Make the most of free Amazon Web Services

If you avoid the gotchas and keep a close eye on resource consumption, you can have a useful server in the Amazon cloud for free

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The best way to think of the free tier to Amazon Web Services is as a stepping-stone. It allows you to get your feet wet with the basic mechanisms of AWS and EC2; to understand Amazon's handling of virtual machine instances, storage, data, and networking; and to create an item that can eventually be hosted on a full-blown, for-pay AWS instance. It also lets you learn how to manage and constrain AWS usage. If you're not careful, you may end up paying for your "free" AWS usage after all.

In this article, we'll look at what the free tier offers and on what terms, then take a closer peek at what's possible or practical within those constraints. In the long run, any serious AWS user will want to take fuller advantage of what the Amazon cloud has to offer -- but why not make the most of the free resources in the meantime? With the free tier, you can find your legs with AWS, start some projects, and maybe even build a functional application or three.

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