If you are a user like me, it may actually take you longer to make a cup of coffee than creating an AWS account. Go to the AWS EC2 login site to create an account. You’ve got 12 months of free tier service with your new account, and you can cancel if you decide it’s not for you. Careful, however, if you ignore your VM for more than three months, Amazon may decide the issue for you, though they’ll send you an email warning 30 days prior. Account created? Let’s build a server!

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Hit the Quick Launch Wizard (middle left) and you’ve got a few things to fill out before your VM comes to life. First, name your server (top), then name your secure key (middle) and finally choose the operating system you’d like to use. For now, just choose the Amazon Linux AMI since some of the other choices, notably Windows Server, have an added cost even during your free tier. Make sure to download your security key and save it where you can find it again.

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Once you’ve selected your basic options, you’ll get your first glimpse of the EC2 dashboard (above). See the big blue “Launch Instance” button? Hit that. You’ll see a screen informing you that your sever is being created. It’s time to get that cup of coffee. When you come back, you can click back to your EC2 dashboard view and see:

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That’s it, you’re all set! You can start using  your new server immediately. There are a couple different SSH options available, depending on whether you’re using Linux or Windows. If you use SSH through Linux, all you need is to go to your terminal line and type sudo apt-get install openssh-server. But if you’re a Windows fan, there are plenty of free add-on SSH packages, such as Cygwin or PuTTY. To get accesst to your server via SSH, there are some pieces of information you’ll need, but Amazon has made them easy to find. Just check the box next to your server in the screen above, and a scroll window pops up underneath with all the information you’ll need, including your VM’s name, your private IP address, and more:

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If you’re unsure what you’d like to do with your new VM, AWS has excellent and easy-to-digest Getting Started guides that cover all the bases:

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The above example walks you through one of the first steps you should take, which is deciding who has access to your VM. There are also guides on locating and using your IP address, configuring your firewall (don’t worry there’s a default setting), setting up roles, user groups, and management certificates, as well as implementing any of the many services that come with your Free Tier package:

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To remove your new VM, just return to that EC2 management screen and click the Instance Action link. From there hit Terminate and say yes to the “Are you sure?” question. That’s all there is to it.

Try out AWS on some of your in-house application workloads. Check out the default monitoring and alert services. Move data back and forth and record response times. Create a few more VMs and use them to build a basic virtual server farm. Try some of the more popular services shown above like S3, CloudWatch, or Amazon RDS. In other words, take the time to dig into AWS and really see what it can do for you and your organization. As always feel free to ask us at 2nd Watch questions as you go along. We are happy to help!