scale both vertically and horizontally to give you a lot of processing power for your data heavy operations.


Some of the things that you can do with EC2 include: